This year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) picture has been somewhat overshadowed by the goings-on in the other divisions, from Songbird in the 3-year-old fillies division, California Chrome becoming North America’s richest runner of all time, Nyquist and Exaggerator trading punches along the Triple Crown trail and the late-emerging Arrogate making people take notice. But, as usual, the road to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI), sponsored by Twin Spires, has been full of exciting performances and some awesomely speedy runners.
The list of winners of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint since its first running in 1984 features some of the greatest — and fastest — horses ever. Eillo won the first year for Monmouth staple, the late Budd Lepman, and was that year’s Champion Sprinter. Since then, names like Precisionist, Smile, Gulch, Cherokee Run, Kona Gold, Midnight Lute, the females Very Subtle, Safely Kept and Desert Stormer, and last year’s record-setter, Runhappy, have worn the blanket of carnations after the Sprint victory. Most Breeders’ Cup Sprint winners are also crowned champion of the division, so to say making the race is important for the Eclipse Award is an understatement.
A total of six races are offered throughout the racing calendar as “Win and You’re In” events for the dirt sprint division on Racing’s Championship Day and, so far, the three who have qualified are all expected at Santa Anita on Nov. 5. Delta Bluesman, who won the Hall of Fame Stakes at Parx last week, qualified by virtue of capturing the Smile Sprint (GII) at Calder; Lord Nelson won the Bing Crosby (GI) at Del Mar; and A.P. Indian won the Forego Stakes (GI) at Saratoga to secure their spots in the gate. Three events remain — the Vosburgh Stakes (GI) at Belmont, the Phoenix Stakes (GII) at Keeneland and the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (GI) at Santa Anita, all to be contested over the next two weeks.
A look at the probable for the six-furlong main track test:
The division’s leader has yet to qualify, though it’s a good probability he will in Santa Anita’s final prep in two weeks. The Los Pollos Hermanos and Jay Em Ess Racing-owned gelding (and really, how perfect is his co-owner’s stable name when coupled with the gelding’s name?) will be making his third start of the year and, all things being equal, will be rounding back in to form at the right time. He’s lightly raced and some may even consider him fragile, but he’s loaded with speed and talent and connections in Ron Ellis and jockey Tyler Baze. He won the Pat O’Brien (GII) at Del Mar last out, which guarantees him a spot in the Dirt Mile, but his connections have opted to point to the Sprint. Good decision.
The 3-year-old Bob Baffert trainee, who has won all but one of his five career starts, burst onto the sprint scene with his amazing 3 ¼-length wire-to-wire score in the King’s Bishop a month ago and while the son of Gio Ponti and the Ghostzapper mare Eltimaas seems genetically suited to either routes or turf or both, he’s found a home around one turn and at the grade 1 level. He’s been training lights out at Santa Anita and may turn up in the Sprint Championship as his last Breeders’ Cup prep.
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Has been working well since chipping a knee during his runner-up finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in late March. Speed is his weapon and if he returns to the form he showed winning three straight stakes races before his journey to the desert, he will be a tough customer. He’s been working well since mid-August and will use the Vosburgh as his Breeders’ Cup prep.
This flashy son of Pulpit and the Seeking the Gold mare African Jade is riding a three-race win streak into the Santa Anita Sprint, including a pair of grade 1s in his last two. The Bob Baffert trainee, who is owned by Spendthrift Farms, was briefly considered for the classics last year, but proved sprinting was his future. He’s been working well at his home base of Santa Anita and at his best is tough to beat.
This 6-year-old Arnaud Delacour trainee hasn’t lost a race in five starts this year and was brilliant in his Forego win last out. He’s been working expertly at his home base of Fair Hill and will prep for the Breeders’ Cup in the Vosburgh.
Gray gelding with a non-flashy pedigree (Wagon Limit—Smoke Alarm, Darn That Alarm) will be making his ninth start of the year when he ventures postward in the Breeders’ Cup. He won a nice, non-graded stakes last out and seems durable and resilient. The 6-year-old former claimer has won 10 of 45 career starts all up and down the Eastern Seaboard, so he’s definitely well-traveled.