When the gates open at the top of the Santa Anita downhill turf course on Saturday, Nov. 5, 14 horses will be looking to capture the $1,000,000 Grade I Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint title.
Although the field is far from set, these are the fourteen horses that I believe will be charging down the quirky downhill grass course at six-and-one-half furlongs — including “Win and You’re In” challenge winners, entrants from last years’ race, horses that have earned a shot and a wildcard:
Breeders’ Cup Challenge Race Winners
There are four winners of the Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In races slated for a spot in the starting gate. Whether they ship to Santa Anita or not is up to the connections.
The six year old grey gelding is unraced in North America, but is an accomplished Australian sprinter. He won by a nose in the Darley T.J. Smith Stakes at Randwick in April to earn a spot in the Turf Sprint.
Mecca’s Angel (IRE)
She is a five-year-old mare who is also unraced in North America. Winner of back-to-back editions of the Coolmore Nunthorpe Stakes at York, Mecca’s Angel has won nine of her sixteen career starts.
A four-year-old bay gelding by Irish stallion Dark Angel (the same sire as Mecca’s Angel), Ardhoomey nosed-out Aiden O’Brien’s Washington Dc in the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes at Curragh in September to earn a spot here.
Red Falx (JPN)
By capturing the Sprinters Stakes at Nakayama in thrilling fashion earlier this month — his third consecutive win — this five-year-old grey horse is trained by Tomohito Ozeki. Another charge in Ozeki’s stable is Stellar Wind (JPN), not to be confused with the Stellar Wind who currently tangles regularly with Beholder.
Entrants from 2015 B.C. Turf Sprint
Mongolian Saturday (2015 winner)
Florent Geroux positioned Mongolian Saturday to win at the top of the lane at Keeneland in last year’s Turf Sprint, but had to hold off both Lady Shipman and Green Mask at the wire to give Mongolian Stable a Breeders’ Cup victory.
The six-year-old gelding by Any Given Saturday won his last time out — also at Keeneland in the Woodford Stakes — but underneath jockey Carlos Montalvo.
Mongolian Saturday finished dead last in his only attempt at Santa Anita, but it was on the main track. Whether he can handle the downhill turf course or not, and who will pilot him to defend his title, are two big questions.
Lady Shipman (second)
After finishing a valiant second in the 2015 edition of this race, Lady Shipman has won five stakes races in eight tries. However, she only captured one graded stakes (the Grade III Royal North Stakes at Woodbine at the end of July) in that span, and finished seventh, fifth and sixth in the others.
Her sixth-place finish was in her last outing in one of the two divisions of the Eddie D. Stakes on the Santa Anita downhill turf course. It was her first attempt on that course.
The four year old by Midshipman should get in this edition of the Turf Sprint, but may not be a real contender.
Green Mask (third)
This five-year-old multiple graded stakes-placed gelding trained by Brad Cox was charging late at Keeneland in last year’s race, but would be making his first trip to California should be go in this edition.
A winner of only four of 19 career races, he won two-back in allowance optional claiming company in September at Belmont to snap a twelve-race losing streak.
He finished third, behind race winner Pure Sensation and runner-up Power Alert in the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes last out.
This would be the third consecutive trip to the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the Wesley Ward-trained gelding, which means he has run in the B.C. down the Santa Anita downhill course. He finished third in 2014, and fifth last year.
Although he won his six-year-old campaign debut at Keeneland, Undrafted hasn’t hit the board since a disappointing third-place finish in an ungraded stakes race at Saratoga in July. This may be the last relevant race of his career.
Pure Sensation (eighth)
A five year old Zensational gelding who drew the rail in last year’s Turf Sprint ended up getting caught in traffic before sputtering out, Pure Sensation has won three of four races this year.
The Christophe Clement charge has never set foot on the Santa Anita track, but his light 2016 race schedule may have him peaking at the right time.
He won the Belmont Turf Sprint Invitational Stakes as his B.C. prep race.
Horses That Have Earned a Shot
One of the two winners of the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes on the Santa Anita downhill course at the end of September, Ambitious Brew has three wins and a place in four career starts on said course.
Trainer Martin Jones has had this six year old gelding win with both Mike Smith and Flavien Prat this year.
Jockey Jamie Theriot has guided this six-year-old Midnight Lute horse to back-to-back wins, including capturing the second division of the Grade III Eddie D. Stakes. Theriot took the reins three races ago, and it appears as if he may be the final piece to the puzzle.
Trainer James Cassidy has also employed Victor Espinoza on this horse in the past, so it may make for an interesting B.C. storyline.
Although he won on the downhill turf course at Santa Anita twice, overall Holy Lute has an 8-2-3-0 record on the course — with a fourth-, a sixth- and an eleventh-place finish in his past performances.
Holy Lute and Ambitious Brew are trying to join California Flag as winners of the Eddie D. who have gone on to win the B.C. Turf Sprint.
Guns Loaded finished third in the Eddie D. division won by Big Lute. He keenly parted foes in mid-stretch and finished strong.
The five-year-old D’wildcat gelding, trained by Doug O’Neill, is no stranger to the downhill course and will probably not be well-backed by the betting public on Breeders’ Cup Saturday, which may make him an early darkhorse play to keep an eye upon.
Although Nemoralia may tackle the B.C. Fillies and Mares Sprint instead, the cut-back in distance might be just what she needs to get back to her winning ways.
Most recently finishing fourth in the Grade I First Lady Stakes at Keeneland — a race in which Tepin was beaten by Photo Call — her connections shouldn’t be shy in looking for sprint races for her to show her best stuff.
The three-year-old filly has split her time between racing in the U.S. and in Europe. She has yet to race at Santa Anita.
Wild Card Selection
My longest of longshot picks for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint is Hunt.
In this race more than any of the twelve others during the first weekend of November at the “Great Race Place,” bettors will be looking for a “horse for the course.” This may be the one.
The four-year-old Phil D’Amato-trained gelding by Dark Angel (see Mecca’s Angel & Ardhoomey) had won three-in-a-row on the downhill course before finishing a hard-charging third behind Ambitious Brew and Richard’s Boy in the first division of the Eddie D. last out.
He would be completely overlooked at the betting window should he get into the race and would likely be one off the longest shots to win a Breeders’ Cup race should he pull the upset.