Breeders' Cup Preview: Sprint
by Trevor Whenham - 11/4/2009
This is the third of the seven 'real' Breeders' Cup race that we'll preview. The Sprint can usually be relied upon to be one of the most wide-open, difficult-to-predict contests. This year is no exception. Just nine horses are entered. Despite the presence of Zensational, a strong favorite at 7/5, I find it very hard to rule out almost any runners in this one.
Zensational comes into the race with potent connections. Bob Baffert trains him, and he became the first trainer to train a repeat winner of the Sprint with Midnight Lute the last two years. Last year Midnight Lute had run just once and he was 10th, so he was a surprise.
Zensational won't be sneaking up on anyone. The three year old has won four in a row including three Grade 1 stakes, and five of six, and he has won over the Pro Ride at Santa Anita before. In other words, he is an impressive horse well suited to this spot. I'm never convinced that a horse deserves a 7/5 price in a field this big and deep, but this one comes closer than many. He likes to run from the front, and will be eager to find the lead early here.
The second choice in the field, at 5/2, is Gayego. Derby fans might remember him as the 2008 Arkansas Derby winner who was extremely disappointing in Kentucky, finishing well behind Big Brown in 17th. He's a Godolphin-owned, Dubai-based sprinter now, and he won at Santa Anita his last time out in the Ancient Title, a Grade 1 race. In contrast to Zensational he's a closer, and there will be lots of pace here for him to chase. My biggest concern is that his Beyer in his last race, 102, is less than I would like to see on the Pro Ride - Midnight Lute won last year with a 112.
Fatal Bullet, at 9/2, is the third choice. We know that he's not out of place here - he led most of the way in the race last year before getting past by Midnight Lute and ultimately finishing second. He has run 11 times on synthetic surfaces and won nine of them. Unfortunately, none of those wins have been at Santa Anita - last year's Sprint was his only attempt on the surface. He's an intriguing entry, but he has a problem - he's also a front runner who performs his best on the lead. He's almost certainly not as fast as Zensational, so he will likely either struggle because he's not on the lead or he'll burn himself out taking that lead. That could make it hard for him to get the job done.
I'm generally a fan of fillies in this race, but not Fleeting Spirit - at least not to win. It's not that I don't respect this European invader. It's just that I don't think this spot makes a lot of sense. All 13 of her races have been on turf, so it seems like an odd choice to run off that surface for the first time against the boys and in a race this deep. That's a lot to overcome, especially because she isn't the best horse in the gate. She's one of many horses in the field, though, that will be sitting off what should be a blistering pace waiting to pick up the pieces. She could certainly wind up on the board, and since she is 8/1 that could be attractive for the exotics.
Three year old Capt. Candyman Can looked like he was going to be a Derby contender early in the year, but as the races stretched out it became obvious that he was a sprinter - a pretty good one as it turns out. He has finished second in three graded stakes this summer, and was placed first in the King's Bishop after Vineyard Haven was disqualified. Though this is his first trip to the west coast, he was second on a synthetic surface last time out, and he did a decent job of chasing down a runaway Fleet Bullet in that effort. He can't be ruled out here, and at 15/1 he presents a solid price.
Another longshot who is intriguing is the 20/1 Cost of Freedom. He was a horse I was quite excited about last year in the Sprint - he had won the Ancient Title and looked great doing it. Unfortunately, he was scratched on the morning of the Sprint. He didn't return to racing until September this year, and has been fourth in both of his races, including the Ancient Title that Gayego won. He's worked well since that race, though, and I really think that the racing strategy has been to keep this horse fresh instead of going for wins. In other words, he's being pointed towards a big race here.
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