The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint is particularly interesting for two reasons this year. First, because of the unique layout of Santa Anita the start of the race is downhill, and once they reach the bottom of the not insignificant hill they have to cross the dirt to get back onto the turf for the stretch drive, It's quirky, and that quirkiness is always a big factor when the race takes place at Santa Anita. Horses that have done well on the course often have a big edge here, and those that haven't seen it can struggle. Second, and more significantly, the race is the first leg of the Pick Six this year, so it will be a very significant one for bettors looking to take a shot at a life-changing payoff. This year it is a ridiculously popular race - 28 horses were pre-entered for the 14 available spots in the starting gate. Just what we need - a massive field without an obvious winner in a quirky race to start the pick six. My head hurts already.:
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Pure Sensation (5/1): This five year old has won three straight. Last time out he came off a three-month layoff to win at Belmont in early October. His form is good and he's working well. I hesitate to make a horse that has never run east of Kentucky the favorite in this race, though, and I'm not crazy about the connections for this spot.
Obviously (6/1): You know how it feels like some college football players have been in school for about 20 years? Obviously is the equine equivalent of that. This is his fifth straight appearance at the Breeders' Cup. He's more of a fixture than anyone at this point. The first four were in the Mile. He was third in his first appearance and has gotten worse each time. Now he's shortening things up. He does have experience on the downhill course, but not since April of 2013 - which is also the last time he raced less than a mile. The biggest cause for concern is that he will have his fifth jockey aboard in his last five outings. A lack of loyalty in the saddle is usually telling. I hate the price.
A Lot (8/1): He's another East Coast horse moving west for the first time. He has a couple of things going for him. First, despite only finishing second, he is coming off an excellent race. He overcame a ton of diversity to finish well. Second, he is trained by Chad Brown, which is a big asset for any horse on the grass. This is shorter than he typically runs, but it could suit him. I wouldn't like him at a price less than this, but he's intriguing enough.
Celestine (8/1): Yet another East Coast contender. Last time out she was a relatively underwhelming third-place finisher behind Photo Call and Tepin in the First Lady. That was in early October, though, and it was her first race since June so it was a tightener as much as anything. The previous race in June, the Just a Game at Belmont, was just brilliant - a really great win. She's been at Santa Anita long enough to settle in and should be in good shape here. At this price there is some value.
Ambitious Brew (10/1): Finally a West Coast horse. Not just a West Coast horse, but a West Coast downhill turf specialist. He has run on this unique track nine times. Five of those have been wins, including the last two. He isn't as fast as some of the others above him on this list, so it is up to you to determine if course expertise is a big factor or not.
Mongolian Saturday (12/1): He's the defending champion here, so he deserves some respect on that front. There are a couple of problems, though. For one, he was a bit of a surprise last year, and he really benefited from the race shape. Second, his time since that win has mostly been underwhelming. He had two bad races in Hong Kong and then two awful races in England. He came back and won at Keeneland in early October, but it was against a weak field. So, is he a factor here on a track he doesn't know against questionable form? I'm a skeptic.
Om (12/1): This is a mile specialist who didn't get into the Mile and has landed here instead. His last 11 races have been at a mile or longer. He's a California runner but has never run on the downhill. I'd like him a lot better at a mile than here, and I wouldn't really love him in that race, either.
Undrafted (12/1): Football fans will take note - this runner is owned by Patriot and Bronco great Wes Welker. This is his third try in the Turf Sprint. In 2014 in the first attempt he was a solid third here on the downhill at Santa Anita. His last four races, though, have been lousy, and it's hard to warm up to him too much.
Calgary Cat (20/1): I live in Calgary - born and raised. Of course I'm putting a few bucks on this horse - even though he has almost certainly never been here. I expect it to be more of a donation than an investment, though. He is the top turf sprinter in Canada, but he has only ventured south of the border once, and it didn't go well for him. He just doesn't seem to be good enough, and he doesn't have the downhill experience to fall back on. It's worth a shot, but I just don't think he's good enough.
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