Snapper Sinclair Seeks Elusive Graded Win In Dirt Mile
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
By Alicia Hughes at TVG News
The mere mention of his name causes those closest to him to melt. The sight of his snow-colored face unfailingly sparks a love fest across social media. And every time he steps into a starting gate – a task he has done 34 times and counting – he carries with him both the respect of horseplayers who know they can depend on his form and the admiration of fans who yearn for longevity from their equine stars.
His seven career wins do not include a single graded stakes victory, yet Snapper Sinclair dwarfs most of the 168 other horses entered in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup World Championships when it comes to his standing in the court of public opinion. He is a fantasy of a leading man – looks, charm, ambition – which is why he holds top regard in any race he enters no matter what the odds board may say.
“I hear from people from all over the place about what a big fan they are of Snapper,” owner Jeff Bloom of Bloom Racing said of the bay horse he purchased for $180,000 out of the 2017 OBS April 2-year-olds in training sale. “They just love him. And of course, I do too. He will always be that one special horse that really holds a place in your heart.”
It has become commonplace for any reference to Snapper Sinclair to be preceded with the term ‘fan favorite’. On Saturday, the charismatic son of City Zip will try to earn another desirable prefix, specifically the title of Breeders’ Cup hero as the 6-year-old brings his veteran legs to post in the $1 million Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (G1) at Del Mar on Nov. 6.
Thoroughbred racing has had no shortage of passionate fan bases rise up in support of their favorite runners, from the “Chromies” who worship at the altar of two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome to members of the “Swiss Army” that celebrate champion filly and 2020 Preakness Stakes (G1) heroine Swiss Skydiver. Usually, such a devoted following goes hand in hand with a horse earning transcendent achievements at the highest level. In the case of Snapper Sinclair, his star power is rooted in more than just his on-track results.
While graded stakes glory has eluded him to date, the Steve Asmussen trainee has grown in stature even as he battled rough spots during a career that has spanned five seasons. He was good enough to earn a spot in the field for the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1) and versatile enough to put himself on the Triple Crown trail the following season where he was a nose away from capturing the $400,000 Risen Star Stakes (G2). Though he has gone through some hard-luck stretches – including an 11-race losing skid at one point in which he finished second or third six times – Snapper Sinclair rarely runs outright clunkers and continues to show up at the top-level even as many of his generation are retired.
He is as at home on the turf as he is on the dirt. He can sprint down the hill at Santa Anita as adeptly as he handles the undulating course at his beloved Kentucky Downs. He is on the cusp of breaking $2 million in career earnings through sheer grit and consistency.
He is the embodiment of a throwback runner, happy and willing to do whatever job is put in front of him while looking good in the process.
“He’s just been so great to have in the barn since he was a 2-years-old,” assistant trainer Scott Blasi said as a broad grin stretched across his face. “He’s got the big blaze and everybody recognizes him. And he’s professional. He likes to work and still enjoys his job. It’s just fun to have him in the barn. He knows how to take care of himself.”
“I think (his popularity), it’s part a combination of he has a really catchy, fun name. He’s got basically a flashlight on his face, and he’s got a look in his eye that is just so charming and mischievous at the same time,” Bloom added. “For gamblers and race fans alike, he’s the kind of horse that you know you can count on to show up in any given race situation, whether it’s sprinting on turf or going long on dirt, on a hill or in the slop. It just doesn’t matter. And the fact that he’s been doing this since he was a 2-year-old.”
The Dirt Mile field is one of the saltiest on the Breeders’ Cup lineup with Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner Silver State – himself an Asmussen trainee – and the brilliant Life is Good figuring to draw the majority of support from the betting public. Snapper Sinclair, however, has quietly put together a season that has produced some of the best numbers he has run in his career. The initial Breeders’ Cup morning line odds have Snapper Sinclair at 12-1 odds to win the Dirt Mile. When he took his talents overseas to the Godolphin Mile (G2) in March, he closed from well back in the stretch to get up for fourth, just missing show money in the international test. After running second in the Opening Verse Overnight Stakes at Churchill Downs in April, Snapper Sinclair became the first horse to win three stakes at Kentucky Downs – a venue where he has racked up more than $1 million of his career earnings – when he annexed a division of the TVG Stakes this September.
“I don’t know how to explain it but if the Breeders’ Cup was (at Kentucky Downs), he’d probably be even money,” Blasi said. “He just loves the place. It’s definitely his course.”
In his most recent outing, a runner-up finish in the 6 ½-furlong Eddie D. Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita on Oct. 1, Snapper Sinclair cut back to less than a mile for the first time since 2018 and still was only a half-length from getting up for what would have been his first graded win.
Getting over that hump is the only remaining challenge for the sweet-faced runner as his list of tough beats include a fourth-place finish in the 2019 edition of the Dirt Mile and a runner-up effort in the 2020 Cigar Mile Handicap (G1). Such a breakthrough would likely get the attention of Kentucky stud farms looking to add a new stallion to the roster but, as much as Bloom wants his charge to get the opportunity to pass on his durability and versatility, he already has a forever home whenever his racing days come to an end.
“In order for him to really end up being a Kentucky stallion, he’s going to need to before it’s all said and done get a race like a Breeders’ Cup win on his resume. That would be a game changer,” Bloom said. “One thing I can assure you is, regardless of whether or not Snapper ends up being a stallion, he’s got a home in my backyard forever. As nice as it would be for Snapper to be a stallion, and I think he deserves it, if it didn’t happen, I’m okay with that.”
As long as Snapper Sinclair himself is okay with it, Saturday may not even go down as his last chance at a Breeders’ Cup triumph. If his attitude remains bright and willing and his hickory legs keep firing with enthusiasm, a 7-year-old campaign could very much be in the cards for one of the sport’s great ambassadors, according to Bloom.
And if his biggest day in the sun happens to come on the massive stage he is set to climb up upon this weekend, there may be no post-race celebration that could rival it in terms of popularity.
“His numbers continue to stay, if not as good but better than they were when he was younger,” Bloom said. “He’s happy and healthy and I know it would shock a lot of people, but it wouldn’t shock us if he were to jump up on racing’s biggest day and get that elusive Grade 1 victory.”
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