Ultra-Competitive Field Ready for Sprint
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Article Courtesy of Aaron Halterman of the Thoroughbred Racing Dudes
This could be the highlight of the entire Breeders’ Cup this year. The Sprint has drawn a total of 10 entries, including several horses who could end up stealing the show. The race will be contested over 6 furlongs at Santa Anita Park as race eight on Saturday, November 2, with a purse of $2,000,000.
Here’s a look at the field from the rail out:
#1 Catalina Cruiser – Overall, this horse has won seven of his eight starts; however, his one loss was a bad one last year in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, where he finished off the board as the odds-on favorite. Since that effort, he has won three times this year, including two in one-turn races. He opened up his season with a hard-fought win in the True North Stake (G2) at Belmont Park before picking up a pair of wins at Del Mar in the San Diego Handicap (G2) and the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2).
#2 Hog Creek Hustle – He has made a solid impressive season on the 3-year-old sprint circuit. After winning the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, he shipped to Saratoga and nearly won the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1). Last time out, he faced older horses for the first time in the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2), finishing fifth.
#3 Firenze Fire – This horse had to settle for second last time out in the Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park, even though he took the lead in mid-stretch. He was unable to hold off Imperial Hint, losing by a nose. This horse was also second in the Forego Stakes (G1) two starts back, losing to Mitole. Last year, Firenze Fire was fourth in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile, so he’ll cut back in distance for this year’s World Championships. After his performance going this distance last time out, it’s hard to argue with the strategy.
#4 Mitole – This Steve Asmussen-trained colt has won five of six this season and is currently ranked as the number-one sprinter in the country, along with being one of the leading candidates for Horse of the Year. His 4-year-old campaign started with two wins at Oaklawn Park before picking up his first Grade 1 victory in the Churchill Downs Stakes (G1). After that, he won what could be considered the best race of the season so far when he took home the Met Mile (G1) at Belmont Park. After a shocking loss in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, he was able to rebound last time out, winning the Forego Stakes (G1) in impressive fashion by 3 lengths. Overall, he has won nine of 13 starts and has never finished off the board.
#5 Engage – He is perfect in two starts since switching to the Steve Asmussen barn. After winning the Bensalem Stakes at Parx, Asmussen shipped Engage to Keeneland for the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2), where he flew home late to get up for a 1/2-length triumph. While under the tutelage of Chad Brown in the past, Engage had trouble finishing and had to settle for second on several occasions. Those efforts seem to be behind him now as he heads into the biggest race of his career.
#6 Shancelot – The Jorge Navarro-trained Shancelot is tremendously fast out of the gate. He put that on full display at Saratoga three races back when winning the Amsterdam Stakes (G2) in one of the most impressive performances seen in many years. The final margin of victory was 12 1/2 lengths as he flew home to win at odds of 6/5. However, he has been unable to reproduce that kind of effort in his next two starts, finishing third in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (G1) and second in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) last time out. In both cases, he looked to have the race won when turning for home, only to be caught in the final stages.
#7 Whitmore – Whitmore doesn’t lack Breeders’ Cup experience; he will be running in the Sprint for the third straight season. His first attempt at Del Mar in 2017 did not go well; however, he was a solid second last year when running at Churchill Downs. He opened up his season with a win at Oaklawn Park in the Hot Springs Stakes, and last time out, he nearly won the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland, finishing second by a 1/2-length. He will be coming into this year’s running fresh, with this being his second start off of a layoff.
#8 Landeskog – Quietly, this 3-year-old has progressed well this season. After a debut maiden special weight win at Oaklawn Park, he was second in the Bachelor Stakes before running ninth in the Woody Stephens Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park. He showed back up at Del Mar with a win against allowance company before shipping to Parx for a solid second in the Gallant Bob Stakes (G2).
#9 Imperial Hint – As good as Mitole has been this year, it is important to note that Imperial Hint was the one who beat him in the Vanderbilt Stakes (G1). In fact, he crushed him by over 7 lengths while setting a new Saratoga record. That was his first victory of the season, but he was a solid third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen Stakes (G1) one race prior. Last time out, he won his second straight Vosburgh Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park with a dramatic nose victory over Firenze Fire. Imperial Hint is also no stranger to the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, having competed in the race the last two years. He finished third last season at Churchill Downs and second in 2017 at Del Mar.
#10 Matera Sky – This Japanese-based horse has run in big-time sprints all across the country, including a second this year behind X Y Jet in the Dubai Golden Shaheen Stakes (G1). He will be making his first American start after running seventh in the Sankei Sho Centaur Stakes (G2) at Hanshin last time out.
After looking over this field, it is easy to see why many are calling this the best Breeders’ Cup Sprint of all time. A logical Horse of the Year candidate is in the race, as is a track record holder and a horse who has just one career defeat. This is the “can’t miss” event of the entire Breeders’ Cup.
For more coverage of the 2019 Breeders’ Cup, head over to racingdudes.com.
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