The Todd Pletcher-trained Speightstown will enter the gate for Saturday's $1-million Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Lone Star Park as one of the heavy favorites to win the six-furlong race, but a win could almost guarantee end of the year divisional honors.
"He has to win to be the champion," Pletcher said Thursday morning. "Pico Central has very strong credentials, but if he (Speightstown) wins then he won the marquee sprint race in the world and I will start campaigning."
Pico Central and owner Gary Tanaka opted to skip the Breeders' Cup and instead point to the Cigar Mile (gr. I). Pico Central required a supplement of $200,000 to enter the Sprint race.
"You can throw out his (Speightstown) race in the Vosburgh and Pico Central's race in the Pat O'Brien (Breeders Cup Handicap (gr. I) ) at Del Mar and they are even," said Pletcher who conditions the chestnut horse for Eugene and Laura Melnyk.
A 6-year-old son of Gone West
, Speightstown enters the Sprint with a near perfect record, having won four of five starts on the year, including a 1 ½-length win in the Aug. 14 A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I), equaling a track record (1:08) at Saratoga for seven furlongs. Speightstown tied the track mark set by Spanish Riddle in 1972 while breaking the stakes record of 1:08 1/5 established by Five Star Day in 2000.
His only blemish came in a third-place finish, 3 ¼ lengths behind Pico Central and Voodoo, in the Oct. 2 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga.
"The start showed he wasn't holding the ground very well (in the Vosburgh) with the ground breaking all around him," the trainer said. "It took him at least three-to-four strides to find himself."
As for Saturday's race, Pletcher said he wasn't concerned with the number two post. "He just needs to get out of the gate and go," the trainer said. "In a perfect world, I would like to see him shake clear by a couple of lengths going down the backside, prompt the pace and go from there."
The Sprint will close out Speightstown's career. He will be retired to Kenny Troutt and Bill Casner's WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky., and will be owned in partnership by WinStar, Taylor Made Farm, and the Melnyks.