2004 Eclipse Sprinter: Speightstown

2004 Eclipse Sprinter: Speightstown
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Speightstown
In the days leading up to the Oct. 30 Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships, trainer Todd Pletcher would only say that Speightstown   would have to win the six-furlong Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) to be considered divisional champion. Speightstown won the race and now has garnered champion sprinter honors. Pletcher took home the Eclipse Award for outstanding trainer.

Early in the season, Speightstown was considered the leader of the division, but a defeat at the hands of fellow sprint division finalist Pico Central in the Vosburgh (gr. I), one race before the Breeders' Cup Sprint, placed the Brazilian-bred at the top of the list. The only blemish on Pico Central's record was a loss to Kela in the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), giving both one loss each and setting up a run for championship honors in the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Lone Star Park.

Speightstown showed up in Texas, while Pico Central opted to sit out the big dance to wait for the Cigar Mile (gr. I). Speightstown vaulted back to the top of the division after finishing 1 1/4 lengths better than a fast-closing Kela in the Breeders' Cup Sprint. Pico Central was third in the Cigar Mile.

While Speightstown won on the biggest day in Thoroughbred racing, his quest for the championship began with a 4 1/2-length score in the Artax Handicap. The speedy son of Gone West followed that effort with three consecutive wins--in the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II), True North Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II), in which he registered a 117 Beyer Speed Figure and equaled the track record for six furlongs. The record was set by Spanish Riddle 32 years earlier.

His lone defeat in the Vosburgh came after a poor break where, according to Pletcher, Speightstown was on his head the first three strides of the race. "The track was cupping away from him," Pletcher said the week of the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships. "He is normally an exceptionally quick gate horse and a good gate horse. He just couldn't get his feet underneath him."

Speightstown races for Eugene and Laura Melnyk, who purchased the Breeders' Cup winner for $2 million at the 1999 Keeneland July yearling sale from the consignment of Taylor Made Sales Agency, agent. Produced from the Storm Cat mare Silken Cat, Taylor Made consigned the Kentucky-bred on behalf of breeders Aaron and Marie Jones.

What Speightstown accomplished on the track in 2004 is especially impressive considering the numerous setbacks he suffered earlier in his career. He missed his 4-year-old season and made only two starts in 2003 due to minor ailments.

Eugene Melnyk said there was a time, prior to Speightstown's four-race win streak, when he considered throwing in the towel and sending him to stud.

In mid-September, a 50% interest in Speightstown was sold to the partnership of Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm and the Taylor family's Taylor Made Farm to stand the stallion at stud. Speightstown took up residence at WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky., in early November and will stand the 2005 season for $40,000.

Speightstown ended his career with a record of 10-2-2 from 16 starts. He earned $1,258,256 in his career, the majority of which ($1,045,556) was earned in 2004.

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