Trainer Bob Baffert will be trying to accomplish something in the Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) never done before—win the race twice with the same horse. In 24 runnings, no horse has managed to capture the Sprint more than once, though many have tried.
With Midnight Lute , the 2007 Sprint winner, Baffert could make history. Not only could the horse become the first multiple victor of the race, he would have to do it on two very different surfaces. Last year Midnight Lute demolished his field by 43⁄4 lengths on the sloppy, sealed Monmouth Park track. This year he will have to race on Santa Anita’s synthetic Pro-Ride surface, most likely in bone-dry conditions.
And to complicate matters, Baffert might even defeat himself. He has cross-entered Indian Blessing, his 2007 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) winner, in the six-furlong Sprint and the seven-furlong Sentient Flight Group Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint. Though Indian Blessing would likely be a strong favorite in the Filly & Mare Sprint, Baffert hasn’t ruled out trying her against males.
“I want to be prepared,” Baffert said. “We’ve got to keep our options open. We’re leaning toward the Filly & Mare Sprint, but I’d like to see how she draws (in the Sprint). The draw is so important.”
The draw didn’t help Midnight Lute in 2007, when he broke from post position 2 and had to steady after a bumping incident. Nevertheless, he turned in a powerhouse performance. Even though Midnight Lute has raced only once this year, finishing 10th in the Aug. 24 Pat O’Brien Handicap (gr. II) at Del Mar after grabbing a quarter at the break, Baffert feels the horse has a good chance to repeat.
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The trainer was particularly pleased with Midnight Lute’s six-furlong work at Santa Anita Oct. 5 from the gate.
“I took the blinkers off, and he was really good in the gate,” Baffert said. “He relaxed and cruised, and he galloped out really strong. When he came back to the barn, he was a happy camper.”
To repeat in the Sprint, Midnight Lute has to buck the odds. Seven times the Sprint winner has returned unsuccessfully to defend the title the following year.
Baffert has even attempted a Sprint double before, with Thirty Slews. The 1992 Sprint winner entered the race again in 1993, only to finish fourth behind Cardmania, Meafara, and Gilded Time.
Midnight Lute’s rivals—Indian Blessing notwithstanding—may not have a Breeders’ Cup win on their resumés, but their 2008 credentials are impressive.
Street Boss was riding a five-race winning streak before losing the Sept. 27 Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) by only a half-length to Cost of Freedom, another contender. Trainer Bruce Headley has felt all year long that Street Boss, a $300,000 Keeneland yearling purchase, is among the best in his current stable. Headley trained Kona Gold, a five-time Sprint starter who won the 2000 running, finished second in 1999, and was third in 1998.
Black Seventeenis based in California as part of trainer Brian Koriner’s stable. Koriner sent his horse to Belmont Park and won the Sept. 27 Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) at 23-1 over 2007 Vosburgh winner Fabulous Strike.
J Be K, from the Steve Asmussen barn, shipped to California not long after reigning Horse of the Year Curlin to prepare for the Sprint. In Summation, from the Christophe Clement barn, has raced coast to coast, with two graded stakes victories earlier this year at Santa Anita.
2008 Sentient Breeders' Cup Sprint: