What could be more specialized than horses that like to sprint on the turf? Yet all manner of runners make up the 22 pre-entries in the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, which drew the largest field of all 14 Breeders’ Cup races.
If you like locals who specialize in Santa Anita’s unique course of about 6 1/2 furlongs, you’ve got plenty to choose from. California Flag is a two-time winner of the Morvich Handicap (gr. IIIT) down the same course. Get Funky finished second to him both times and won the event in 2007. Desert Code surprised everyone in capturing the inaugural Turf Sprint last year and returns to defend his title. Noble Court usually sprints on the main track, but in his only attempt down the hill he won the March 21 Joe Hernandez Stakes.
Gotta Have Her is four-for-four over the Turf Sprint course, though always against her own sex. Even Lethal Heat, another distaffer who is likely to run instead in the Breeders’ Cup Ladies’ Classic (gr. I) if Zenyatta goes in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (gr. I), is two-for-three, with a third, also all against fillies and mares.
Despite that horse-for-course experience, another contender is Diamondrella, a 5-year-old Eastern-based mare whose three 2009 victories came on the turf, her only loss this year on a synthetic surface. Diamondrella twice this year has defeated 2008 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf (gr. IT) winner Forever Together. IEAH Stables bought the daughter of Rock of Gibraltar two weeks before her Oct. 10 First Lady Stakes (gr. IT) victory at Keeneland, and Angel Penna trains her.
The Europeans are not about to concede the Turf Sprint to U.S. connections. Jeremy Noseda trains 2009 July Cup (Eng-I) winner and Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (Fr-I) second Fleeting Spirit plus multiple graded winner Strike the Deal. Fleeting Spirit has first preference in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I), so expect to see Strike the Deal go it alone in the Turf Sprint.
Only Green, a French listed stakes winner trained by Freddie Head, would have to draw in off the provisional list. Her first preference is in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (gr. I). Another European, French group I winner Lord Shanakill, has yet to start in this country. However, he has been in the care of Southern California Hall of Famer Richard Mandella since late in the Del Mar meeting.
$1 Million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (2:23 p.m.), 3-year-olds and up, about 6 1/2 Furlongs (Turf)
Horse, Owner, Trainer
California Flag, Hi Card Ranch, Brian J. Koriner
Canadian Ballet, Obviously NY Stable II, Linda Rice
Cannonball, Kenneth L. and Sarah K. Ramsey, Wesley A. Ward
Cherokee Heaven, Hicker, McClure, Robinson, and Taylor, Martin F. Jones
Dancing in Silks, Ken Kinakin, Carla Gaines
Delta Storm, Michael House, Mike Mitchell
Desert Code, Tarabilla Farms LLC, David Hofmans
Diamondrella (GB), IEAH Stables, Angel Penna
El Gato Malo, West Point Thoroughbreds Inc., Craig Dollase
Fleeting Spirit (Ire), The Searchers, Jeremy Noseda
Game Face, Zabeel Racing International, Todd A. Pletcher
Get Funky, Keith Abrahams, John W. Sadler
Gotta Have Her, Green Lantern Stables LLC, Jenine Sahadi
Lethal Heat, Madeline Auerbach, Barry Abrams, and Ron McCauley, Barry Abrams
Lord Shanakill, Mark T. Gittins, Richard Mandella
Noble Court, Joy Ride Racing, John W. Sadler
Only Green (Ire), Wertheimer et Frere, Freddie Head
Silver Timber, Michael Dubb and High Grade Racing, Chad C. Brown
Square Eddie, J. Paul Reddam, Doug O’Neill
Strike the Deal, Martyn Barber, Jeremy Noseda
Tenga Cat, Truline Racing, Ronald W. Ellis
Yankee Injunuity, Encore Racing Stable and James R. McMullen, James R. McMullen