Several races with Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) implications were run last weekend. But the race featuring the marquee name in sprinting is still out there on the horizon.
On Sept. 22, Left Bank won the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) and Snow Ridge took the Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. II), but everyone is waiting to see how defending Sprint champion Kona Gold does in his final prep race, the Oct. 6 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita.
The latest National Thoroughbred Racing Association poll released Sept. 24 -- ranking the top 10 Thoroughbreds in training -- has Kona Gold on top, a spot he took over several weeks earlier with the retirement of Point Given and the loss by Tiznow in the Woodward Stakes (gr. I).
Left Bank beat a solid group of Sprint contenders in the seven-furlong Vosburgh at Belmont Park. Squirtle Squirt finished second and Big E E third, followed by Say Florida Sandy in the six-horse field.
Michael Tabor's Left Bank, a son of French Deputy trained by Todd Pletcher, ran the seven furlongs in a very good 1:20.73.
Say Florida Sandy was coming off a win in the Patterson Handicap at The Meadowlands by 1 1/2 lengths over Disco Rico. The son of Personal Flag has won six of 12 starts this year -- and been second four times -- but it is important to point out that at the Breeders' Cup Sprint distance of six furlongs, he has won six of seven races in 2001.
Squirtle Squirt was making just his second start back off a layoff. He won the King's Bishop Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga on Aug. 25.
At Turfway, the D. Wayne Lukas-trained Snow Ridge fought back gamely to defeat well-known sprinter City Zip by a neck. He ran the six furlongs in 1:09.22
Obviously the leader of the Sprint division is defending Breeders' Cup champion and Eclipse Award winner Kona Gold. He won last year's Sprint at Churchill Downs in a blistering track-record time -- 1.07.77 -- and has done nothing to tarnish his image so far this year.
Expertly trained by co-owner Bruce Headley, Kona Gold is unbeaten in three starts in 2001, most recently winning the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) in a thrilling match up with Caller One. The 7-year-old gelded son of Java Gold is co-owned by Irwin Molasky, his son, Andrew, and Michael Singh.
Another serious Sprint candidate could make his next start on the same day. Bet On Sunshine, who finished third by just a length in last year's Breeders' Cup Sprint, may run next in the Oct. 6 Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland.
Bet On Sunshine is a sentimental favorite among racing fans. He is now a 9-year-old who has been carefully trained throughout his career for owner David Holloway by Paul McGee. He has won half of his 40 lifetime starts and only been worse than third five times. The son of Bet Big has made just three starts in 2001, won his last two, and appears to be rounding into top form again at the right time of the year.