If the over and under on the number of Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) runners who had their final prep in England or France was 25, you would probably take the under, wouldn't you? This writer would have. But, counting them up shows 27 Sprint starters have shipped in from France or England. And, not surprisingly, more have finished last -- six -- than first -- one.
Of course, that figure of one arguably could be two, for Dayjur certainly appeared headed to victory at Belmont Park in 1990 when he jumped shadows in deep stretch. The following year at Churchill Downs, the foreign contingent got its only Sprint victory when Sheikh Albadou sprung the upset at 26-1.
Now comes Mozart, a son of Danehill who is sure to be champion sprinter in Europe. But, can he beat the best sprinters in North America? Well, his connections seem very confident in his chances in the Oct. 27 six furlong Sprint at Belmont, and Coral Eurobet in England has Mozart as the 6-1 third choice behind Kona Gold and Caller One.
Mozart is trained by Aidan O'Brien, who along with Bobby Frankel, are the hottest trainers on the planet.
Standing in Ireland (and shuttling to Australia), obviously Danehill's offspring have had few chances to excel on dirt, which is the big question in everyone's mind about Mozart. Still, he has sired over 150 stakes winners, so his runners have class, and that alone can be a major factor when competing in grade and group I races.
There is no doubt Mozart's broodmare sire, Spectacular Bid, was a top horse on dirt, very nearly winning the Triple Crown.
The crack sprinter's dam, Victoria Cross, was unraced, but she has produced a dirt stakes winner in Mozart's half-brother, England Expects, by Topsider. With Topsider being from the same sire line as Danehill, it helps suggest Mozart can handle the dirt.
The second dam of Mozart is the well-known blue-hen mare Glowing Tribute, by Graustark. Glowing Tribute, herself a stakes winner on grass, produced stakes winners on dirt and turf, among them Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Sea Hero.
All paths around the Belmont oval to the wire of the Sprint must go through last year's winner, Kona Gold. Or better stated, must watch for Kona Gold to come storming through them. Sure, he finished second in his final prep, but he ran a good second in a good time to a good horse. Obviously then, the horse who beat him, Swept Overboard, must be considered a solid contender.
The Sprint will have a full 14-horse field again, just as it has the past four years.
Bet on Sunshine, who finished third for the second time last year at age eight, is back for another try, and Bob Baffert sends out El Corredor, a grade I winner at a mile who tries the shorter distance on World Thoroughbred Championships Day.
Five Star Day, who blew the break year ago, is back for another go, and Delaware Township, who won the final New York prep for the race, heads the east coast contingent.
Then there is the filly Xtra Heat. Will she prove to have the class to lead the field wire-to-wire, or will her heart be broken, hitting a brick wall at the eighth pole?