Sprint champion Amazombie and The Factor will duke it out one more time in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I), the headline event at Del Mar July 29.
Just five are entered in the six-furlong Polytrack race, which is the eighth on the Sunday program with a scheduled 5:30 p.m. PDT post.
Can Amazombie catch the speedster? The question is the same one that was asked when Amazombie and The Factor met in the San Carlos Handicap (gr. II) Feb. 25 at Santa Anita Park. That time, Amazombie could not, finishing third as the front-running The Factor held off Sway Away for victory.
That race was at seven furlongs, not the ideal distance for Amazombie, who has won seven of his 10 starts at the Crosby's shorter trip. The San Carlos was also his first race since he captured the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) nearly four months earlier.
So the Bing Crosby should set up better for the big bay gelding, though trainer Bill Spawr has his doubts because of the small field.
"It’s not a good thing because there’s a lack of speed," Spawr said. "If The Factor, again, is going to have a soft pace, he keeps going."
Amazombie faced a similar situation last time out as well, pitted against Shackleford in the Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) at seven furlongs May 5, Spawr noted.
"We thought there’d be two speed horses and nobody goes (with Shackleford), so we were forced to go and put a little pressure on him and it sure didn’t work out," he said.
Amazombie wound up second, one length behind Shackleford.
Spawr said he is using the Bing Crosby as Amazombie's prep for the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I), formerly the Ancient Title, on Oct. 6. The 6-year-old California-bred son of Northern Afleet won last year's Ancient Title to earn his way into the Breeders' Cup Sprint field after a third-place effort in the Bing Crosby. Spawr will use a similar tact this year though he's taking it easier on the gelding in 2012.
"Here again the Ancient Title and the Breeders’ Cup are our home base, and so that’s our goal," Spawr said. "Being at home I think we need to concentrate on that and we just keep him fresh. The Churchill, the race against Shackleford, really knocked him out. It’s the first time I could really say that he was really tired and he lost some weight. So we did freshen him up and he’s gained a lot of weight and I have no excuses."
Between the San Carlos and Churchill Downs, Amazombie won the Potrero Grande (gr. II) at Santa Anita, his 11th lifetime victory in 26 starts. He has banked $1,725,378 for co-owners Spawr and Thomas Sanford. He drew the rail and will be ridden once more by Mike Smith. Amazombie has been blanked in five starts over Del Mar's Polytrack.
Amazombie worked a half-mile in :47 flat in the early-morning hours at Del Mar prior to entries being taken July 26, zipping the final quarter in :23 1/5.
“He usually works a little slower than that, but Mike (Smith) said he just sat on him and (Amazombie) was pulling the whole way," Spawr said.
The Factor, trained by Bob Baffert for owners George Bolton and Fog City Stable, went to Dubai for the Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) following the San Carlos and ran seventh. He has had one race since, finishing second to Camp Victory after setting a lively pace as the odds-on choice in the Triple Bend Handicap (gr. I) at Betfair Hollywood Park June 30. It was the first time that The Factor had been beaten at seven furlongs.
The gray/roan 4-year-old son of War Front seeks his third grade I victory in the Crosby. One of those grade I triumphs came at Del Mar last year in the Pat O'Brien Stakes. That is his only start at the seaside track.
The Factor, to be reunited with Martin Garcia in the Crosby, drew post 4.
Amazombie and The Factor were both assigned top weight of 123 pounds and will spot their three opponents four pounds apiece.
Baffert also entered Capital Account, making his stakes debut after a 3 3/4-length romp in a high-priced allowance event at 6 1/2 furlongs on Hollywood's Cushion Track June 22. Owned by Thoroughbred Racing Legends, the 5-year-old son of Closing Argument will be ridden by David Flores.
Comma to the Top, who could keep The Factor company on the front end, will be gunning for his first stakes win since taking the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) in December 2010.
Peter Miller has raced the Florida-bred 4-year-old Bwana Charlie gelding on turf in his last three races, including a third last time in the six-furlong Robert B. Kerlan Memorial Handicap July 1 at Hollywood. Comma to the Top was scratched from an allowance race July 26 to run in the Crosby.
Completing the field is Don Tito, an allowance winner July 8 for trainer John Sadler.
$300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I, Race 8, 5:30 p.m.), 6 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Amazombie (CA), M E Smith, 123, W Spawr
2. Comma to the Top (FL), K Krigger, 119, P Miller
3. Don Tito (FL), G K Gomez, 119, J W Sadler
4. The Factor (KY), M Garcia, 123, B Baffert
5. Capital Account (KY), D R Flores, 119, B Baffert