While three of the top four finishers from last year's Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) return to this year's edition of the six-furlong race at Santa Anita Park, a well-traveled Southern California-based blazer not from that group figures prominently.
Good Friends Stable's Private Zone has returned to Southern California to prepare for the Nov. 2 Sprint, where he will break from post 7, after shipping to Belmont Park for a narrow victory in the six-furlong Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I) over Sprint rival Justin Phillip .
Retired jockey Rene Douglas, who scored a Breeders' Cup win as a rider in 2006 with Dreaming of Anna in the Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), is managing partner of Private Zone owner Good Friends Stable. The Macho Uno gelding is trained by three-time Breeders' Cup race winner Doug O'Neill, who captured the 2006 Sprint at Churchill Downs with Thor's Echo.
"If they're really flying, he can sit. He doesn't have to be on the lead but he has such a brilliant first step that he outbreaks most horses," O'Neill said. "But his mindset is not a speed-crazy horse. He can take them wire to wire but if they're flying, he can sit. I wouldn't trade places."
Private Zone was rested for five months after an off-the-board finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen Sponsored by Gulf News (UAE-I) earlier this year. He returned with a win in the Pirate's Bounty Stakes Sept. 4 at Del Mar. O'Neill credited Douglas with the suggestion to give Private Zone some time off after the Dubai trip.
"He's been a remarkable horse and credit Rene Douglas for finding him in Panama and he's done a brilliant job of leading the way, playing the role of coach with this horse," O'Neill said.
After failing to register a victory in his four starts this year including an off-the-board finish in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I), 2012 Sprint winner Trinniberg will look to find his best form and join Midnight Lute as the only horses to win back-to-back editions of the Sprint. Other top 2012 Sprint finishers back this year are runner-up The Lumber Guy, who has not won in three starts this year and finished off the board in the Vosburgh; and fourth-place finisher Sum of the Parts, who like last year enters off a victory in the Phoenix Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland.
Trainer Michael Hushion believes The Lumber Guy can return to top form in the Sprint.
"I couldn't have been more wrong about the Vosburgh," Hushion said. "I loved the way he went into that race and he just didn't fire. All I can say is he is nice and sound, his feet have been good and he's trained as good as ever. We've changed his training over the last couple of weeks by really taking it easy with him and not letting him breeze as fast. I'm hoping that makes a difference."
The race actually features two previous Breeders' Cup winners as 2011 Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle will try to pull off a Da Hoss-like second Breeders' Cup win. The 4-year-old Eddington colt enters off a victory in a six-furlong allowance race Oct. 14 at Santa Anita, his first start in 1 1/2 years.
Secret Circle impressed jockey Martin Garcia, who breezed him four furlongs in :46 4/5 Oct. 28 at Santa Anita, earning the bullet among 19 workers including several pointing for the Breeders' Cup.
"He's so fast," Garcia said. "He's like Speedy Gonzales!"
Baffert believes in Secret Circle's talent.
"It's a really competitive race but we're excited to have him back because he's a really fast horse," said trainer Bob Baffert, who boasts three previous Sprint wins.
Trainer David Fawkes, who shipped in from his Calder Casino & Race Course base to win the 2010 Sprint with Big Drama, will send out this year's Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. II) winner Bahamian Squall, a homebred son of Gone West for Donald Dizney.
The Sprint tragically lost its possible favorite when Donnie Crevier and Charles Martin's Points Offthebench suffered a catastrophic breakdown Oct. 26 in a workout at Santa Anita Park. Trained by Tim Yakteen, Points Offthebench had won four straight races including back-to-back grade I victories in Southern California.
|Xpressbet Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) Nov 2 4:01 PM PT|
|1||Justin Phillip||John Velazquez||Steven M. Asmussen||4-1|
|2||The Lumber Guy||Mike Luzzi||Michael E. Hushion||12-1|
|3||Gentlemen's Bet||Javier Castellano||Ron Moquett||8-1|
|4||Majestic Stride||Edwin A. Maldonado||Jeffrey L. Bonde||20-1|
|5||Sum of the Parts||Leandro R. Goncalves||Thomas M. Amoss||12-1|
|6||Bahamian Squall||Luis Saez||David Fawkes||10-1|
|7||Private Zone||Martin A. Pedroza||Doug F. O'Neill||3-1|
|8||Fast Bullet||Joel Rosario||D. Wayne Lukas||6-1|
|9||Secret Circle||Martin Garcia||Bob Baffert||4-1|
|10||Wine Police||Enrique Portillo Gomez||Henry Dominguez||30-1|
|11||Trinniberg||Rajiv Maragh||Shivananda Parbhoo||8-1|
|12||Laugh Track||Mike Smith||Mark E. Casse||20-1|