The six-furlong Xpressbet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) isn’t the ideal distance for two top contenders in this race, say their trainers, but it’s the race that fits them best at this time.
One of these contenders is Coil, already a grade I winner at 1 1/8 miles, having won the 2011 Haskell Invitational Stakes. The 4-year-old colt is the 5-1 second choice in the Sprint’s field of 14 and will be breaking from post four.
The Lumber Guy is the other Breeders’ Cup Sprint contender whose trainer Michael Hushion said should be fine racing at longer distances but not right now.
"It wasn’t really planned; six months ago we never thought about it," trainer Bob Baffert said about Coil the son of classic winner Point Given. Baffert trained Point Given to victories in the Preakness Stakes (gr. I) and Belmont Stakes (gr. I).
Heading into the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (gr. I), formerly the Ancient title, on Oct. 6, Baffert said he still had intentions of putting Coil in the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT). Then Coil won, with stablemate and fellow Sprint contender Capital Account finishing second by a head.
"(The Sprint) is a little bit too short for him and Capital Account; seven-eighths would have been perfect for these two because they’re really warriors," Baffert said. "I didn’t want to take a chance at stretching them out to a mile, yet, probably a mile would be a better distance for Coil but I was stuck between the two distances. Coil is doing well here, won the (Santa Anita) Sprint here; I don’t want to do any experimenting on these big days. I just didn’t want to over-think it."
After finishing third in the 1 1/8-mile Goodwood Stakes (gr. I) to Game On Dude and Awesome Gem more than a year ago at Santa Anita Park, Coil was given a long break. He won his first start of the year July 26 in a seven-furlong optional claiming race at Del Mar.
Baffert next started him Aug. 25 in the grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes, again at seven furlongs, where he finished second by half a length to Capital Account, a 5-year-old son of Closing Argument. Since the Santa Anita Sprint, Coil’s continued to thrive on the Santa Anita track. He produced a four-furlong bullet work Oct. 21 in :46 3/5 and worked another four furlongs Oct. 28 in a solid :48 1/5.
Coil actually has a good record at six furlongs, having won all three of his starts at the distance.
The colt also is tapped into some positive racing karma through his owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman. These partners and Baffert have already teamed up on such top-shelf horses as two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner and champion Midnight Lute and two-time champion Lookin At Lucky . Coil was bred in Florida by Leonard Lavin’s Glen Hill Farm.
Hushion faces a similar dilemma with The Lumbe Guy.
"He’ll go longer," Hushion said before The Lumber Guy went out for 1 1/8-mile gallop Oct. 31. "But he just came out of winning a grade I race. (The Sprint) happens to be the right race at the right time."
The 3-year-old son of Grand Slam is a homebred racing for New York owner/breeder Barry Schwartz. The dark gray/roan colt is coming into the Breeders’ Cup off a 1 1/4-length victory in the Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (gr. I). Out of six lifetime starts, The Lumber Guy has a record that seems to favor a mile or less. He broke his maiden Jan. 28 at six furlongs at Aqueduct Racetrack and went on to win the seven-furlong Miracle Wood Stakes at Laurel Park by more than four lengths.
Hushion and Schwartz then took a shot at the grade I Resorts World Casino New York City Wood Memorial Stakes, where The Lumber Guy finished fifth in the 1 1/8-mile contest.
Cutting back to a mile in the Jerome Stakes (gr. II) provided another victory, but following up with a second go at 1 1/8 miles in the Peter Pan Stakes (gr. II) resulted in an off-the-board finish. The Lumber Guy is two for two at six furlongs and four for four at distances of a mile and under.
While The Lumber Guy has won gate-to-wire in three of his previous starts, Hushion doesn’t expect him to necessarily be on the lead Nov. 3 in the Sprint, which is the 10th race on the Breeders’ Cup World Championship’s Saturday card.
"As always, the break will dictate who’s in front," he said. "I expect our horse will be in the upper third."
The Lumber Guy is the third stakes winner and first graded stakes winner produced by the unraced Unbridled's Song daughter Boltono. The mare’s other stakes winners are Magical Solution (by Stormin Fever), who won the six-furlong Niagara Stakes and Bold Deed (by Anasheed), who won the Packett’s Landing Stakes at a mile and finished fifth in the 2011 Peter Pan.
Grand Slam, who died earlier this year, sired several good horses capable of winning at 1 1/8 miles, including Limehouse , who won the Brooklyn Handicap, and Pennsylvania Derby (gr. III) winner Grand Hombre. But he also sired horses with a lot of speed, including 2003 Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Cajun Beat.