The fuss and bother of the Breeders’ Cup won’t faze Amazombie, who is slated to compete in the Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). Trainer Bill Spawr says the gelding’s laid-back attitude should serve him well once he ships from California to Churchill Downs on Nov. 1.
“He’s like a pony in his stall,” said Spawr from his Santa Anita barn Oct. 28. “But he’s a total professional when it comes time to race. On game day he knows what’s going on.”
As a California-bred, Amazombie had the option of running in the Oct. 29 California Cup Sprint at Santa Anita. Earlier this year he won the Sunshine Millions Sprint for Cal-breds and Florida-breds, and he also won the Tiznow Stakes for Cal-breds on Gold Rush Day at Hollywood Park in April.
Since then, Amazombie has successfully stepped up to graded company. He finished first in the Los Angeles Handicap (gr. III), but was disqualified for interference. Most recently, he won the Ancient Title Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita, giving him a Sprint berth because that is a "Win and You’re In" race.
“If he hadn’t won the Ancient Title, we probably would have gone in the Cal Cup,” said Spawr. “The Win and You’re In program is great, and he’s the real deal.”
Spawr owns Amazombie in partnership with Tom Sanford, a Pasadena attorney.
“He’s been my best friend for probably 30-35 years,” said Spawr. “It would be great to win this race with him.”
Sanford has an interest in 11 horses in Spawr’s barn. He has never been to Churchill Downs, let alone raced a horse there, and he and his wife, Jonnell Agnew Sanford, are looking forward to the trip.
“We really appreciate all of the support we’ve gotten for this horse from the fans,” said Sanford after the Ancient Title.
Spawr respects the entire Sprint field and knows it will be a tough race.
“That Giant Ryan has won six in a row,” the trainer said, “and any horse that can do that is a very good horse.”
The speed in the Sprint field could work to the advantage of Amazombie, who likes to stalk behind the early pacesetters. Mike Smith, who has ridden the 5-year-old son of Northern Afleet—Wilshe Amaze, by In Excess, in nearly all of his races this year, will again be aboard in the Sprint.
“Mike really likes this horse,” said Spawr. “He won the Sprint once with the same type of horse (Cherokee Run in 1994).”
The Sprint has attracted a field of 12, including five horses cross-entered in the Dirt Mile (gr. I). Big Drama, the 2011 Sprint winner, is slated to defend his title. Trainer Bob Baffert has entered Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) winner Euroears and The Factor, with The Factor having first preference in the Dirt Mile. Though Amazombie defeated The Factor in the Ancient Title, he may still be a bit of a price in the Breeders’ Cup.
“This horse has always been an underdog, and he always runs good as an underdog,” said Sanford.