Classy Speightstown Sizzles in Sprint

Eugene and Laura Melnyk's Speightstown roared to the front in early stretch, opened up a commanding lead, then held off the late run of Kela to win the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) by 1 ¼ lengths.

The son of Gone West, the second choice in the field of 13 at odds of 7-2, made a nifty move along the inside to get the lead in the stretch and covered the six furlongs in 1:08.11.

"He didn't break as well as I wanted to, but I took a little bit of a hold to get a good position," said winning rider John Velazquez. "I had to take advantage of the inside. I had to take advantage when the hole was there."

It was Our New Recruit who broke best of all, but it was Abbondanza who grabbed the early advantage and set a scintillating opening quarter of :21.23. He was tracked early by Cuvee, Gold Storm, and Speightstown, who was on the inside after breaking from post 2. The opening half went in :43.47.

As the field rounded out of the turn, Speightstown and Gold Storm surged to the front, and Speightstown fought off his rival along the inside to grab the lead and he quickly opened up daylight while getting five furlongs in :55.56. Longshot Our Cousin Matt came from mid-pack to take the second spot in the stretch, but the late-running Kela came with his patented late kick from the far outside to run him down in the final strides.

Kela outfinished Our Cousin Matt for second by three-quarters of a length. It was a half-length back to Bwana Charlie, who finished fourth.

Bwana Charlie was followed by last year's Sprint winner Cajun Beat, Clock Stopper, Champali, Pt's Grey Eagle, Gold Storm, Midas Eyes, Abbondanza, Our New Recruit, and Cuvee.

Midas Eyes, the narrow 7-2 favorite over Speightstown, had to be urged early by his rider, Edgar Prado, and flattened out in the stretch drive after making a six-wide move.

"I wasn't able to save any ground," Prado said. "There's not much you can do when you're four wide. When we turned for home, I didn't have any horse left under me."

Bred in Kentucky by Aaron and Marie Jones, Speightstown is a 6-year-old son of Gone West out of the Storm Cat mare Silken Cat.

He is trained by Todd Pletcher, who scored his second Breeders' Cup win on the afternoon after winning the Distaff – Presented by Nextel (gr. I) with Ashado. The winning jockey was John Velazquez, who was also aboard Ashado.

"Our strategy was to ride him away from there for the first 100 yards, and see where we landed," said Pletcher, who had been 0-for-12 in Breeders' Cup races entering Saturday. "He didn't break quite as sharp as he normally does. But he was able to get position and the hole opened up at the right time and he had something to give."

Speightstown, now a winner of five of six starts this year, paid $9.40, $5.20, and $4. Kela returned $5 and $4, while Our Cousin Matt paid $15 to show. The exacta, 2-5, returned $41.60. The 2-5-12 trifecta paid $2,684.20.

Speightstown was coming off his lone loss of the season in the Sprint, a third-place finish behind Pico Central in the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I). Earlier he rattled off wins in the Artax Handicap at Gulfstream Park, the Churchill Downs Handicap (gr. II), the True North Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont Park and the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga.

The victory could give Speightstown the Eclipse Award for Sprinters. Pico Central, who was not entered, is the main contender.

"The Eclipse Award will be an argued point," Pletcher said. "He and Pico Central have one loss, but I think if you want to be a champion, you have to show up when everyone else does."

He has now won 10 of 16 career starts with two seconds and two thirds. The $551,200 winner's share pushed Speightstown's career earnings to $1,258,256.

At the conclusion of Speightstown's racing career, he will stand at Bill Casner and Kenny Troutt's WinStar Farm near Versailles, Ky. after the Melnyk's sold a half-interest in him to WinStar and Taylor Made Farm.

(Chart, Equibase)