The last round of preliminaries for the Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) takes place coast-to-coast this weekend, but we may not learn as much as we'd like about the top contenders. The trend, never stronger than this year, is to train up to the Sprint over the course of two or even three months. Thus, these preps, coming three weeks before the Big Dance in Chicago, don't shine with the luster you'd expect.Keeneland will present the opener of the trio of significant graded six-furlong sprints with the $150,000 Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III) Sat., Oct. 5. The Lexington oval gets the marquee runner of the weekend, as 2001 3-year-old Champion Filly Xtra Heat takes on what figures to be a short field. Xtra Heat, now four, has accomplished just about everything one could ask, finishing a gutsy second in the 2001 Sprint at Belmont Park after being on the engine the entire six furlongs. Xtra Heat has won 23 of 30 lifetime starts and earned better than $2 million, a figure that should rise in the next month. "She is training better than last year--she really blossoms in the cooler weather," trainer John Salzman Sr. stated. "She hasn't changed a bit mentally or physically. She loves to win, she's a speed filly, and we're going to let her run her race."Day Trader will likely provide the stiffest competition for Xtra Heat in the Phoenix if he runs back to his impressive score in the Kentucky Cup Sprint (gr. III) at Turfway Park Sept. 14. The 3-year-old son of Champion Sprinter Phone Trick gives trainer D. Wayne Lukas a strong sprint team when considering Lukas also conditions Orientate. Others possible for the Phoenix include the speedy Touch Tone, who hasn't raced yet in 2002, Maker's Mark, and Rio Oro, who is also nominated to the Ancient Title at Santa Anita.Speaking of the $125,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I), the field for the Oak Tree at Santa Anita test is interesting, even with the absence of Disturbingthepeace, the West Coast's best sprinter over the summer. Xtra Heat isn't the only female in the Sprint picture, as Kalookan Queen, a classy Lost Code mare, will spice up the Ancient Title picture. The 6-year-old is conditioned by Bruce Headley, who won the Sprint with Kona Gold two years ago. She comes off a facile win in the Rancho Bernardo (gr. III) at Del Mar, and is a six-time stakes winner, including this year's Santa Monica Handicap (gr. I). Dangerous.Swept Overboard resurfaces here as well. Also a six-time stakes winner, the son of End Sweep hasn't raced since a smashing victory in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) at Belmont in May. He is already a millionaire, and will be defending his crown in the Ancient Title, having defeated Kona Gold last year. Trainer Craig Dollase has won the Breeders' Cup Sprint with Reraise.Avanzado, who will run either at Santa Anita or Belmont this weekend, is getting some attention off his pair of wins in as many starts this year. He captured the Pirate's Bounty Handicap at Del Mar Sept. 7 for conditioner Doug O'Neill, and the Argentinean bred may be hitting his stride at the right time. I Love Silver, a solid check-earner, will contest the Ancient Title, along with Stoney, who rides a three-race winning streak, and Mellow Fellow. Crafty C.T. may or may not run after sustaining a minor injury this week.Although Belmont is offering $250,000 in its Forest Hills Handicap (gr. II) Sun., Oct. 6, the field is coming up light. Much depends on the impending sale of 2001 Breeders' Cup Sprint Champion Squirtle Squirt to Japanese interests. If the deal doesn't close by race day, trainer Bobby Frankel will run the son of Marquetry in the Forest Hills. If he doesn't start, and Avanzado stays out West, there's not much to distinguish the heat. Dash for Daylight has wowed them at Ellis Park and Mountaineer, carrying a three-race win streak. Esteemed Friend captured the Rockingham Park Sprint in July. Warrior Say Florida Sandy, Sunray Spirit, True Direction, and True Passion will face the starter.Orientate, Gygistar, and Disturbingthepeace will wait for the main event Oct. 26, joined by Bonapaw, king of the Vosburgh Stakes (gr. I).
Fab Five Contenders:
1) Orientate/D. Wayne Lukas/Bob and Beverly Lewis
Next Start: Breeders' Cup Sprint2) Xtra Heat/John Salzman Sr./Harry Deitchman, Ken Taylor, John Salzman Sr.
Next Start: Phoenix Breeders Cup Stakes3) Gygistar/Mark Hennig/Edward P. Evans
Next Start: Breeders' Cup Sprint4) Bonapaw/Norman Miller III/James and Dennis Richard
Next Start: Breeders' Cup Sprint5) Disturbingthepeace/Darrell Vienna/David and Rita Milch
Next Start: Breeders' Cup Sprint