The toughest race on the card? Usually the Sprint (gr. I). And this year is no different.
Despite the presence of the first and third-place finishers from a year ago, the Sprint is a competitive race with attractive odds. The favorite in the previous 17 renditions of the race has been less than 2-1 just six times. This won't be the seventh time.
Despite the fact he enters this year's race off a loss, the probable Sprint favorite is Kona Gold, who won the event last year in the lightning-quick time of 1:07.77. In his final Sprint prep, Kona Gold was beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Swept Overboard in the Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I) at Santa Anita on Oct. 6. He had not been out since July 22 and was giving the winner 11 pounds, two things that could be factors at Belmont Park on Oct. 27.
Delaware Township gets the home track advantage, having won the Forest Hills Handicap (gr. II) at Belmont on Oct. 7. He has won two straight and appears in top form as he enters the $1 million six-furlong race.
Caller One is a crack sprinter who tries the race having been off for 14 weeks. Training up to a race such as this is a bit unorthodox.
This writer's pick is El Corredor, who turns back in distance for the Sprint, his last two races wins at seven and eight furlongs. But he has the class and running style to fit with this group. Two races back, at seven panels at Del Mar, he was right there when they went the half in :44.71 and took command to beat Swept Overboard by a length and a half in 1:20.42.
The analysis by this writer also predicts a much better performance in this race than a year ago by Five Star Day, who lost all chance in 2000 at the start. With only two starts this year, the last a front-running win in the A.G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. II) at Saratoga, he is ready to break this year and make the lead.
Bet On Sunshine never runs a bad race, and at age nine, is a sentimental favorite. He has finished third in this race twice, including a year ago when he was flying late and was beaten just a length by Kona Gold and a half length by Honest Lady.
The question mark is Mozart, who had won three straight in England but must try the dirt for the first time. Should he handle the surface, he could be a contender on the front end.
Remember, this is being written on Oct. 22, two days before the draw and six prior to the race. Make it El Corredor, Kona Gold, and Five Star Day in 1:08.76.