Countdown to the Cup, Part 3

Continued from part 2

Bang! Zoom!

Pardon the "Honeymooners" reference, but those were the first two words to pop into our head thinking about this year's Sprint.

Despite the number of brilliant speedsters and powerful come-from-behind sprinters, they still all have Kona Gold to beat. After a third-place finish two years ago and a close second to Artax last year, no one is more deserving of a Breeders' Cup victory than the son of Java Gold. And he's loaded for bear this time. More mature and professional, Kona Gold was a thing of power and beauty as he cruised down the Santa Anita stretch in the Ancient Title BC Handicap, winning as he pleased in 1:08. Sure, he beat a small, weak field, but it didn't matter. He didn't need to do any more than he did or prove anything he hasn't proven before.

With plenty of early speed and plenty of closers, he should get a great trip, sitting in mid-pack. Like in the Classic, we have a large number of top-class 3-year-olds in the race, made up of all kinds of horses. There's the pure speed of Trippi, Caller One, and Forest Camp, the stalking Swept Overboard, the versatile filly Dream Supreme, and the strong-closing More Than Ready. And then there is the unknown factor, El Corredor, a miler coming off the Jerome Handicap, in which he chased Fusaichi Pegasus and Albert the Great through six furlongs in 1:08 1/5 and a mile in 1:34. This is a very talented horse looking for his place in the world. Remember, third-place finisher Albert the Great came off that race and ran 1 1/4 miles in 1:59 1/5 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

As for the remainder of the older horses, we have several who are really getting good right now, such as Forest Hills winner Delaware Township (1:08 2/5) and Phoenix BC winner Five Star Day (1:07 4/5). If all the speed horses hook up and burn a hole in the ground, then you have Honest Lady, with her powerful late kick, to pick up the pieces.

Wait, there's more. We've also got California speedball Lexicon, the classy, consistent Successful Appeal, as well as Shadow Caster, Cliquot, another 3-year-old in Millencolin, the fast-closing filly Finder's Fee, and the hard-knocking European Agnes World.

Of course, only 14 will get in. The eight automatics on points are More Than Ready, Honest Lady, Trippi, Kona Gold, Finder's Fee, Dream Supreme, Cliquot, and a tie between Caller One, El Corredor, and Love That Red, if Bob Baffert decides to put him in. This will not be an easy chore for the invitation committee.

Out of the woodwork, into the Mile

The key words in this race are luck, and more luck. It is a total guess, with no standout, and it'll all come down to who gets the best trip. Because of the complete uncertainty of this race, we'll come right out and say we like Affirmed Success and leave it at that, except to add that he ran two big races in the Atto Mile and Kelso Handicap, and although he didn't win, he was right there both times despite bad trips. If he gets his kind of race, which is to sit just off the pace, we feel he has the proven speed and class to get the job done this time.

Forbidden Apple, the horse who nipped him in the Kelso and who upset the Belmont BC Handicap, is probably the most improved horse in this division, and there's no telling how high is up with him. And what do you make of War Chant, the Santa Anita Derby runner-up, who took to the grass in the Oak Tree BC Mile like he's been doing it all his life? For him to circle horses the way he did with a such a powerful move and draw off from older horses was very impressive. But now he makes a huge jump in class, and it'll be interesting to see how much progress he makes from that race.

One thing you know, there are going to be a lot of horses charging home late, like Ladies Din, Hap, Altibr, and Arkadian Hero. Super Quercus, favored for the Shadwell Mile despite not having run this year, finished ninth, but is still being pointed for the Mile. The 3-year-old Walkslikeaduck has been running fast times in California, but also must step way up in class.

The Europeans have half seven top-class horses ready to hit the beach, in addition to Arkadian Hero, an very unlucky second in the Atto Mile at Woodbine. One intriguing horse is Godolphin's Bertolini, a confirmed sprinter who was second in the group I Nunthorpe Stakes and third in the King's Stand Stakes at Royal Ascot and group I July Cup. The Andre Fabre-trained Dansili is one to watch, having finished second in the group I Prix de la Foret and Sussex Stakes and group II Queen Anne Stakes at Royal Ascot. Last year, the son of Danehill finished second in the French 2,000 Guineas and third in France's two big mile stakes, the Prix du Moulin and Prix Jacques le Marois. This year, he won the group II Prix du Muguet and group III Prix Edmund Blanc, so he is a very classy horse from a dangerous barn.

The highest-regarded European probably is Indian Lodge, winner of this year's Prix de la Foret in his last start and Prix du Moulin. There is also Distant Music, third in the recent Champion Stakes at Newmarket behind Kalanisi and Montjeu; and the German horse, Sumitas, who was second to Dubai Millennium in the Prince of Wales's Stakes at Royal Ascot. Muhtathir was a disappointment in the Atto Mile, but was beaten less than three lengths, and he did win the group I Prix Jacques le Marois by daylight. This is a very strong, deep group of Europeans, all of whom will be dangerous. So, get out your hat and little pieces of paper and maybe you'll get lucky.

Continued. . . .