Runhappy prepares for Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile Oct. 29 at Santa Anita Park.

Runhappy prepares for Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile Oct. 29 at Santa Anita Park.

Gary Tasich

Runhappy Meets Dortmund in B.C. Dirt Mile

Champion sprinter Runhappy to try two turns in Dirt Mile.

Without a full field and without a whole lot of speed in the race—at least on paper—the $1 million Las Vegas Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I) looks to be Runhappy ’s race to lose.

Last year’s champion male sprinter has had a tumultuous 4-year-old season. James McIngvale’s son of Super Saver  made just one start since winning Santa Anita’s seven-furlong Malibu Stakes (gr. I) last Dec. 26—that being a tiring fourth-place finish behind expected Dirt Mile rival Tom's Ready  in Churchill Downs’ Ack Ack Handicap (gr. III).

Shipped to California last week from his base at the Kentucky Training Center north of Lexington, Runhappy has “settled in great” according to trainer Laura Wohlers and has looked strong in his gallops.

Gary Stevens, who flew to Kentucky to work Runhappy Oct. 12 and was up in the Malibu, replaces Edgar Prado.

He’ll need to improve dramatically in his second start if he’s going to fend off a host of challengers including 3-year-old Tom’s Ready and the seasoned Dortmund .

As well as Tom’s Ready ran in the Ack Ack and at Belmont Park where he won the seven-furlong Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II), he’s underperformed in Saratoga Race Course’s Ketel One King’s Bishop Stakes (gr. I) and some other races earlier in the year.

“He has to step it up. We know that," trainer Dallas Stewart told BloodHorse last week after working five furlongs in 1:01 4/5 at Churchill Downs. “He's a 3-year-old running against older horses. But he's a very good racehorse, he's a fighter, and he looked great today. He's healthy and we're just hoping the race turns out good.”

As for Kaleem Shah’s two-time grade I winner Dortmund, he’ll likely be the favorite in the Dirt Mile even though he’s winless on the year. But consider his efforts: second, beaten a half-length by 2014 Horse of the Year California Chrome  in Del Mar’s San Diego Handicap (gr. II); third behind California Chrome and three-time champion Beholder in the $1 Million TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (gr. I); and second to California Chrome in Santa Anita’s nine-furlong Awesome Again Stakes (gr. I). Last year he won five of seven starts with American Pharoah  defeating him in the other two.

Dortmund, the oversized son of Big Brown , has twice touched the 110 Beyer Speed Figure mark this season, a figure none of his rivals in the Dirt Mile have reached even once. The drop to a mile figures to be right in his wheelhouse and his tracking style figures to pit him in a position just off Runhappy.

Wild cards in the Dirt Mile include Gun Runner , Vyjack and the other “Chrome” horse of the Breeders’ Cup: Texas Chrome.

Gun Runner has proved that 1 1/16 miles is his best trip and he cuts back to a mile after longer outings in the Betfair Haskell Invitational Stakes (gr. I), Travers Stakes (gr. I), and Pennslyvania Stakes (gr. II) against fellow 3-year-olds.

Despite setting Santa Anita’s turf mark for a mile in 1:31.69 in the Oct. 8 City of Hope Handicap (gr. IIT), Vyjack was on the outside looking in for the Breeders’ Cup Mile (gr. IT). On his best, he’s scored in the one-turn mile Kelso Handicap (gr. II) back in 2014 at Belmont Park and was a solid second two back in Del Mar’s Pat O’Brien Stakes (gr. II) behind TwinSpires Sprint (gr. I) player Masochistic.

Texas Chrome has won three straight at Louisiana Downs and Remington Park, and, despite not having cracked the triple-digit Beyer Speed Figure watermark, figures to sit a stalking trip and have his shot at Breeders’ Cup glory.

Entries: Las Vegas Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile (G1)

Santa Anita Park, Friday, November 04, 2016, Race 7

  • Grade I
  • 1m
  • Dirt
  • $1,000,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 3:05 PM (local)
11Vyjack (KY)Flavien Prat126Philip D'Amato10/1
22Tom's Ready (PA)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoel Rosario123Dallas Stewart12/1
33Dortmund (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMartin Garcia126Bob Baffert6/5
44Point Piper (KY)Mario Gutierrez126Jerry Hollendorfer20/1
55Accelerate (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Baze123John W. Sadler20/1
66Texas Chrome (TX)C.J. McMahon123J. R. Caldwell20/1
77Runhappy (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateGary L. Stevens126Laura Wohlers3/1
88Tamarkuz (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateMike E. Smith126Kiaran P. McLaughlin8/1
99Gun Runner (KY)Florent Geroux123Steven M. Asmussen9/2