The 2004 Breeders' Cup Sprint (gr. I) is all about the distance. A quick glance at the past performances of the pre-entries for the six-furlong race and one name jumps off the page: Kela.
He is considered a leader in his division despite only one start at the Sprint distance of six furlongs. He has competed mostly at seven furlongs and beyond, but shined during his one attempt at running short and could be one to fear come Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships Day at Lone Star Park.
Another top Sprint contender, Pico Central, who was not pre-entered because his owner Gary Tanaka declined to supplement the grade I winner for $200,000, had shined in two career starts at six furlongs. Trainer Paulo Lobo and Tanaka are hoping for championship honors for Pico Central without a Breeders' Cup run.
Pico Central, who has won five of six starts this year, including three grade I contests, is a legitimate contender for champion sprinter at year's end, although it is often difficult to earn year-end honors without running in the Breeders' Cup.
Trainer Mike Mitchell and owner Jay Manoogian have been pointing Kela toward this race since he won back-to-back graded stakes at Del Mar during the summer.
In Kela's lone start at six furlongs, the son of Numerous, out of the Sovereign Dancer mare Bolshoi Comedy, scored a game 11/4-length win, stopping the clock in 1:08.51 in the Bing Crosby Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. I). In the Pat O'Brien Breeders' Cup Handicap (gr. II), Kela dusted all rivals, including Pico Central, winning by an easy 41/2 lengths, coming from last to first.
While Kela will be entering the Breeders' Cup Sprint off a 2 1/2-month layoff, he has raced over the Lone Star surface on two separate occasions. He cruised to an easy 51/4-length win in the Texas Mile (gr. III), and then finished fourth after stretching out to 11/16 miles in the Lone Star Park Handicap (gr. III).
On the flip side of Kela is the Greg Foley-trained Champali, whose last four starts have come at the Sprint distance. In his seven career starts at six furlongs, the son of Glitterman has yet to finish out of the money and seems to be improving with each start. Most recently he scored a three-quarter-length win over fellow Sprint rivals Gold Storm and Clock Stopper in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup Stakes (gr. III). Owned by Lloyd Madison Farms IV, Champali, who prefers to take quick control of his races, nosed out Clock Stopper in the Smile Sprint Handicap (gr. III) and finished third in the Arlington Sprint Breeders' Cup Handicap.
Lone Star-based Gold Storm, who has made eight of 12 career starts at six furlongs, figures to have a ton of backers on Breeders' Cup day. The Bubba Cascio-trained runner had three consecutive wins before falling shy of catching Champali in the Phoenix Breeders' Cup and seems to be coming into his own. He won the Arlington Sprint after scoring in the J.R. Straus Memorial Handicap at Retama.
Another tough Sprint contender to watch is last year's winner Cajun Beat. The Padua Stables and Joseph and John Iracane color-bearer was moved from the barn of Steve Margolis to Bobby Frankel following his fourth-place finish in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I). In his one start for the always-dangerous Frankel barn, which will also send out Midas Eyes in the Sprint, he finished a game fourth in the Vosburgh after not racing for more than six months.
Midas Eyes, who has yet to attempt six furlongs this season, enters the Sprint off a length win in the seven-furlong Forego Handicap (gr. I). Frankel won the Sprint in 2001 with Squirtle Squirt.