Host Track Has Big Impact on BC Turf Sprint

Host Track Has Big Impact on BC Turf Sprint
Photo: Anne M. Eberhardt
Mizdirection won the 2012 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
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Unlike its brethren, the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint (gr. IT) is a chameleon, changing based upon location.

Thus far in its brief five-year history, it has been run down Santa Anita Park's hillside turf course at about 6 1/2 furlongs and on a more traditional flat oval going five furlongs at Churchill Downs. The phrase "horses for courses" takes on an even deeper meaning with the Turf Sprint.

California horses excel when the race takes place at Santa Anita. The course is not only downhill, it makes a right-hand turn before crossing the main track. California-based Desert Code  , California Flag, and Mizdirection won the Turf Sprint at Santa Anita in 2008, 2009, and 2012, and Mizdirection is headed for a good chance at a repeat victory this year.

"That 6 1/2 furlongs changes the whole complexion of the race," said David Hofmans, who trained Desert Code. "It's a little bit longer and a little bit different. Riders will tell you that it's a little funny for the horses to make that right turn, and then they switch over to make the left turn. Some horses get a little confused."

Mike Puype, the trainer of Mizdirection, says that the distance isn't a traditional sprint.

"It's more route than sprint, I think," said Puype, who has won many other races down the Santa Anita turf course with his charges. "You rarely steal races down the hill and go wire to wire. It's not easy. To me it's about brutal acceleration, trip, and you've got to get your horse to quicken. When you come across the dirt and you hit the eighth pole, the horse has got to quicken fastest."

Mizdirection has never lost on the downhill course in five attempts.

"This filly is tacticalshe's won from all parts of the course," said Puype.

While Mizdirection remains in training, Desert Code and California Flag are now retired.

Desert Code stands at stud at Harris Farms in Coalinga, Calif., and his first foals are 2-year-olds. His daughter Moving Desert broke her maiden at Del Mar and placed in two stakes there for owner Harris Farms and trainer Blake Heap.

California Flag has competed in each of the five Turf Sprints, and 2013 will be the first one he misses. The late Keith Card and his wife, Barbara, bred the 9-year-old California-bred son of Avenue of FlagsUltrafleet, by Afleet, and campaigned him in partnership with E-Racing.Com, John Fradkin, and Kevin Jacobsen. California Flag is a full brother to Cambiocorsa, another monster down the Santa Anita hillside course.

California Flag was voted the Cal-bred champion turf horse of 2010 and named the state's Horse of the Year along with Dancing in Silks that year. To honor him, Santa Anita conducted the California Flag Handicap Oct. 19 for state-breds or California-sired horses down that same hillside turf course. Gary and Cecil Barber's A Toast to You won the race, and Barbara Card presented the trophy, along with Scott Siler, manager of the Cards' Hi-Card Ranch.

"Scott takes care of California Flag, just as Keith wanted," said Barbara Card.

"He's enjoying life," said Siler of the gelding.

Barbara Card and Siler are hopeful that California Flag can parade at Santa Anita for next year's edition of the stakes named for him.

Meanwhile, Mizdirection continues to train forwardly in the hope of keeping a perfect record for California horses in the California versions of the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.
 

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