Pay Attention! BC Sprint is Quick, and Contentious
US Racing Team
We’re talking Sprint here. As in don’t blink because Saturday’s edition of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) could turn out to be a doozy of a dash.
With top sprinter Mitole the star attraction, the rest of the nine-horse field is more than ready, willing and able to take on the 4-year-old sensation tabbed the 9-5 morning line favorite.
Mitole, owned by Bill and Corinne Heligbroot, is 5-for-6 this year for trainer Steve Asmussen, and regular rider Ricardo Santana, Jr., will be aboard once again, leaving from the No. 4 post.
“He looks good,” Scott Blasi, Asmussen’s assistant, said this week. “I’ll put it to you this way. He’s the fastest one from pole to pole that we have right now … Mitole is a Met Mile and three-time Grade 1 winner this year of real races and won eight of his last nine. The two months between his last race and now should freshen him up.”
In the Met Mile, Mitole defeated McKinzie, the 3-1 favorite in Saturday’s $6 million Classic, and two-time Dubai World Cup winner Thunder Snow, who is not running in the Breeders’ Cup. In his most recent start, Mitole won the Forego (G1) at Saratoga by three lengths over Firenze Fire, who is back for another go.
A trio of sprinters are listed at 4-1 – Catalina Cruiser, 3-for-3 this year, 7-for-8 overall with his only loss in last year’s BC Mile; Imperial Hint, winner of the Alfred G. Vanderbilt (G1) and Vosburgh (G1) in his last two starts; and 3-year-old Shancelot, runner-up to Omaha Beach in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship and a three-time winner in five starts.
“I love my chances,” Shancelot’s trainer Jorge Navarro said. “This is the second time I’ve been this confident. The last time was with X Y Jet in Dubai this year and we won the Shaheen. (Shancelot) is a cool, quiet horse to be around, but once he sees the gate, he transforms into a beast, just like Private Zone used to. He just wants to get in there.
“He’s a sprinter and we’ve always known he was one, so when we won at first asking (Feb. 16 at Gulfstream Park), we knew he wasn’t a Derby horse, so I told the owners to keep him sound and point to the big races at the end of the year.”
Shancelot, owned by Crawford Farms, won the Amsterdam (G2) at Saratoga by 12 lengths and has a second and third in graded stakes since. He’s also had two solid bullet works leading up to the Sprint, and will be gunning for the lead from the break under Jose Ortiz (who chose Shancelot over fellow Sprint entry Engage) and if he gets out front will be tough to run down in the lane.
Local favorite Catalina Cruiser, sixth as the top choice in last year’s BC Mile, drew the rail. Trained by John Sadler, the 5-year-old son of Union Rags won the Pat O’Brien (G2) in his most recent race and has the home-track advantage and Joel Rosario back aboard.
“Other than the Breeders’ Cup last year, he’s won everything so he’s doing well,” Sadler said. “We’re looking forward to this one on Saturday.”
The diminutive Imperial Hint has two races under his girth – two Grade 1 wins – since a third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in late March. He is another whose speed is his weapon, but he has a dangerous tactical ability if he doesn’t make the lead and may need to use it from the near outside.
Javier Castellano, who has been aboard Imperial Hint for all four of his Grade 1’s, will be back up Saturday.
Do not discount any of the other contenders in this six-furlong affair: Engage (15-1), winner of the Phoenix (G2) last time out, will have Hall of Famer John Velazquez aboard; Firenze Fire (12-1) has been second in his last two races; Hog Creek Hustle (20-1) was the upset winner in the Woody Stephens (G1); Matera Sky (20-1) is the unknown factor but has Japan’s top rider Yutaka Take aboard; and Whitmore (15-1) has a new rider in Flavien Prat, Santa Anita’s second leading jockey.
$2 Million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (Post time, 2:35 p.m. PT)
|1||Catalina Cruiser||John Sadler||Joel Rosario||4-1|
|2||Hog Creek Hustle||Vickie Foley||Mike Smith||20-1|
|3||Firenze Fire||Jason Servis||Irad Ortiz||12-1|
|4||Mitole||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana Jr.||9-5|
|5||Engage||Steve Asmussen||John Velazquez||15-1|
|6||Shancelot||Jorge Navarro||Jose Ortiz||4-1|
|7||Whitmore||Ron Moquett||Flavien Prat||15-1|
|9||Imperial Hint||Luis Carvajal Jr.||Javier Castellano||4-1|
|10||Matera Sky||Hideyuki Mori||Yutaka Take||30-1|