Division Standouts All in California for TwinSpires Sprint

Drefong scored in wire-to-wire fashion in the King's Bishop.

Drefong scored in wire-to-wire fashion in the King’s Bishop.

In deciding year-end Eclipse Award honors, the $1.5 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (GI) is a pretty good indication of who will be honored and, this year, it drew an outstanding field of nine horses from all over the globe that will race the six furlongs.

Last year James McIngvale’s Runhappy won the event in record time before collecting championship honors and he followed in the hoofsteps of such speed legends as Kona Gold, Cherokee Run, Gulch, Precisionist, Safely Kept and more.

This year, the “buzz” runner for the six-furlong event is the local Los Pollos Hermanos/Jay Em Ess Racing colorbearer Masochistic. The humbly bred son of Sought After has won his only two starts of 2016 and has been training lights-out, while showing a blistering amount of speed in his morning works. Sometimes, if you look closely, you can see the afterburners kick in as he barrels down the lane. The Ron Ellis trainee is clearly better than his 14th- and last-place showing in the Breeders’ Cup a year ago (he emerged with a fracture to his hind cannon bone) and if he runs to his potential and posts the big triple-digit speed figures we’ve grown accustomed to seeing from him, he’s a logical choice for the win and a key to every exotics wager. No question he’ll be on the lead at the bell and fighting off his challengers down the lane.

In 32 previous runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, older horses have been dominant in victory, but that’s not to say a good 3-year-old (or eight) hasn’t shown himself (or herself) on Racing’s Championship Day. Runhappy was three last year, Trinniberg was three in 2012 and the outstanding racemare Very Subtle was three when she beat the boys, most of them older, in 1987.

This year, Drefong will attempt to add his name to the list. The lightly raced son of Gio Ponti hasn’t raced in more than eight weeks, but it’s hard to second guess a trainer like Bob Baffert, who has tightened the girth on four previous Sprint winners. His last race, a victory in the King’s Bishop Stakes (GI) at Saratoga, was visually as impressive as a win can get and the numbers he put up fit right near the top of the bunch in here. He’s been training exceptionally well for this race and Martin Garcia takes over for Mike Smith, who chose to stick with Masochistic for the race. He is rate-able, which will help in this event with a hot pace expected, and though he will need the performance of his life he also deserves an extra-long look before making any wagers.

A.P. Indian, who is trained by Arnaud Delacour, was a late arrival to Santa Anita, but made an impression on the track in his first day training over the surface. The son of Indian Charlie is on a five-race stakes-winning streak dating back to mid-May and ranks as the East’s top sprinter. He’s faced some tough competition and has even won a pair of Grade 1s, but this will be the toughest test of his career and he will need to have brought his running shoes. Another who has a habit of logging speed figures well above 100, a top finish would not be a surprise for the Green Lantern Stables colorbearer after a typical pace-stalking trip under regular jockey Joe Bravo.

Delta Bluesman is a Grade 3 winner coming off a nice stakes victory at Parx in mid-September and, though a Grade 3 winner, he has done his best running against softer competition. He will like the expected fast pace under Emisael Jaramillo, but he may also be a touch below the top runners in overall talent.

Noholdingback Bear has been a top sprinter north of the border and while he clearly likes the six-furlong distance (6-4-2-0) he’s never faced this level of competition and gets the acid test today.

Mind Your Biscuits was second to Noholdingback Bear last out and while a winner in three starts at the distance, he may actually prefer a bit longer of a sprint distance.

Limousine Liberal hasn’t won in five starts since taking a Keeneland allowance in April and was 11th in this race a year ago. It’s hard to imagine he’ll improve a whole lot, though he has been working well for this race.

The Breeders’ Cup Sprint has been carded as the day’s sixth with a post time of 1:21 p.m. PT.