Thursday, October 27, 2011

Breeders' Cup Sprint

The Breeders’ Cup Sprint could be described as a clash of titans that are faster than any other Thoroughbreds on the planet at short distances. The 2011 edition will feature some of my personal favorites, including a horse that has become a blazing bullet. Expect legs working like pistons, the thunder of hooves over the dirt surface, the battling of Thoroughbred champions, and a quick final time. It’s time for the elite sprinters to take center stage; it’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint time.

Here are my top four picks for the Sprint:
1. Euroears: I know him as the most beautiful horse I’ve ever seen. I fell in love with Euroears in the spring of 2010, when I saw him in person twice. I knew who he was: a hero in the South, especially in Louisiana. For several years, the son of Langfuhr was trained by Bret Calhoun, who has made quite the name for himself, especially in the South.
Euroears won his first six starts, three of which were stakes races. Euroears formed a string of three disappointing losses when he visited Churchill Downs, Penn National, and Philadelphia Park. Then came two consecutive victories, one of which he garnered another stakes victory in Louisiana. After two losses in stakes races at the Fair Grounds, trainer Bret Calhoun brought the horse, six years old at the time, to Lone Star Park for the horse’s first try at graded stakes company.
Photo: Terri Cage

That’s when I first saw Euroears in person. As soon as the gleaming chestnut came into my view, I noted his impeccable conformation. He was as stout as a quarter horse, exhibiting quality muscling, and carried himself like a champion, arching his neck and traveling with class. He finished second by a neck in the Texas Mile Stakes (GIII) before finishing third in the Lone Star Park Handicap (GIII) at a mile and one-sixteenth. In his final start for Bret Calhoun, Euroears finished a disappointing thirteenth in the Firecracker Handicap (GII) over the Churchill Downs turf course.
Then he was transferred to Bob Baffert’s barn in southern California. He recorded breathtaking workouts before winning the Palos Verdes Stakes (GII) at Santa Anita by 2 ¼ lengths in a brisk final time of 1:07.23 for six furlongs.
Bob Baffert was so confident in the seven-year-old that he shipped him to Dubai for just his second start under his care. Euroears finished a very strong second behind Rocket Man in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (GI) before returning to California.
Euroears did not run again until the very last day of July, when he won the Bing Crosby Stakes (GI) in track record time. He’d proved he was the best sprinter in southern California. Baffert, who is extremely high on the incredibly quick horse, ran Euroears in the Vosburgh Invitational Stakes (GI) at Belmont Park next out.
Unfortunately, Rajiv Maragh came over on Calibrachoa not long after the start and impeded Euroears, causing him to bump into Apriority, which removed any chance the son of Langfuhr had. The careless riding was very similar to the incident Maragh caused in the Belmont Stakes (GI) earlier in the year. Euroear’s performance in the Vosburgh should have a line drawn through it, as he had no chance after the incident.
In his most recent work, Euroears worked five furlongs at Santa Anita, completing the workout in an incredible final time of 56.60, which is faster than the track record. Don’t be worried about how fast he went, though. He was not being asked and it is completely normal for Euroears to go blazingly fast in the mornings. What makes him dangerous is he is just as blazingly fast, if not faster, in the afternoons as he is in the mornings.

Big Drama winning the 2010
Breeders' Cup Sprint
Photo: Terri Cage
2. Big Drama: He’s the defending champ of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Two months after winning the championship race, the son of Montbrook set a track record at Gulfstream Park in winning the Mr. Prospector Stakes (GIII). However, he did not race again for nearly eight months, as his connections decided to give him some time off.

On September 4, the 2010 Male Sprinter of the Year returned with a 2 ¼-length win in the Whippleton Stakes, a $75,000 stakes at his home track of Calder. He was expected to make his final prep for the Breeders’ Cup in the Vosburgh, but a fever kept him out of it.
The five-year-old worked between races at Calder on October 15, going six furlongs in 1:13.80. His most recent work was a bullet work in company with Apriority at Calder, in which he traveled 1:00.40 for five furlongs. The reigning champion is training very well, but I worry that he is not on top of his game. He’s only raced twice this year and has not been tested. Big Drama is still a very good horse, but I worry that he may not be as good as he once was.
3. Amazombie: A hard-knocking California-bred, Amazombie has not finished out of the money this year, which has been his only year to ever compete in stakes races. In fact, every single one of his races this year has been a stakes race. Of his eight starts in 2011, five of Amazombie’s races have been graded stakes. By Northern Afleet, the five-year-old is coming off a win in the Ancient Title Stakes (GI).
Amazombie has finished first three times this year, all at sprinting distances. He is extremely consistent and one of the classiest sprinters around. The William Spawr trainee is training very well at Santa Anita. His last work came on October 22, when he worked a half-mile in 46.60. He has failed to keep up with Euroears, but Amazombie will surely give it his all on Breeders’ Cup weekend.
4. Giant Ryan: To string together six consecutive victories is not an easy feat, but Giant Ryan has done it. Raced primarily in New York and Florida, the son of Freud has made his last two victories graded stakes, including the Vosburgh.
The five-year-old does not get the respect he deserves. This is likely because he has not competed much at the highest level, but how can you disrespect a horse that has defeated some of the top sprinters in the nation in his last two starts? Of course, people believe his win in the Vosburgh was on a speed-biased track, but the New York-bred has done nothing but win since March. He faces a tall task in the Breeders’ Cup, but he is definitely a horse that knows how to win.
Honorable Mention:
Trappe Shot:
I’ve followed him for nearly two years and he has become extremely impressive at sprinting distances. He finished a disappointing fourth in the Vosburgh last out, but he looms dangerous. Dirt Mile is his first preference.
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