Early Thoughts on Handicapping the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Early Thoughts on Handicapping the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint

Breeders’ Cup Photo ©

The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint… definitely a wide-open race! With a full field of evenly-matched runners sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs, it could be hard to come up with the winner. But I’ve been going over the race this afternoon, and I’ve got a few thoughts to share on each horse…

First off, Bobby’s Kitten–I’ve posted my thoughts extensively here and on Twitter (click here to read some of my thoughts) that I think he’s going to relish the fast pace of the Turf Sprint and rebound with a big effort at a big price, but this isn’t the kind of race where I’d want to single him in any multi-race wagers, although I do plan on betting him to win. But if I want to include other horses, which do I include?

I’ve been thinking about Channel Marker, since he ran very well in the Shakertown (gr. III) at Keeneland earlier this year over a “good” turf course–if the course comes up wet, he could have a big chance. However, I do think that he might be better at slightly longer distances than 5 1/2 furlongs, and it sounds like his workout today was very unimpressive, and given that he’s usually a pretty good workout, I’ll probably leave him off my tickets and hope he doesn’t beat me.

Green Mask? He ran a huge race in the Al Quoz Sprint (UAE-I) in Dubai earlier this year, and his comeback effort sprinting 6 1/2 furlongs at Kentucky Downs was excellent. He’s trained well since then, and I love the fact that he can stay within striking range of a fast pace and still finish strongly. If he draws a good post, he’s one that I’d definitely like to play.

Lady Shipman? She was brilliant at Monmouth and Saratoga this summer, but she didn’t seem to care for the deeper, wetter course at Keeneland when finishing second in the Buffalo Trace Franklin County Stakes. Even if the turf course is labeled “firm” for the Turf Sprint, I suspect that the course might still be too deep and wet for her, especially if it rains at any point in the last couple of days before the race. If the course seems to be yielding fast time, I’ll want to use her, but otherwise, I’ll probably try to beat her.

Mongolian Saturday has been a picture of consistency this year, cracking the trifecta in all nine of his races while running on dirt and turf, but all six of his career victories have come in maiden or allowance races, and he does have a tendency to finish second or third more often than not. He’s one that I will probably have to include thanks to his talent and consistency, but he might be an underlay.

No Silent? I’m not sure what to think of his chances. He’s done very well in California, but my gut feeling is that California’s turf sprinters are a cut below the eastern runners this year, and while it’s possible that No Silent could enjoy the fast pace of the Turf Sprint, I’m leaning against him.

Pure Sensation is one that I definitely want to include. He’s 3-for-3 sprinting on turf and beat Mongolian Saturday in the Turf Monster Handicap (gr. III) last time out, which was run in a very fast time. He’s got a ton of early speed, but also won the 5 1/2-furlong Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga last year coming from three lengths off the lead. He, Bobby’s Kitten, and Green Mask are my top three choices at this point.

Ready for Rye (whose name I repeatedly mistype as “Ready for Rue”) has been impressive while winning his last three starts, two of which were turf sprints. In the Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga, he settled a couple lengths behind blazing fractions of :20.87 and :43.76 before rallying to take command and win in the sharp time of 1:01.47. Like Lady Shipman, I’m not sure that he’ll relish the course at Keeneland, but he’s bred to win a race like this, and I will probably include him in my multi-race wagers.

Sharp Sensation? He’s shown flashes of very good form this year, but my gut feeling is that he’s a cut below the very best in this race. But it’s certainly not impossible to picture him winning at 30-1 or more–he might be worth a look for a win/place bet, but I probably won’t go deep enough to include him in multi-race wagers, unless it’s a double with Songbird in the Juvenile Fillies.

Something Extra is another that’s run some great races in top company, and he seems to have a special affinity for Keeneland–he won the Shakertown Stakes (gr. III) earlier this year and finished third and second in that same race in 2014 and 2013, respectively. At seven years old, it’s possible that he’s starting to show signs of his age, but I can definitely forgive his poor showing in an off-the-turf renewal of the Woodford Stakes (gr. III) last time out, and he should offer nice odds. He’s on the very bubble of the horses that I’d like to include in multi-race wagers, and I’m going to have to give this some more thought.

The Great War was beaten just a head in the Nearctic Stakes (gr. II) on October 18th, but I’m not sure if he’s going to wheel back in the Turf Sprint or not. If he does, I will give him a close look, as I’m confident that Woodbine-based runners will fare well at this year’s Breeders’ Cup, and he ran very well when second to Ready for Rye in the Quick Call Stakes at Saratoga.

Undrafted deserves a lot of respect off his historic win in the Diamond Jubilee Stakes (Eng-I) two starts back, but I think he’s better going longer than 5 1/2 furlongs, and after missing his final prep race for the Turf Sprint, I think I’ll take a stand against him in multi-race wagers, although he’s definitely worth a look for the trifecta and superfecta.

Marchman is on the also-eligibles list but is expected to draw into the race. He won the 2014 Shakertown Stakes (gr. III) at Keeneland, as well as the Twin Spires Turf Sprint Stakes (gr. III) at Churchill Downs, but while he’s very well-suited to the distance of the Turf Sprint, he’s coming off a bit of a layoff and is switching trainers after an unsuccessful campaign in California this summer. He’s got the back class to win a race like this, but I’ll probably pass on him unless something comes up to change my mind.

Stacked Deck is the last horse expected to draw into the main body of the field, but my feeling is that he’s slightly better on synthetic than turf, and as a front-runner, he might get sucked into a faster pace than he prefers, which could hurt his chances.

My apologies for the length of this post–there’s plenty to consider in this wide-open race! :) I hope you found some of my thoughts interesting or helpful!

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J. Keeler Johnson is a writer, blogger, videographer, and all-around horse racing enthusiast who was drawn to the sport by Curlin’s quest to become North America’s richest racehorse. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He lives in Wisconsin and also writes for the Bloodhorse.com blog Unlocking Winners.

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