With less than three weeks to go before the Breeders’ Cup weekend begins at Keeneland Racecourse, the anticipation is building all the time. Here, in the latest of our series of overviews, we examine the speed races at the world championships – the Sprint and the Turf Sprint – with Jackie’s Warrior, Golden Pal and British raider Highfield Princess all under the microscope. Let’s take a look at the BC Turf Sprint and Breeders’ Cup Sprint Top Horses of this year’s edition.
Breeders’ Cup Sprint
Grade 1, $2,000,000, 6f, 3yo+, Keeneland, November 5
Some races, even at the very highest level, are really all about one horse. The Breeders’ Cup Classic, for example, is all about Flightline. The Breeders’ Cup Distaff, as a different example, has many angles, but the BC Sprint has only one focus. Can he do it, at last?
Can Jackie’s Warrior, last year’s champion sprinter and in the catbird seat when it comes to this year’s title, finally get his hooks into the Breeders’ Cup after two failures as favorite? The four-year-old has finished off the board just twice in a glorious 17-race career, in the 2020 BC Juvenile when fourth at odds-on and in last year’s BC Sprint when sixth at odds-on – the distance accounts for the former, and he came out of last year’s race with a bone chip in his knee.
Third time lucky? Before his most recent run, it would have been an easy ‘yes’, with Jackie’s Warrior unbeaten in four including the G1 Churchill Downs (7f) and G1 Alfred G Vanderbilt (6f), but he was outrun last time out by Cody’s Wish in the G1 Forego (7f) at Saratoga, passed and beaten in the closing stages in a race run in near-track record time.
Was that the sign of a horse beginning to decline from his great peak, or simply the result of a burn-up and a late-closing rising star? At his best, Jackie’s Warrior should win the BC Sprint. But it isn’t his favorite Saratoga Race Course, and his last run is a concern.
The BC Sprint is a little hexed by the BC Dirt Mile, with crossover horses liable for one or the other. G2 Pat O’Brien winner Laurel River is reportedly heading for the Dirt Mile, as is the aforementioned Cody’s Wish. Multiple G1 winner Jack Christopher is another whose target is uncertain, although he hasn’t run over six furlongs since his debut, which might well point him to the Dirt Mile.
Take out those three class acts and the opposition to Jackie’s Warrior is not particularly strong. The tough cookie Gunite is his barnmate, so politics may intervene, and he seems best at seven furlongs, although he did win the G2 Amsterdam at Saratoga in July over six and a half.
Last year’s BC Sprint winner Aloha West, who got home in the last jump by a nose from Dr Schivel, may bid to repeat and made the winner’s circle for the first time this year when narrowly winning a stakes at Churchill Downs over six and a half in early July. He has not been confirmed for the race by trainer Wayne Catalano, and Dr Schivel has been out since March and is reportedly not in contention.
The very progressive Elite Power, who completed a four-timer when romping in the G2 Vosburgh (7f) at Aqueduct Racetrack, would hold good claims but trainer Bill Mott may decide that this is too much too soon, while Reinvestment Risk – runner-up to Jackie’s Warrior in the G1 Churchill Downs – ran a shocker in a Saratoga allowance optional claimer last time and has big questions to answer.
One probable runner is American Theorem, winner of the G1 Bing Crosby (6f) at Del Mar before chasing home Laurel River in the G2 Pat O’Brien (7f). In what is likely to be a smallish field, he is certainly worthy of interest.
2022 Breeders’ Cup Sprint Prediction
If the real JACKIE’S WARRIOR stands up, it’ll be ‘third time’s the charm as he finally gets the Breeders’ Cup win he so richly deserves.
|HORSE||ODDS BY JAZZSPORTS|
Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint
Grade 1, $1,000,000, 5 1/2f turf, 3yo+, Keeneland, November 5
If the BC Sprint is all about one horse, then the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint is twice as compelling, with the fastest in the US taking on the fastest in Europe in a straight fight, Yanks vs Limeys, the New World against the Old World, the 50 states against the 51st state.
Last year’s winner Golden Pal is the home-team favorite, and the way he won 12 months ago – over five furlongs – suggests that he could be unbeatable if in the same groove. He was out of the gate like a bullet from a gun and that was the ballgame, and although Lieutenant Dan – who is not in training at present – reduced the deficit in the closing stages he could never make it a contest.
Golden Pal is flawless in the US since being beaten on debut, and his other defeats have all come in Britain, notably this season when Irad Ortiz was playing gawker in the gate at Royal Ascot and totally missed the break. His all-the-way blitz in the G2 Woodford over course and distance earlier this month suggests he’s in perfect working order.
But so is his big rival from Britain Highfield Princess, a five-year-old mare in spectacular form, coming here off three successive G1 wins including the Nunthorpe (5f) at York and the Flying Five (5f) at the Curragh, both times racing prominently and winning by daylight. She can go on fast turf or soft turf, may still have further room for improvement, and if she can stick close enough to Golden Pal would have the power to run him down late.
At York, she beat Emaraaty Ana and Khaadem by four lengths and five, at the Curragh she left A Case Of You trailing, and she has nothing to fear from any other European travelers including Go Bears Go and Naval Crown, both well beaten in last week’s G1 British Champions Sprint at Ascot.
Golden Pal’s barnmates Campanelle, winner of the G3 Mint Ladies Sprint at Kentucky Downs and twice a G1 winner in Europe, and Arrest Me Red, runner-up in the G1 Jaipur (6f) at Belmont Park, are worthy back-ups but not of the calibre of their talented neighbor.
Jaipur winner Casa Creed also won the G1 Fourstardave over a mile at Saratoga and this distance could be a little sharp for him, while Big Invasion is six-for-eight this year but hasn’t yet looked ready for the move up to the top level.
2022 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint Prediction
Last year’s winner Golden Pal is brilliantly fast but British raider HIGHFIELD PRINCESS is in unstoppable form and could have his measure.
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|A Case Of You||+2000|
|Arrest Me Red||+2000|
|Go Bears Go||+2000|
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