A champion will return to the races on Saturday at Del Mar, but his presence certainly hasn’t scared away any opposition.
The horse in question is #3 Roy H, named champion male sprinter of 2017 following a near-perfect 5-for-6 campaign that culminated with a win in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I). The race in question is the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I), a six-furlong event that has attracted a deep and competitive field of eleven talented sprinters.
Of course, Roy H is the horse to beat. He was clearly the best sprinter in the nation last year, and he arguably would have gone unbeaten for the season if not for a rough trip in the 2017 Bing Crosby, where he finished second after getting carried very wide off the turn by a loose horse.
Roy H kicked off 2018 with a remarkably easy win in the Palos Verdes Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, then fell less than a length short when third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) on March 31st in Dubai. His loss could be considered a disappointment—as the reigning champion sprinter, he was expected to win—but he didn’t get the best trip over a speed-favoring track, and he wasn’t beaten by much against a top-class field.
Given some time off following his trip to Dubai, Roy H returned to serious training in June and has been working regularly since then. He’s a must-use in all bets, but against a field this deep, I’m not sure I want to rely too heavily on him crossing the wire first—if he needs to get a race under his belt, there are plenty of other contenders who could post an upset.
One of the most intriguing might be #2 American Pastime, who will be making his seasonal debut. As a three-year-old in 2017, American Pastime showed plenty of talent—he won a six-furlong allowance race at Del Mar in decisive fashion, then shipped across the country to Parx Racing and finished second by just a half-length in the Gallant Bob Stakes (gr. III), earning a career-best 107 BRIS speed figure.
Subsequently, American Pastime dove into the deep end of the pool for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where he gave a respectable account of himself while finishing fourth, beaten 4 ¼ lengths by Roy H. He received a 105 BRIS speed figure for that effort, and if American Pastime has improved at all with the benefit of maturity, I think he can be very competitive on Saturday. With ten workouts under his belt since the end of April, including a bullet five furlongs in :59 3/5 at Del Mar on July 22nd, he might even be ready to win.
Let’s keep things simple and pair up American Pastime in the exacta with Roy H and #4 American Anthem, a three-time graded stakes winner from the barn of Bob Baffert:
$10 exacta: 3 with 2,4 ($20)
$6 exacta: 2 with 3 ($6)
$4 exacta: 2 with 4 ($4)