Since I published my first Breeders’ Cup Sprint Top 5 in June, a lot has changed on the road to the championship showdown at Santa Anita.
The big story has been the emergence of an untested and undefeated 3-year-old as potentially the fastest horse in training. And while the reigning champ is taking things easy, another challenger has suffered a surprising defeat, and a forgotten foe has re-emerged as a major threat.
How do you rank the top contenders for the November 2 Breeders’ Cup Sprint? Here’s how my latest list is shaping up.
How spectacular was Shancelot in the 6 1/2-furlong Amsterdam Stakes (G3) at Saratoga? Blazing fractions of :21.79 and :43.94 couldn’t tire him out, if that tells you anything. The 3-year-old son of Shanghai Bobby widened at will around the turn and down the stretch to win by 12 1/2 lengths. He earned a 121 Beyer speed figure, the highest number assigned to any sprint race since 2007.
Will Shancelot ever repeat or exceed that figure? Probably not. But he could regress by 10-12 points and still be a serious factor in the nation’s most prestigious sprints. Jorge Navarro has called Shancelot the best horse he’s ever trained, and the colt’s extraordinary early speed should make him a formidable foe, even when facing older horses.
The two-time defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner is still missing from the work tab, which leaves him with just 2 1/2 months to get back to peak fitness and (hopefully) squeeze in a prep run before the Breeders’ Cup. It’s a challenge, but Roy H is accustomed to beating the odds. Do you think winning back-to-back editions of the Sprint was easy?
After he placed second and third behind Roy H in the last two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, Imperial Hint’s form seemed to be slipping during the first half of 2019. But he bounced back to dominate the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) at Saratoga, where he seized command around the turn and pulled away to win by four lengths. His final time of 1:07.92 broke a track record established in 1972 and translated to a 114 Beyer. It’s safe to say Imperial Hint is back in a big way.
World of Trouble
A foot bruise caused World of Trouble to miss a scheduled start in the Troy Stakes (G3) at Saratoga, but this setback should be temporary. Plans call for World of Trouble to return to action in the September 2 Turf Monster Stakes (G3) on grass at Parx, which suggests the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) is a more likely target than the Sprint. But World of Trouble is a grade 1 winner on both dirt and turf, so this versatile 4-year-old would be a major threat in either race.
The Metropolitan Handicap (G1) winner saw his seven-race win streak come to an end in the Vanderbilt, where he faded to finish third by 7 1/2 lengths against Imperial Hint. I’m tempted to forgive this performance, because Mitole broke poorly from the rail and rushed up to duel for the lead through fast fractions of :21.77 and :44.21. I’m expecting a sharper run from Mitole next time out, but I do wonder if six furlongs might be a little sharp for the accomplished colt, whose signature victories have come at seven furlongs and a mile.