As part of my ongoing “Breeders’ Cup Top 10” series, I decided this week to rank my Top 10 contenders for the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) at Churchill Downs.
Given the large number of talented sprinters in North America, this was not an easy list to compile. I chose to leave off such prominent runners as Mind Your Biscuits, who might be better-suited to the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile (gr. I), and also Army Mule and Mitole, who are dealing with injuries and have not yet returned to serious training.
With that said, here’s how I rank the top Breeders’ Cup Sprint contenders for the time being….
This lightly-raced five-year-old gelding has been a capable stakes competitor for a few years, but he elevated his game to a different level in the Aristides Stakes (gr. III) on June 2nd at Churchill Downs, crushing a quality field by 6 ¼ lengths while stopping the clock in 1:08.44 for six furlongs. That performance earned him a 110 Beyer and a 105 BRIS speed figure, and notably, the Aristides was held over the same track and distance as the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Chief Cicatriz might be getting good (very good!) at the right time.
The defending Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner hasn’t run since finishing third in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) back in March, but he’s been training well at Santa Anita and Del Mar in preparation for his return, which is expected to come in Saturday’s Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) at Del Mar. If Roy H comes back as good as he was last year, he’ll remain a force to reckon with in the Sprint division.
This six-year-old gelding has been a beast at Churchill Downs, winning six of his eight starts over the main track (including five stakes races) to stamp himself as a clear “horse for the course” contender for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. He’s also been running well against tougher company at Belmont Park this year, most recently battling his way to a gutsy win in the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. II).
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint runner-up defeated a quality field with determination in the True North Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont in June, and despite some slight training setbacks reported by the Daily Racing Form, Imperial Hint breezed four furlongs in a bullet :46.98 on July 21st and is on target for the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) on Saturday at Saratoga.
Bob Baffert’s star sprinter is 2-for-2 this season, having won an allowance race at Churchill Downs before battling to a hard-fought win in the San Carlos Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita. The son of Bodemeister appears to have taken a step forward this year and could become a major player in the division.
City of Light
Although he’s been trying longer distances as of late, City of Light might ultimately prove best as a sprinter, and perhaps a very good one considering how decisively he won the Malibu Stakes (gr. I) and Triple Bend Stakes (gr. I) going seven furlongs during the winter. It remains to be seen whether he has enough pure speed to be competitive over the six-furlong distance of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, but hopefully his summer/fall campaign will give us a better idea.
Whitmore hasn’t been quite up to winning at the Grade 1 level thus far, but that hasn’t stopped him from winning 10 of his 21 starts and banking more than $1.6 million. He also pushed Imperial Hint and Limousine Liberal to the limit in True North Stakes (gr. II) and Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. II) at Belmont this year, so he’s not far off some of the best horses in this division.
American Pastime showed flashes of significant talent as a three-year-old last year and ended the season with a respectable fourth-place finish in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. The benefit of maturity could make him dangerous this season, and we’ll get a chance to see how he stacks up against Roy H when he runs in the Bing Crosby on Saturday.
After losing the first seven starts of his career, often at short prices, Switzerland has now won four straight races and peaked with a decisive score in the Maryland Sprint Stakes (gr. III) at Pimlico two months ago. The Steve Asmussen-trained four-year-old has not run since then, but he’s training at Saratoga and is nominated to Saturday’s Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap.
X Y Jet
After suffering the narrowest of defeats in the Dubai Golden Shaheen, X Y Jet returned to action in the Smile Sprint Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park and never gave his rivals a chance, winning with complete authority. He’s getting older and has had more than his share of injuries/setbacks through the years, but he remains a very fast sprinter who can’t be underestimated.