With the 2018 Breeders’ Cup at Churchill Downs rapidly approaching—it’s just eight weeks away—the fields for the 14 championship races are starting to take shape.
At the moment, it appears that the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (gr. I) will be among the deepest and most contentious races, so sorting through the numerous talented candidates for the race isn’t an easy task. But I’m confident that my #1 choice is on the rise, so without further ado, here’s how I rank my Top 10 contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint….
1. Promises Fulfilled
Three of the last six renewals of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint have been won by three-year-olds, and Promises Fulfilled has a big chance to add his name to the roster of winners. The son of Shackleford finished fifteenth in the Kentucky Derby, but has looked like a different horse since cutting back in distance this summer, showcasing phenomenal early speed to finish third in the Woody Stephens Stakes (gr. II) before rattling off back-to-back wins in the Amsterdam Stakes (gr. III) and the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga. Remarkably, :44.34 is the slowest half-mile fraction that he’s posted this summer, and he’s clocked :43-and-change on a couple of occasions. He’s effective going seven furlongs, but I think he’ll absolutely relish the six-furlong distance of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. We might just be looking at a monster sprinter in the making.
2. Roy H
Last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint champion could only finish second in the Bing Crosby Stakes (gr. I) this summer, but that was his first start back from Dubai and he was eligible to need a race off the layoff. His Bing Crosby effort really wasn’t bad by any means, and if he can get back to his top-class form from last year, he’ll remain a major player in this division.
3. Imperial Hint
With three wins from four starts this season, Imperial Hint seems to be in stronger form than ever before, and he couldn’t have looked better crushing six rivals in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (gr. I) at Saratoga this summer. The way he swept past rivals on the turn and drew off under virtually no urging to win by 3 ¾ lengths was eye-catching and a testament to his impressive speed and talent.
4. Limousine Liberal
Don’t be too discouraged by Limousine Liberal’s third-place finish in the Forego Stakes (gr. I) at Saratoga—he endured a very wide trip and was beaten just 1 ½ lengths by Whitmore, who enjoyed a perfect ground-saving journey. Don’t forget, Limousine Liberal defeated Whitmore in the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes (gr. II) two starts back, and he’s compiled a 6-for-8 record at Churchill Downs, where the Breeders’ Cup Sprint will be held this fall.
Granted, he received a perfect trip, but Whitmore showed no hesitation rallying up the rail to defeat Limousine Liberal and City of Light in the Forego Stakes, in the process securing the first Grade 1 win of his career. Whitmore has been very effective sprinting six furlongs, so the cutback in distance for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint shouldn’t be any issue.
6. City of Light
You can make a strong case that City of Light ran a better race than Whitmore in the Forego Stakes, considering that he raced wide throughout but was only beaten 1 ½ lengths. The only reason I haven’t ranked City of Light ahead of Whitmore is because he seems better suited to longer distances than the Breeders’ Cup Sprint and could be more likely to target the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile.
7. Ransom the Moon
Ransom the Moon left no doubt about his superiority when defeating Roy H in the Bing Crosby Stakes this summer, which marked his second straight victory in that six-furlong sprint. He really didn’t run badly at all when fifth in the 2017 Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and with some racing luck at Churchill Downs, he could improve on that performance.
8. Mind Your Biscuits
Following second-place finishes in the Metropolitan Handicap (gr. I) and the Whitney Stakes (gr. I), Mind Your Biscuits seems more likely to target the Breeders’ Cup Classic or Dirt Mile than the Sprint, but if trainer Chad Summers does cut him back in distance for the Sprint, this late-running two-time Dubai Golden Shaheen (UAE-I) winner might appreciate the long homestretch at Churchill Downs.
9. X Y Jet
This somewhat delicate six-year-old sprinter hasn’t run since winning the June 30th Smile Sprint Stakes (gr. III) at Gulfstream Park in dominant fashion, but he’s posted some sharp workouts at Monmouth Park in the meantime and could return to action in the September 15th Frank J. De Francis Memorial Dash (gr. III) at Laurel Park.
10. American Anthem
This Bob Baffert-trained four-year-old kicked off his 2018 campaign in sharp fashion with back-to-back wins in a Churchill Downs allowance race and the San Carlos Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita, but he never seemed to get going in the Bing Crosby Stakes, coming home sixth behind Ransom the Moon. Maybe he’s better going seven furlongs, but given the affinity he showed for Churchill earlier this year, I’m not counting him out yet.