Earlier in the week, the $500,000 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint lost quite a bit of its luster when the connections of marquee names, Beholder and Kauai Katie, opted into the Juvenile Fillies race. Then on race day Friday, the Juvenile Sprint affair, which kicked off the first day of the two-day World Championships, was dulled even more with two additional defections. Both by injury. The first withdrawal came about when the Bob Baffert trained Super Ninety Nine became cast in his stall in the morning and scraped himself up, necessitating the scratch The impressive maiden winner was the second choice at 5-2 on the morning line. Baffert indicated his juvenile colt will be okay in a few days. Secret Circle, trained by Baffert, won the inaugural running of this race last year. The second scratch occurred when South Floyd, trained by Kentucky Derby/Preakness winning trainer Doug O'Neill, was declared out of the running after it was determined the colt incurred a problem with his left front leg while warming up for the race. The two scratches reduced the field to five, the smallest in the history of the Breeders' Cup, with Merit Man keeping his assignment of morning line choice all the way to post time. But when it was all over, it was the longest shot in the field, 15-1 Hightail, a maiden going into the race, rallying through an opening along the rail to prevail in the six-furlong sprint by a mere nose over Merit Man in an exciting stretch duel, earning his first victory from nine starts. It was two-and-a quarter lengths back to Sweet Shirley Mae finishing third. The time for the Juvenile Sprint was 1:09 4/5.
Ridden to victory by Rajiv Maragh, Hightail got off to a good start and soon settled back into fourth place along the rail as Merit Man and Ceiling Kitty dueled through fractions of :22 2//5 and :454/5. Hazardous was poised on the far outside in third, while Sweet Shirley Mae trailed the compact field of five.
On the turn for home, jockey Patrick Valenzuela asked Merit Man for run, and the colt responded by turning back a challenge from Hazardous and opening up brief lead. But then Hightail came running along the inside, shooting through with a decisive run that saw him open up a neck advantage. Merit Man, sent off at 1-2 odds, tried to battle back, but the wire came too soon. Hazardous and Ceiling Kitty completed the field.
Immediately following the race, there was a three-minute inquiry conducted by the stewards regarding the stretch run as to whether the winner, who drifted out slightly to his right, had interfered with Merit Man nearing the wire. Race stewards did not change the order of finish. Hightail is trained by the winningest conditioner in Breeders' Cup history, D.Wayne Lukas, who earned his 19th Cup victory, and his first since 2005. The colt is owned by Bluegrass Hall LLC
Hightail returned $32.80, $7.20 and $3.40. Merit Man paid $2.40 and $2.10, and Sweet Shirley Mae paid $2.40 to show.