The Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint celebrates its fifth running in 2012, and unlike any other race on the weekend, 3 of its 4 previous winners could be in the starting gate.
Inaugurated in 2008 as a vehicle to attract European sprinters to the Breeders' Cup, the race has instead become a spotlight for US-based geldings. Another important pattern to emerge in its brief existence is that winners have a win over the host track at the sprint distance. Such a short race leaves no room for error, and those who have succeeded in the past have greater chances on Breeders' Cup day. Though no winner has repeated so far, there's a chance that could change this year if all 3 of these tough, talented geldings make it in the gate.
The first winner, Desert Code, was ridden to victory by Richard Migliore. The David Hofmans trainee was 4 years old when he flashed under the wire a neck in front of a star-studded field, paying $75 for the upset win. As the only stallion in the roster of winners, Desert Code now stands at Harris Farms in California. His first foals are yearlings of 2012.
In 2009, California Flag swept down the hill at Santa Anita to victory under young jockey Joe Talamo. It was a big win for the home team: the Cal-bred grey gelding was sired by Avenue of Flags and bred and owned by Hi Card Ranch, a small operation out of Murrieta, California. Santa-Anita based trainer Brian Koriner scored his first BC win, and jockey Joe Talamo, introduced to America via the Animal Planet show Jockeys, got his Hollywood ending and his first BC title, too. California Flag had competed in the first Turf Sprint as well, but 2009 would not be his last run for BC glory: he has run in every edition.
The 2010 running of the Turf Sprint was on Churchill Downs' turf course, shortened to just 5 furlongs due to the configuration of course. Locally-based rider Jamie Theriot piloted the gelding Chamberlain Bridge around the quick turn to take the third edition of the BC Turf Sprint by 2 lengths. Chamberlain Bridge, a gelded son of the BC Mile winner War Chant, gave trainer Bret Calhoun his first BC title.
Last year, Regally Ready ran up a 4-race win streak at Santa Anita, including 3 stakes, before taking the G3 Twin Spires Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. His worst finish was a 10th in the Turf Monster at Parx before his frontrunning BC Win for trainer Steve Asmussen and owner Vinery Stables. Jockey Corey Nakatani added to his BC laurels, taking his 9th title, and 5th in a sprint! This year, all 3 geldings have competed at the top level, with Chamberlain Bridge and California Flag adding to their stakes wins. California Flag took the G3 San Simeon at Santa Anita in April, and Chamberlain Bridge won the My Frenchman at Monmouth and placed in the Turf Monster. Regally Ready made a trip to Dubai earlier this year, but was trounced by the Australian star Ortensia (more on her in future posts). He is just finding his wind again, but could be ready to fire on Nov. 5.
Even if it isn't these particular ones, it seems a good bet would be on a US-based gelding in this year's BC Turf Sprint!
-- Candice Curtis