Why Promises Fulfilled should run in Breeders' Cup Sprint

October 17, 2018 10:08am
Three-year-old sprinting star Promises Fulfilled took the six-furlong Phoenix (G2) on Oct. 5 at Keeneland over Whitmore and Limousine Liberal for his third straight graded stakes win, and most observers assumed the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 3 at Churchill Downs as a certainty for his next race. 

However, trainer Dale Romans left the door open for the Dirt Mile.  

“He has a real shot to be the sprint champion now," Romans said. "We still aren’t sure which race we’ll go in yet but it’s good to know he came back OK and we have a real legitimate shot to win a Breeders’ Cup race in our backyard at Churchill Downs.”

Would Promises Fulfilled also fit in the Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile? There are a number of drawbacks to attempting the longer option, especially considering the first part of the quote.

Like Romans suggested, Promises Fulfilled is in line to become the Eclipse Award champion sprinter. Roy H and Imperial Hint are also in the mix. Even Whitmore, who captured the Forego Stakes (G1) on the day Promises Fulfilled won the Allen Jerkens (G1), can win the Eclipse, too. Limousine Liberal is not without an outside shot as well, although his current resume does not contain a Grade 1 win. 

All four horses mentioned above are likely contenders for the Sprint. So it only makes sense for Promises Fulfilled to compete against those same horses.

From purely a race standpoint, the Dirt Mile is a tough option because of the pace, and specifically that one horse will make the race difficult for speed: Catalina Cruiser.

Catalina Cruiser has led or vied for the lead in his last three starts, and earned 130 TimeformUS Speed Figures in the Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) and San Diego Handicap (G2). In other words, he is a fast horse who could give Promises Fulfilled problems.

While Promises Fulfilled sat off the leader Strike Power in the Amsterdam Stakes (G3) at Saratoga, it becomes harder for a sprinter with brilliant speed to rate as the distances get longer. He showed this in the nine-furlong Florida Derby (G1) back in March when dueling with Strike Power through a 21.95-second opening quarter.

Promises Fulfilled won the Fountain of Youth Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles around two turns in February, but the field let him get away with an easy lead on a speed-biased track. Can he show that kind of relaxation in a route while behind horses?

In addition, history is against speed horses when the Dirt Mile is run here.

The Breeders’ Cup came to this racetrack in 2010 and 2011, and the 37-1 Dakota Phone won the 2010 edition closing from last in a 12-horse field to shock bettors. 

As for Caleb’s Posse in 2011, he closed from eighth in a nine-horse field. Similar to Dakota Phone's win the year before, a strong pace helped again. 

In the latter example, Promises Fulfilled’s sire, Shackleford, ran a remarkable race to out-duel the talented and flashy speed horse The Factor, but the pace took its toll and Caleb’s Posse mowed him down. Is Catalina Cruiser this year’s The Factor?

Sometimes the one-turn configuration of the Dirt Mile at Churchill also encourages the presence of more sprinters like The Factor, because going one turn does make the race seem more like an elongated sprint, making it more attractive to roll the dice.

The complete field for the Dirt Mile is unclear yet. But a fast pace feels more likely than not considering Catalina Cruiser's presence.

Meanwhile, the Sprint will feature speed horses such as the aforementioned Imperial Hint and X Y Jet, who finished second in the Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) in March.

In this situation, Promises Fulfilled can probably sit off one or two horses because of the shorter distance. He already proved this in the six-furlong Amsterdam. He is not going to close like Dakota Phone or Caleb’s Posse, but the lead is not needed either.

Furthermore, he only owns one loss under one mile out of six tries. In that one loss in the seven-furlong Woody Stephens (G2) at Belmont Park, he ran the best race by surviving an insane duel with World of Trouble. At six furlongs, it gives him more room to go fast in the initial stages. Even if he goes fast, it might work out at six furlongs.

In addition, Promises Fulfilled has proven himself the best sprinter in the nation on numbers. His best speed figures can hit the 130 range using TimeformUS on a good day, and even his regressing figure (123) in the Phoenix still beat two good older horses. 

He is such a talented sprinter that it feels like a waste to not keep his scheduled focused at shorter distances, at least for now. 

Of course, Romans knows the horse best, and if he feels the Dirt Mile is an option, there must be good reasoning behind his logic. Promises Fulfilled could win it despite the concerns about Catalina Cruiser flattening any horse nearby. An expected pace scenario is not a given, and a talented horse can also overcome adversity.

But while the one-turn Dirt Mile is similar to an elongated sprint, it feels more logical to go in the Sprint given the short history of the event at Churchill, the expected pace scenario in those two races and what is at stake in terms of the Eclipse Awards. 

If the connections do not retire Promises Fulfilled, they can always aim for the Metropolitan Mile (G1) next June, and it will give him a prestigious one-turn mile without risking his chances for the 2018 Eclipse Award. 


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Meet Reinier Macatangay

My first time at the racetrack came as a 5-year-old kid at Santa Anita Park. For most of my younger life, that was the only track I attended other the occasional visit to Hollywood Park. 

Years later, after graduating California State University, Stanislaus with an English MA, I began writing for Lady and the Track. From late 2014-2016, my articles were seen on a weekly basis and covered handicapping, interviews with well-known racing personalities, fashion and more. 

The handicapping style I use concentrates on pace analysis. Some horses are compromised by the pace. Others are helped. Handicappers just starting out cannot easily see how pace affects the finish, so with this blog, I hope to help those unsure of how to apply pace into their handicapping and post-race analysis. 

On an unrelated note, I enjoy video games and attending anime or comic-book conventions. I am currently based in Kentucky, but spend a lot of time traveling between there and California.

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