Barn favorite Snapper Sinclair seeking glory in Breeders' Cup Dirt Mile
...all the human connections who encounter Snapper Sinclair have fallen in love with him...
DEL MAR, Calif. -- It might be the striking white face. It might be his playful personality. It might be the honest, determined effort he puts forward any time he is out on the racetrack. It might just be that he's been around so long.
Whatever the reason, or combination of reasons, all the human connections who encounter Snapper Sinclair have fallen in love with him.
"He's my favorite," said Jeff Bloom, who owns the six-year-old City Zip horse under his Bloom Racing Stable banner. "I fell in love with Snapper the second I saw him."
At the 2017 OBS Spring two-year-olds sale, in the relatively early days of Bloom Racing Stable, the $180,000 price tag for Snapper Sinclair was steep for the operation (Bloom also bought eventual champion Midnight Bisou at the same sale for $80,000, and she eventually sold for $5 million as a broodmare). The former jockey said he didn't even think he would be able to get Snapper Sinclair, but the colt, out of the Yes It's True mare True Addiction, was offered so late in the sale that many buyers were either fatigued, out of money, or gone.
"When I got him, it was the happiest I've ever been when the hammer dropped," Bloom said.
More than four years later, that bay with the big white blaze is ready to go in his third Breeders' Cup try, the Dirt Mile (G1), and that path to Del Mar on Nov. 6 has not been conventional under the care of trainer Steve Asmussen.
Snapper Sinclair broke his maiden in a turf sprint as a two-year-old, encountered a brutal trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (G1), switched to dirt as a three-year-old and nearly won the Risen Star S. (G2) on the road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1), won a trio of stakes on the quirky grass course at Kentucky Downs, and even took a trip to Dubai for the Godolphin Mile (G2) this year, where he finished fourth. Along the way, there have been heartbreaking losses — including nine second-place finishes and five by less than a length in stakes — and awful trips, but the trials have made him more endearing to his crew, because he fights through it all. It doesn't hurt that he has earned more than $1.8 million in purses.
"He's run 34 times and won $1.8 million the hard way," said Asmussen's top assistant, Scott Blasi, who has traveled with Snapper Sinclair many times on the horse's tour of 12 different racetracks, in New York, California, Kentucky, Arkansas, West Virginia, and Dubai. "He's hung around and been such a tough guy. He takes everything in stride. We shipped him to Dubai, he came back, and it's like he wasn't gone at all. Everyone in the barn has had him at some point. When you see that face walk off the van, you smile."
All along, too, he has exhibited versatility — in distance, surface, and running style. He has won on firm turf, grass with a little give, fast dirt, and in the slop. He has won a 5 1/2-furlong race and stretched out to win at a mile and 70 yards. He has won on the front end (like he did in a listed stakes at Kentucky Downs on Sept. 8), he has stalked and pounced, and he has closed from the clouds, like his late drive from 11th place to take the 2019 Tourist Mile.
"What makes him so special is he's so old-school — sprinting, long, turf, dirt, this racetrack, that racetrack," Bloom said. "Every time he ships, two seconds into it, he's at home. He's just honest, he loves what he does, and he's fun to be around."
There's also a personal level to this human-horse relationship. It's hard for him to put into words, but Bloom compares Snapper Sinclair to an unruly student who disrupts class, while the teacher can't help but smile because of his charm.
"At one point, he'll try to push you around and bite you, and the next moment, he puts his head on you to scratch his neck," Bloom said. "He's just a goofball."
That occasional orneriness also has benefited him on the racetrack.
"He's not easy to train," Blasi said. "He's strong, forward, and can be difficult to handle, but that's why he's so tough in races."
So where does that put him for the Dirt Mile, where he is 12-1 on the morning line and set to face speedy 4-5 favorite Life Is Good, along with Grade 1 winners Eight Rings and Silver State, as well as local Grade 2 winner Ginobili?
"One thing is for sure," Bloom said. "He's going to come running, because he's always trying. The thing with Snapper is, you don't know and don't care where he's going to be in a race, because he adjusts. He's honest, he's run against the best horses out there, and he's been so close to greatness — whiskers away. Maybe it happens in the Breeders' Cup."