BC Internationals: Turf Sprint contender Washington DC
The Aidan O’Brien-trained Washington DC is trying the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1) for the second time, following a seventh on Santa Anita’s downhill course last November. Sporting the dark silks on the inside in the stretch, he just gets outkicked.
Unlike 2016, when he entered as a smart sophomore just held by Marsha in the Prix de l’Abbaye (G1) and hadn’t missed by much in the King George (G2) and Flying Five (G2), Washington DC has found it difficult to maintain that level of form in 2017.
Little can be concluded from his seasonal reappearance in the March 25 Al Quoz Sprint (G1), where he finished seventh, since O’Brien’s older horses often aren’t trained to peak on Dubai World Cup night. Washington DC ran as if in need of the race, at one point trying to reach contention before flattening out. Considering that he spent a good chunk of 2016 at five furlongs, it’s understandable that he got tired going six first up, especially on rain-softened ground that's not ideal. Watch him (in the dark Magnier colors) as he briefly gets into position behind the gray Richard’s Boy.
Washington DC’s Meydan excursion was beneficial, for he came back home and won Navan’s Woodlands S. over Ardhoomey. In the process, he avenged his defeat at that veteran’s hands in last fall’s Flying Five.
Renewing rivalry with Marsha in the May 6 Palace House (G3) at Newmarket, Washington DC was favored to turn the tables. His status in the market reflected not only the fact that he was race-fit, and catching her first up off a seven-month layoff, but especially because Marsha had to concede him four pounds. Although the filly proved too good again, Washington DC ran right up to his best when beaten a neck (click for replay).
Since then, however, he’s struggled at five furlongs. Sixth in the Temple (G2) at Haydock, and never involved when 15th behind Lady Aurelia and Marsha in the King’s Stand (G1), Washington DC added blinkers for the King George. He still didn’t find too much in fifth, five lengths behind the exciting Battaash and a couple of lengths adrift of Marsha.
Washington DC turned things around on the step back up to six furlongs just nine days later in the Phoenix Sprint (G3). Granted that also represented a measure of clash relief, but he needed the extra yardage:
Back down to five, and up in class, for the Nunthorpe (G1), Washington DC was troubled at the start, unable to recover at the rear, and run off his feet in 10th behind Marsha and Lady Aurelia. He tried six again off a two-month freshening for the October 21 British Champions Sprint (G1) and wound up seventh. See him (light pink silks toward inside) get bounced around like a pinball trying to go between horses:
Although it’s possible to conclude that the Zoffany colt simply peaked as a youngster, I’m more inclined to think that Washington DC just doesn’t have the finishing speed he once did for five furlongs. Indeed, he was running well over six earlier in his career – including a third in last summer’s Commonwealth Cup (G1) – and even won a seven-furlong stakes at Dundalk in his sophomore debut. It wouldn’t be a surprise if he needs six now.
If so, the rapidly unfolding five furlongs around a turn at Del Mar might not give him enough time to build up momentum, even though the firm ground is a plus. It’s ironic if this is the year he would have preferred to try the downhill.
Photo courtesy of Coolmore via Twitter