Horses for the course: a look at California's BC Turf Sprint contenders
Thankfully, the process of elimination proved to be quite simple in the Turf Sprint's first six runnings as they were all won by horses that had previously won over the host track's course and distance. Favorites California Flag (2009), Regally Ready (2009), and Mizdirection (2013) won, but so did price horses like Desert Code ($75, 2008), Chamberlain Bridge ($15.80, 2010), and Mizdirection ($15.80, 2012).
However, that guide has not been as useful the last couple years. Bobby's Kitten won the Turf Sprint at Santa Anita two years ago in his first try down the hillside course, though he had set a hot pace and faded to third in the previous year's Juvenile Turf (G1) going a mile. Last year, Mongolian Saturday won at first asking over the Keeneland grass after placing in the the Woodford (G3), the off-the-turf local prep.
With that said, it would be no surprise for this angle to be revive itself with the Breeders' Cup returning to Santa Anita in a couple weeks. Santa Anita's unique hillside course is not always easy for newcomers to handle, and intriguingly there will be plenty of value to be had among the California-based contingent.
Here are some thoughts on possible Turf Sprint entrants with winning experience at the course and distance:
AMBITIOUS BREW: California-bred is four-for-nine down the hill, with three stakes wins. He's undefeated in two tries over it this term, with a last-out score in an Eddie D (G3) division being his career highlight. He finished seventh, beaten three lengths, in the 2014 Turf Sprint, so there are some lingering concerns about his relative class at this level.
BOOZER: Like Ambitious Brew a California-bred and a past winner of the Sensational Star over the course and distance. However, a recent second in an Eddie D division is the best finish he's attained in an open company stakes. Has had a long season of 10 races already this year.
GUNS LOADED: Ex-seller is vastly improved this year after being re-claimed by Doug O'Neill last December. Subsequently won three straight down the hill, including the $75,000 Joe Hernandez and the San Simeon (G3). Perhaps was a race short of peak fitness when third as the favorite in his Eddie D division on September 30.
HOLY LUTE: Runner-up in the 2015 editions of the San Simeon and $75,000 Siren Lure, he went through a major dry spell over this terrain last winter before perking up to take the faster of the two Eddie D divisions in which he defeated Boozer by 1 1/4 lengths, with Guns Loaded third. Given his struggles earlier in the year, he might be over bet off his latest win.
HUNT: Has won four of six over the course and distance this year, including the June 5 Siren Lure by 1 1/2 lengths. No serious threat when finishing third in the Joe Hernandez to Guns Loaded and in the Eddie D split won by Ambitious Brew, perhaps evidence he's a slight cut below those rivals.
OBVIOUSLY: More likely for the Mile (G1), but this speed-crazy veteran finished a narrowly beaten second in his U.S. debut over this trip back in 2012. He followed up with a half-length triumph against second-level allowance foes, and later ran a close second in 2013 San Simeon. No debating this multiple Grade 1 winner would be a solid fit in this race.
RICHARD'S BOY: Has finished worse than second only once down the hill, and would enter the Turf Sprint off three consecutive runner-up finishes (February 27 Sensational Star, August 12 Green Flash at Del Mar, and Ambitious Brew's Eddie D division). Probably has a lot to find against a world-class field, but a potential kicker for the superfecta.
TOOWINDYTOHAULROX: Stakes-placed over the course and distance way back on the 2013 Breeders' Cup undercard, he finally earned his first added-money score in the Daytona (G3) last December. Second in the Siren Lure in his belated 2016 bow, he was only fourth in Holy Lute's Eddie D and likely isn't good enough for a slice.
(NOTE: Boozer and Richard's Boy are entered in the $100,000 California Flag H. at Santa Anita on Saturday.)
(Guns Loaded photo: Benoit Photos)