Homeracing

How to bet the Breeders' Cup Sprint

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 29th, 2019

One of the toughest and most competitive races of the November 1-2 Breeders’ Cup World Championships at Santa Anita is the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

The six-furlong race is stacked with high-quality graded stakes winners, so you could quite literally choose any of the ten starters and feel good about your chances.

That said, I plan to play outside the box and take a stand against 9-5 favorite morning line #4 Mitole.  The virtues of this four-year-old colt are obvious—he’s 9-for-13 overall and 5-for-6 this season, he’s fired off nine triple-digit Brisnet speed figures from his last eight starts, and he’s won three Grade 1 races.

But all of Mitole’s signature victories have been achieved while running seven furlongs or farther. These races tend to unfold with more leisurely early fractions than six-furlong sprints; in Mitole’s five victories this season, he hasn’t run an opening quarter-mile faster than :22 1/5. Interestingly, his lone defeat this season came in the six-furlong Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap (G1) when he broke poorly, rushed up to duel through fractions :21.77 and :44.21, and gradually weakened to finish third by 7 1/2 lengths.

I wonder if Mitole lacks the pure speed to excel in a hotly-contested six-furlong dash against the best sprinters in the country. Drawing post four could also be problematic since he’s inside of his main pace rivals and will have to be aggressive early to hold his position and avoid getting boxed in behind horses.

For these reasons, I plan on excluding Mitole from my wagers, both vertical and horizontal. If the favorite does finish out of the money, the payoffs should be lucrative.

Instead, I’ll favor #6 Shancelot and #9 Imperial Hint. The former, a front-running three-year-old trained by Jorge Navarro, looms as the “speed of the speed” and fired off a massive 114 Brisnet speed figure when winning Saratoga’s Amsterdam Stakes (G2) by 12 1/2 lengths in July.

Shancelot has been beaten twice since then, but he was facing Grade 1 company and had some excuses. A dead rail and a track profile favorable to closers compromised his chances in the seven-furlong H. Allen Jerkens (G1) at Saratoga, where he finished third by a head, and spinning wide off the far turn in the six-furlong Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) opened the rail for the talented Omaha Beach, who slipped through inside to deny Shancelot by a head.

Shancelot will be guided by Eclipse Award-winning jockey Jose Ortiz for the first time in the Breeders’ Cup, and I’m optimistic Ortiz will be a little more aggressive in putting Shancelot’s blinding speed to good use. The sophomore might just lead this field all the way on the front end, though Imperial Hint—twice placed in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint—could be dangerous down the lane.

After firing off a 113 speed figure while winning the Alfred G. Vanderbilt in track-record time, Imperial Hint found himself setting the pace in the Vosburgh Invitational (G1) at Belmont Park, tactics this pace-tracking six-year-old rarely employs. Despite this change in strategy, Imperial Hint dug deep when challenged by Belmont specialist #3 Firenze Fire and fought on to win by a nose.

From post nine, Imperial Hint should be perfectly situated for a return to pace-tracking tactics and figures to get first run on the leaders if the pace proves destructive.

Let’s play Shancelot and Imperial Hint on top in the exacta and trifecta while adding #1 Catalina Cruiser, #8 Landeskog, and #10 Matera Sky underneath:

  • $4 exacta box: 4,9 with 1,4,9 ($16)
  • $1 trifecta: 4,9 with 1,4,8,9,10 with 1,4,8,9,10 ($24)

Good luck!

More Breeders' Cup coverage can be found here!

Breeders' Cup Sprint Entries

PPHorseTrainerMorning Line OddsJockey
1
 Catalina Cruiser
John W. Sadler
4-1
Joel Rosario
2
 Hog Creek Hustle
Vickie L. Foley
20-1
Mike Smith
3
 Firenze Fire
Jason Servis
12-1
Irad Ortiz, Jr.
4
 Mitole
Steven M. Asmussen
9-5
Ricardo Santana, Jr.
5
 Engage
Steven M. Asmussen
15-1
John Velazquez
6
 Shancelot
Jorge Navarro
4-1
Jose Ortiz
7
 Whitmore
Ron Moquett
15-1
Flavien Prat
8
 Landeskog
Doug F. O'Neill
12-1
Abel Cedillo
9
 Imperial Hint
Luis Carvajal Jr.
4-1
Javier Castellano
10
 Matera Sky
Hideyuki Mori
30-1
Yutaka Take
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