Lord Nelson has too much firepower for Bing Crosby foes

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August 1st, 2016

Spendthrift Farms’ Lord Nelson continued his ascendancy in the sprint division with a near track-record conquest of Sunday’s $301,035 Bing Crosby (G1) at Del Mar, a “Win and You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1).

The even-money favorite off his Triple Bend (G1) victory at Santa Anita June 25, Lord Nelson offered an unassailable combination of firepower and the perfect battle position. The Bob Baffert charge was favorably drawn toward the outside, and projected a stalk-and-pounce trip just off a contested pace.

The script played out just that way. Flavien Prat picked up the spare ride when Rafael Bejarano followed American Freedom to Monmouth (finishing second in the Haskell [G1]), and had Lord Nelson perched in third early.

Sophomore stablemate Justin Squared flashed heat from the rail, matched by the high speed of Subtle Indian, and they vied through torrid splits of :21.16 and :43.73. The duel could have been a three-way affair had Bluegrass Bronco not scratched, but they could hardly have gone faster.

Justin Squared put Subtle Indian away leaving the far turn, but Lord Nelson was about to deliver the broadside. Coming with the proverbial wet sail, Lord Nelson swept clear and widened his advantage to three lengths at the wire.

Even more impressive than the visuals and the margin, the 4-year-old son of Pulpit established a new Bing Crosby stakes record of 1:07.65. And he technically just missed the six-furlong track record (1:07.60) held by King of Cricket since August 22, 1973. That came in the pre-digital era of timing in fifths, however, so we can’t know precisely how fast King of Cricket ran. Although it can’t be official, I’d prefer to think of Lord Nelson as virtually equaling the track record in the circumstances.

“Bob (Baffert) just told me to get him a good break, then to sit up close to the speed,” Prat recounted. “It worked out really well. This horse was special today. He ran huge. He might be as fast a horse as I’ve ever sat on.”

As a further measure of Lord Nelson’s dominance over this field, the 42-1 runner-up Indexical was himself 3 1/4 lengths ahead of third-placer Alsvid. Pace warriors Justin Squared and Subtle Indian retreated to sixth and last of eight, respectively.

Lord Nelson, three-for-three this campaign, has compiled an overall record of 12-6-1-1, $778,271. Previously owned by Peachtree Stable, the $340,000 Keeneland September yearling hinted early that sprinting would be his game. He broke his maiden at first asking over Del Mar’s old Polytrack in 2014, romped in Santa Anita’s Speakeasy for juvenile sprinters, and beat Texas Red in the 2015 San Vicente (G2). But those efforts were all interspersed among failed two-turn attempts in the FrontRunner (G1), Kentucky Jockey Club (G2), and San Felipe (G2). Baffert kept him to one turn thereafter, resulting in a strange-trip second in last year’s Bay Shore (G3), a fourth in the Pat Day Mile (G3), and a third to Runhappy off a 7 1/2-month layoff in the Malibu (G1). He’s a different horse now.

“He’s become a serious sprinter,” Baffert said after the Bing Crosby. “I was worried about the cutback (from the Triple Bend’s seven furlongs to six on Sunday) but he has been training so well. He’s getting better and better. He was pretty close to those fast splits and he still had a kick left. So that was really impressive.”

Lord Nelson was part of a banner day at Del Mar for Baffert, who also sent out American Pharoah’s full sister, American Cleopatra, to capture her debut, and won an allowance with three-year-old Jazzy Times.

“I woke up this morning thinking we could win them all, but unfortunately we got beat in the Haskell. But the others ran well, they ran like they’ve been training and that’s all you can ask for.”

Bred by Clearsky Farms in Kentucky, Lord Nelson provided a posthumous tribute to his broodmare sire, Seeking the Gold, who passed away Thursday. His dam, African Jade, is a daughter of Argentinean champion and U.S. Grade 1 winner Miss Linda. This is the family of current Acorn (G1) heroine Carina Mia.

Photo courtesy of Benoit