08/18/2010 1:10PM

Day 23: 8/18/10

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The most radical distance change in this year's Breeders' Cup races at Churchill Downs will be the shortening of the BC Turf Sprint from 6.5 to 5 furlongs. The inaugural two runnings of the race, on Santa Anita's downhill turf course, had to be run at the longer distance but the intent was always for the race to be 5 or 5 1/2 furlongs.

This all come to mind on Day 23 because today's feature is the ungraded $70k Troy Stakes at 5 1/2 furlongs on the Mellon course. It's conceivable that in a year or two, it could be the Grade 3 $100k Troy, as a road to the BCTS is beginning to emerge and the Troy would fit well in the currently limited roster of graded turf sprints:

Silver Timber, the only horse in the country to have won two graded turf sprints this year, is the 8-5 ML favorite in the Troy.

The list above is obviously a geographically-unbalanced mess (six graded turf sprints at Santa Anita, one in all of New York, and none for fillies all year east of Arcadia?) in need of attention from the Graded Stakes Committee.

There are six so-called "Win and You're In" races that provide a berth in the Turf Sprint, but only the Morvich on the above list is among them. The five others, four of them outside the United States,

*The Group 1 T. J. Smith at Randwick, near Sydney, Australia, won April 10 by Melito;

*The ungraded Arlington Sprint H., won June 26 by Chamberlain Bridge;

*The Group 1 Manikato at Moonee Valley, near Melbourne, Australia, Sept. 24;

*The Group 1 Prix l'Abbaye at Longchamps Oct. 1;

*The Group 1 Nearctic at Woodbine Oct. 16.  

Like much of the WAYI program, anointing these races as automatic qualifiers is redundant window dressing. With no G1 turf sprints on the American calendar, obviously any Group 1 winner abroad will get into the race on points. Making the ungraded Arlington Sprint H. one of only two American WAYI races, bypassing eight other actual graded races, is a bit like making Arlington's G3 Washington Park Handicap one of only five WAYI qualifiers for the Breeders' Cup Classic.

 

2:00 pm: Rudy Rodriguez can not only send out winners at a 35 percent clip, he can keep a secret too: His first-timer in the 2nd race, a New York-bred 2-year-old filly named Saltamontes, won her debut by four lengths....and paid $27.00.

Two of his first three winners as a trainer paid 12-1 and 21-1. He has won 30 races since then, and Saltamontes was the first that paid more than 7-2.

 

3:30 pm: I meant to add in the opening item that the Turf Sprint is not the only race with a distance change this year: the Filly & Mare Turf, which was 1 1/4 miles the last two years, will be 1 3/8 miles this year -- as it was at Gulfstream in 1999, Churchill in 2000 and 2006, Lone Star in 2004 and Monmouth in 2007.

And the fourth running of the BC Dirt Mile will be the first that is both a mile (it was 1 mile + 70 yards at Monmouth in 2007) and on dirt.

 

5:05 pm: Awakino Cat, who won last year's Troy as the 5-2 favorite, defended his title at 6-1, running down 24-1 Ravalo at the wire with Yield Bogey coming from last to be third. Ravalo, a winner of 14 races and $859k (and 2nd to VIneyard Haven in the G1 DeFrancis last year) was making his first start on grass in his 38th career start and may have found a new home in turf sprints.

Silver Timber, sent off at 3-5, was fifth after being boxed in for much of the race, but when he finally found running room in the final furlong he was unable to gain any ground and flattened out.

All but two in the finale (the 5 and 10) are covered in the Pick-6.

 

5:45 p.m.: Glacier Bay ($26.20), one of those two uncovered horses, wired the field in the finale so there's a $60,986 pick-6 carryover into Thursday's card. Tomorrow's pick-6 pool was guaranteed at $100k but will now attract far more than that. The Thursday $100k guarantee has been made moot three out of four times at the meeting by Wednesday carryovers, and handled $112k the one time there was no carryover.