Updated on 11/02/2012 1:29PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint: Scratch of Super Ninety Nine alters complexion of race

Barbara D. Livingston
Super Ninety Nine was scratched from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint on Friday after injuring himself in his stall.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The complexion for the second running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint on Friday at Santa Anita underwent a dramatic change when trainer Bob Baffert announced on race morning he had to scratch Super Ninety Nine from the race.

The defection left a field of just six 2-year-olds in the $500,000 BC Juvenile Sprint, the fourth of 10 Friday races and the first of six Friday BC events. Super Ninety Nine, a Pulpit colt, was the second choice at 5-2 in the race when coming off an impressive victory in his only start, a maiden-special weight race early last month at Santa Anita. The morning line was to be revised, with Merit Man, the original 8-5 favorite, sure to be even lower on the new line.

Merit Man, trained by Bob Hess Jr. for a three-way partnership, has won twice in as many starts – a maiden race on closing weekend at Del Mar, and the ungraded Tim Conway Stakes on opening weekend at Santa Anita.

 “He’s still maturing, trying to figure out the game,” said Hess. “He’s not much for working in the morning, but he’s shown everybody what he can do in the afternoons.”

Patrick Valenzuela, who rode the first Breeders’ Cup at Hollywood Park in 1984, retains the mount on Merit Man.

Rider tactics in a short field should come into play, with Merit Man starting from post 3. He has flashed good speed, but it looks like the early lead may fall to South Floyd (post 4, Ramon Dominguez), who finished second to Merit Man as the pacesetter in the Conway, or maybe even Sweet Shirley Mae (post 6, Joel Rosario), a filly who comes favorably drawn and whose trainer, Wesley Ward, is known for his precocious young horses.

Sweet Shirley Mae was second in the Grade 1 Spinaway on Sept. 2 at Saratoga in her last start and since then has sharpened with five workouts at three different tracks.

“She’s trained so well since the Spinaway that we just felt like she deserved a shot in there,” said Ward, who declared another filly, Almost an Angel, from the Juvenile Sprint in favor of the BC Juvenile Fillies on Saturday.

Only one other horse in the field – the British filly Ceiling Kitty (post 2, John Velazquez) – has a graded or group placing, but it’s questionable whether she will be able to adapt to American-style racing when switching over from turf to dirt. At 12-1, she is listed as the longest shot in the field.

The remaining two starters in this short field also come with apparent shortcomings: Hightail (post 1, Rajiv Maragh) is still a maiden after eight starts for trainer D. Wayne Lukas, while Hazardous (post 6, Edwin Maldonado) has competed exclusively in claiming races.

Meanwhile, Super Ninety Nine was scratched after being cast in his stall and suffering scrapes, according to Baffert. He tweeted that Super Ninety Nine, owned by the Tanma Corporation of Susan Chu, would be okay in several days from the incident but that the scrapes were severe enough to necessitate a scratch.

He is yet another of the would-be favorites to be lost from the Juvenile Sprint, which had 10 original pre-entries. Two standout fillies, Kauai Katie and Beholder, opted instead for the BC Juvenile Fillies.

Baffert had been having a good time this week talking about how Chu may not quite realize how lucky she has gotten thus far. Although Chu has a background in show horses, she is new to the racing game. Super Ninety Nine is her first horse with Baffert.

Three straight $70,000 allowances precede the Juvenile Sprint on the 10-race race Friday card. The Juvenile Sprint kicks off a $2 pick six (races 4-9) that encompass all six BC races. First post Friday is 11:15 a.m. Pacific, with the Juvenile Sprint going at 1:06 p.m.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Race-by-race coverage, video, early odds]