09/26/2012 3:45PM

Breeders' Cup Sprint: Amazombie back on top of division

Benoit & Associates
Amazombie will be seeking a repeat victory in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

With each of the first three finishers from the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs – Amazombie, Force Freeze, and Jackson Bend – back in training again when the year began, the prospects looked bright for an even more exciting renewal of the Sprint when the fastest horses in the country convened again at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

But the sprint division has suffered some untimely losses during the course of the year. Force Freeze was retired due to injury this winter in south Florida, while Jackson Bend was put on the shelf for the remainder of the season after being knocked cold during a training incident and subsequently turning in a disappointing performance at Saratoga in the Grade 1 Forego.

Other potentially key players in the division, such as The Factor and Caleb’s Posse, also have fallen by the wayside due to injury, while Shackleford, the No. 1 rated sprinter in this week’s Watchmaker Watch, is likely headed for either the Dirt Mile or Classic.

The one polarizing force in the division is Amazombie, who clinched the sprint championship with a come-from-behind, neck decision over Force Freeze in the 2011 Sprint. Brought along patiently this season by trainer Bill Spawr with a single goal in mind, defending his Breeders’ Cup title, Amazombie is now the clear-cut leader of the pack once again with one more prep left before the main event, the Grade 1 Santa Anita Sprint Championship on Oct. 6.

Shackleford would likely be among the favorites if he were to run in the BC Sprint. But trainer Dale Romans said that at the moment he’s leaning toward entering the winner of the Grade 1 Metropolitan Handicap in either the Dirt Mile or Classic.

“We’ll leave all our options open, but right now it’s doubtful Shackleford will run in the Sprint,” Romans said. “I believe he can sprint with anybody, but a mile is probably his best distance.”

Shackleford will have his final Breeders’ Cup prep Saturday in the one-mile Kelso at Belmont Park.

Saturday’s Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont is one of the two remaining key preps for the Sprint. The six-furlong Vosburgh drew a competitive field of 10 led by Poseidon’s Warrior and Justin Phillip, who finished a neck apart when first and second, respectively, in Saratoga’s Grade 1 Alfred Vanderbilt on Aug. 5.

The remainder of the Vosburgh lineup consists of Little Drama, Zero Rate Policy, Sean Avery, The Lumber Guy, Fort Loudon, Rothko, Royal Currier, and Caixa Eletronica, several of whom could earn themselves a berth in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with a big effort Saturday.

Amazombie is expected to top a power-packed lineup in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, formerly known as the Ancient Title, a race he captured a year ago as a stepping-stone to his triumph in the Breeders’ Cup. Other key contenders eyeing the Santa Anita Sprint Championship include Camp Victory and trainer Bob Baffert’s duo of Capital Account and Coil.

Baffert said he was originally planning on running Coil this weekend in New York in either the Kelso or Vosburgh, but opted to stay home at the last minute.

“This track out here is a totally different track than it was earlier this year, it went from one extreme to the other, it’s deep and sandy now,” Baffert said. “And I just wanted to see how he’d handle it before going into the Breeders’ Cup.”