09/16/2013 4:47PM

Breeders' Cup Sprint: Fawkes has strong contender in Bahamian Squall

Coady Photography
Bahamian Squall earned a fees-paid berth in the Breeders' Cup Sprint by winning the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder in July.

Trainer David Fawkes already has won the Breeders’ Cup Sprint once, in 2010 with Big Drama, and he’s getting excited about his prospects of repeating that feat this fall with Bahamian Squall.

Bahamian Squall was the first horse to sew up a spot in the starting gate for the 2013 Sprint by virtue of his victory over defending Sprint champion Trinniberg in the Grade 2 Smile Sprint Handicap at Calder on July 6. He returned a month later with perhaps an even stronger effort, earning a career-high 104 Beyer Speed Figure while finishing a troubled second behind Justin Phillip in the Grade 1 Alfred G. Vanderbilt Handicap at Saratoga.

Fawkes’s confidence in Bahamian Squall grew even stronger after he worked an easy half-mile in 47.23 seconds, with a final quarter in 23.31, under exercise rider Stephanie LaRicci on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

“That work was as pretty as you could want,” Fawkes said. “You couldn’t ask for a horse to be doing any better than he’s done since his last start. He’s even sharper now than he was before he won the Smile or ran in the Vanderbilt. The one thing I’ve noticed about him is that he’s staying straighter in his works and his races as he’s matured, where previously he’d always tried to drift a little.”

Bahamian Squall will have one more work at Gulfstream before shipping to Belmont Park for the Grade 1 Vosburgh on Oct. 5. Fawkes is following the same script that worked so well three years ago with Big Drama, who also won the Smile Sprint and finished second in both the Vanderbilt and Forego prior to his victory in the 2010 Sprint.

[BREEDERS’ CUP 2013: See DRF’s top contenders]

Fast Bullet might be the fastest horse in training, but his status for the Sprint remains in question in light of his seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 Forego. The outing was only the second this year for Fast Bullet and his first since he easily defeated stablemate Justin Phillip in the Grade 2 True North Handicap 12 weeks earlier. It also was his first start since being transferred from trainer Bob Baffert’s barn to D. Wayne Lukas a week prior to the Forego.

“He’s a very fragile horse who has a lot of issues, but he came out of the Forego physically sound,” said Ahmed Zayat, who owns both Fast Bullet and Justin Phillip. “Wayne said he was as tired as a horse could get after the race – that he even had to stop several times walking back to the barn, he was so exhausted.”  

Zayat said Fast Bullet is at Churchill Downs, where Lukas will attempt to train him up to the Sprint.

“I don’t know if the horse was trying to tell us in the Forego that he was done, but Wayne is encouraged with what he’s seen since the race and asked for a chance to get him to the Sprint,” Zayat said. “He said he didn’t have much time to get to know this horse before the Forego, but he’s going to try to get him fit, fit, fit for the Breeders’ Cup. At the moment, we’re making no commitments. We’ll just see how things go over the next month or so.” 

Justin Phillip, who finished third behind Strapping Groom in the Forego following his first Grade 1 victory in the Vanderbilt, also will have his final Breeders’ Cup prep in the Vosburgh. Justin Phillip, who finished fifth in the 2012 Sprint, worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.90 on Monday at Belmont.

“Steve [Asmussen] told me he worked lights-out today – that he was very, very happy with him,” Zayat said.