10/29/2012 5:26PM

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint: California Flag's task made more difficult by post 1

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Barbara D. Livingston
California Flag, shown training on Sunday, won the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint in 2009. He is now 8 years old.

ARCADIA, Calif. – If California Flag wins the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint for the second time in a long career at age 8, he will have to turn in a spectacular performance after drawing the rail in a 14-horse field.

While the inside post has won at an 11-percent clip (70-637) in all 6 1/2-furlong turf races at Santa Anita since 2007, a speed horse – like California Flag – breaking from the fence in a race run on the unusual downhill course here faces an especially daunting task. And California Flag’s situation is made all the more difficult by the presence of some brilliantly quick horses drawn to his outside, horses like Great Mills in post 3, and Reneesgotzip in post 7.

One horse whose connections wanted to run in the Turf Sprint, Boxeur des Rues, was excluded from the oversubscribed race. Global Power is the first also-eligible, and can get into the race if anyone scratches, while Starspangled Heat is the second also-eligible.

The Turf Sprint has never been won by an international shipper and includes only one such starter this year, the Aidan O’Brien-trained Starspangledbanner, who will break from post 14.

Whoever winds up going favored in the Turf Sprint – and that horse’s identity isn’t obvious: Bridgetown? Unbridled’s Note? – is unlikely to be a shorter price than something like 5-1. Bridgetown has a good draw in post 9 and has won three turf-sprint stakes this year, but while he ran well in his lone prior Santa Anita grass race, finishing second in the 2009 Juvenile Turf, that race was a two-turn mile, and Bridgetown has no experience going “down the hill.”

Unbridled’s Note made his turf debut here Sept. 28 and won the Eddie D Stakes racing on the downhill course.

“There’s a ton of speed in the race,” said trainer Steve Asmussen, who sends out Great Mills in addition to Unbridled’s Note, while pointing out that a horse’s draw can be rendered meaningless by an eventful start. “The thing about post position is that a lot of the time you feel a different about things right after they break.”