09/25/2013 2:42PM

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint: Course and distance experience a huge edge

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Benoit & Associates
Mizdirection was 2 for 2 on the downhill turf course before her victory in last year's Turf Sprint.

The Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint has only a five-year history, brief in comparison to some of the bigger Breeders’ Cup races. But a noticeable trend has still surfaced in the three Turf Sprints that were run over the about 6 1/2-furlong downhill course at Santa Anita. Prior success on the unique downhill course seemed a major advantage in these Turf Sprints, something to keep in mind with the event to be run at Santa Anita again on Nov. 2.

Desert Code (the inaugural winner in 2008), California Flag (2009), and Mizdirection (2012) were the three Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winners at Santa Anita, and all were previous winners over the downhill. Going into their Breeders’ Cup victories, Desert Code was 3 for 4 on the downhill course, California Flag was 2 for 4, and Mizdirection was 2 for 2 on the downhill course.

“It’s definitely a horse-for-course trip,” said trainer Mike Puype, who is pointing Mizdirection toward a defense of her Turf Sprint title. “It’s an asset to know a horse likes the layout. This filly is in between being a sprinter and a router, and this trip really fits her.”

With this in mind, no Turf Sprint prep figures to be more important than Friday’s Grade 3 Eddie D Stakes, the opening day feature of the Santa Anita meet, and that is because it will be run on the downhill course. Among the 14 entered are Unbridled’s Note, whose close second in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint was his only loss in three starts over the downhill; Chips All In, winner of the San Simeon on the downhill last April; and Caracortado, who will be making his first start since winning the Daytona on the downhill almost 21 months ago.

Perhaps it is a coincidence, but European shippers, who have enjoyed tremendous success in all the other Breeders’ Cup turf events, have been shut out so far in the Turf Sprint. In regard to the Turf Sprints at Santa Anita, the best finish by a European shipper was a second by Diabolical in the first running in 2008. The best European finish in 2009 was Lord Shanakill’s 12th, and last year, Starspangledbanner’s 10th.

That might be why only one European shipper is currently identified as being a contender for this year’s Turf Sprint, according to the International Racing Bureau. That European is Lethal Force, who did not handle off ground last time out in the Haydock Sprint Cup, but who did win a pair of Group 1 stakes over the summer. The IRB advises that Gordon Lord Byron, winner of the Haydock Sprint Cup, is more likely to go to Hong Kong later this fall if he is to ship internationally. The same is also likely for Jwala, winner of the Nunthorpe, a Turf Sprint Win and You’re In race. However, other European Turf Sprint prospects might surface after next month’s Prix de la Foret at Longchamp, and British Champions Sprint at Ascot.