10/24/2012 4:33PM

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint: Everyone has a shot in oversubscribed race

Coady Photography
Bridgetown, on left winning the Woodford Stakes at Keeneland, may not be suited by the unique downhill layout of Santa Anita's turf course.

Handicappers expecting to come up with the winner of the 2012 Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint may be disappointed to find that Daily Racing Form past performances don’t come with a decoder ring, Ouija board, or Magic 8 Ball.

That’s because there are far more questions than there are answers when it comes to assessing the chances of many of the contenders in this race, which drew 17 pre-entries, only 14 of which will be allowed to start. For instance: What happened to Starspangledbanner in that last race in France, where he finished last of 11?

Does Bridgetown really want to go 6 1/2 furlongs on a downhill course at this stage of his career?

Is California Flag ready for this off a long layoff?

How about Mizdirection? Great Attack? Who is the most dangerous speed?

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: Pre-entered fields with odds and comments]

It does seem appropriate that one of the main threats in the race is named Next Question, winner of the Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine in his most recent race. The 96 Beyer he posted in that victory puts him right in the thick of the discussion. But there are unresolved issues with that gelding as well. Can he run back to that figure when he’s on top of a pace that doesn’t feature a slow opening quarter in 23 seconds, as was the case in his last two? Is he fast enough to handle the speed of Chosen Miracle and Great Mills? And will he regress off that career-high figure?

This Turf Sprint is the first preference for Boxeur des Rues, entered both here and in the Sprint on the main track, but he’s never won a sprint race on either surface in his career. This is also the first preference for Reneesgotzip, who is cross-entered in the Filly and Mare Sprint, but she’s never even raced on the turf. Global Power has, but he’s never sprinted on it.

There’s no question that Unbridled’s Note has a big shot in the race off his win in the Eddie D last time out, but while he was clearly best in that prep it did mark his first time on the surface, he enjoyed a perfect trip, and he spots a world of turf experience to several key rivals.

Corporate Jungle seems to want shorter, Upgrade seems to want longer, and Camp Victory hasn’t won on the turf since February of 2011, when he captured a $40,000 claiming race. Starspangled Heat and Tale of a Champion don’t appear to be fast enough, true. But both have experience over the downhill course and both ran well enough in those races to rate an outside chance in a wide-open Turf Sprint.