11/02/2012 9:46AM

Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint: Race pivots around a magic number

Barbara D. Livingston
Great Mills figures to be part of the early pace in the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Forty-three seconds. Keep that time firmly in mind as the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint unfolds. If the half-mile sprint in the Turf Sprint comes up a couple of ticks slower than 43, horses on the lead are going to have a chance. Anything faster and the race is likely to fall apart and fall to a closer.

Santa Anita has hosted two Breeders’ Cups since the Turf Sprint became a BC race. In 2008, the front-runners tore each other apart with an opening quarter-mile in 20.73 seconds and a half in 41.81. Turf sprints at Santa Anita are run on a downhill course that produces fractional times much faster than typical races, but still, the 2008 pace was insane, and no horse near the lead finished in the top seven, as 36-1 bomb Desert Code rallied from 12th.

In 2009, the early splits were 21.50 and 43.09 seconds. California Flag was up by two lengths after a half-mile and won by 1 3/4 lengths.
This year’s race leans more toward 2008 than 2009.

California Flag, ageless wonder, is back for his fifth BC Turf Sprint and as quick as ever. He drew the rail and will have to leave the gate gunning. Great Mills, who has great early foot, should be right with him. Reneesgotzip has been the first-call leader in four of her five sprints, and Chosen Miracle looks as fast to the quarter-mile as anyone. Bridgetown and Next Question figure to be pressing – and handicappers might be well served to look long and hard at any proven Turf Sprint closer.

Fourteen horses are in the main body of the field, with also-eligibles Global Power and Unusual Heat needing a scratch to draw in. Bridgetown is the morning-line favorite, but his 9-2 morning-line odds speak to the race’s unpredictable nature.

Trainer Steve Asmussen, who sent Storm Treasure to a third-place finish in the fall-apart 2008 Turf Sprint, has two entrants, front-running Great Mills and mid-pack stalker Unbridled’s Note, who has an all-important win over the Santa Anita downhill turf-sprint course in the Sept. 28 Eddie D. Stakes. Asmussen said earlier this week that Great Mills will relish the firm turf here, but given the pace scenario, Unbridled’s Note has the better chance. The Eddie D. was the 3-year-old’s turf debut, but Asmussen had considered moving Unbridled’s Note to grass several months ago.

“He was doing so well on dirt then, we didn’t want to take that away,” Asmussen said.

Unbridled’s Note finished third in the Amsterdam and third in the King’s Bishop at Saratoga, then won the Eddie D. by 1 1/4 lengths after tracking a moderate pace from fourth. Breaking from post 13 under Corey Nakatani, he should find himself farther off the leaders Saturday.
Mizdirection, a 4-year-old filly, hasn’t raced since May 27, but she is 2 for 2 going down the Santa Anita hill and is not a speed horse.

“We just freshened her up after that race in May,” he said. “No surgeries, no issues. She can run fresh. Her two best races are over this course, and Desert Code, California Flag, they’re local horses that won this race. I think the speed will run away from her and she’ll find herself in a good spot.”

That’s the same thought trainer Chad Brown is having about Corporate Jungle, whose 10 starts have come in two-turn turf races. Corporate Jungle has enough quality to have finished second to leading BC Mile contender Wise Dan in the Fourstardave at Saratoga this summer.

“He can pull sometimes, and I think the pace is going to keep him off the bridle,” Brown said. “The biggest advantage for him is the firm turf, which he loves.”

Camp Victory has run decently in Santa Anita turf sprints without winning, but he was dull last out in Santa Anita Sprint Championship, albeit on dirt. Nine-time winner Bridgetown finished second racing a two-turn mile in the 2009 BC Juvenile Turf on the Santa Anita course, but has evolved into more of a five- 51/2-furlong specialist who might get too much of the early pace. Great Attack’s running style for most of his career also would put him closer than preferable to the pace, but in his most recent race, a win over Bridgetown in the May 5 Turf Sprint at Churchill, Great Attack rallied from 11th to win.

“He bruised his foot pretty good there, and it just took him this long to get his feet back together,” said trainer Wesley Ward. “He can fire fresh, and if you work his last work at Keeneland, it was just how he ran at Churchill.”