10/16/2008 11:00PM

Claim cost breeder a shot at Cup

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ARCADIA, Calif. - Of the eight California-breds pre-entered for Breeders' Cup races at Santa Anita next weekend, six are owned by their breeders.

John Harris really wishes that number were seven.

Harris is the breeder of Cost of Freedom, a top candidate for Saturday's $2 million Breeders' Cup Sprint. Cost of Freedom, bred at Harris's farm in Coalinga, Calif., was claimed from him for $50,000 at Del Mar on July 28. Since then, Cost of Freedom has won an allowance race at Del Mar on Aug. 9 and the Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes here on Sept. 27 for owners Gary and Cecil Barber and trainer John Sadler.

For Harris, there is the consolation of stallion and breeder awards, but he and trainer Carla Gaines would certainly prefer to have Cost of Freedom in their stable.

"You hate to lose a horse, but as a breeder, with pride of ownership, you like to see them doing well," Harris said on Thursday. "We thought we'd run him for $50,000 and we thought we wouldn't lose him. That's racing. You can never look back."

Cost of Freedom has arguably the best chance among the California-bred pre-entrants. He is the only statebred pre-entered for the Sprint. The other pre-entrants are Atka in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, Tiz Elemental in the Filly and Mare Sprint, Saucey Evening in the Juvenile Fillies or Juvenile Fillies Turf, Add Heat in the Marathon, California Flag and Idiot Proof in the Turf Sprint, and Bold Chieftain in the BC Mile.

Aside from Cost of Freedom, only Saucey Evening does not race for her breeders, Betty and Larry Mabee's Golden Eagle Farm. Saucey Evening was purchased by George Strawbridge for $160,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale.

Cost of Freedom, by Cee's Tizzy, has won 6 of 10 starts and $344,152. In the BC Sprint, Cost of Freedom will attempt to become the second Cal-bred to win the race in the last three years. Thor's Echo, the champion sprinter of 2006, won the BC Sprint at Churchill Downs that year.

Plagued by physical problems at times during his career, Cost of Freedom surprised Harris when he won. In his second start, at Del Mar in August 2006, Cost of Freedom won a $40,000 claiming race for statebred maidens, but was off for the next 18 months, until March of this year.

"He got to the races at 3 and it was nip and tuck whether he would get to the races at all," Harris said. "We had to stop on him."

Cost of Freedom was turned out with a ligament problem in a knee, Harris said. Since his return earlier this year, Cost of Freedom has not been worse than third in eight starts, winning five races. For Harris and Gaines, Cost of Freedom won three races earlier this year, including an allowance race for statebreds at Santa Anita. He was second in the Tiznow Stakes on the California Gold Rush Day program at Hollywood Park in April.

Cost of Freedom is out of the Moscow Ballet mare Freedom Dance. She is the dam of Never Ever, a winner of $148,680 who was trained by Sadler; the winner Two Tone Roan, still owned by Harris; and the unraced 2-year-old filly Freedom High.

Freedom High worked at Santa Anita last month but later developed pneumonia and is being treated at the Alamo Pintado Equine Clinic in Los Olivos, Calif. Harris said Freedom High may survive and become a broodmare, but that her career as a racehorse is in jeopardy.

At least Cost of Freedom is still racing. Harris knew he was taking a risk by dropping Cost of Freedom into a $50,000 claimer. Cost of Freedom won the race by a half-length and was taken by Sadler. The subsequent success has surprised Harris. "We knew he was good, but we didn't know he was that good," he said.

If he wins the BC Sprint on Saturday, Cost of Freedom could earn the Eclipse Award as champion sprinter.