11/03/2010 4:40PM

Clean trip key in deep Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint

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Barbara D. Livingston
Rose Catherine, a daughter of 2004 BC Sprint winner Speightstown, is one of four females in the field for the Turf Sprint.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – It might be argued that every inch, every maneuver, and every decision in any given race are critical to the outcome. But when it comes to a race like the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, the margins for error are so small that the winner not only will have to run his eyeballs out but also is likely to have been particularly fortunate in all those other respects.

Indeed, instantaneous reactions and good old fashioned racing luck could play large roles in what unfolds Saturday when 14 extremely fast horses speed into and out of a turn in the five-furlong Turf Sprint at Churchill Downs. Silver Timber is the 4-1 favorite in a race that, in reality, doesn’t have one as another nine horses have been pegged at 12-1 or lower on the morning line.

Silver Timber, as good as he might be, exemplifies just the type of horse who will need to have things go his way Saturday. A confirmed closer, the New York-bred gelding has racked up 13 wins and more than $675,000 in earnings, but he likely will have to negotiate some tight spots and pass quite a few rivals to take down the ultimate prize in this niche division.

“We will need the trip,” said his jockey, Julien Leparoux, who was aboard when Silver Timber rallied strongly four weeks ago to win what arguably was the deepest prep for the Turf Sprint, the Grade 3 Woodford at Keeneland. “This is an honest horse, and I’m sure he is as good as these others. We just need things to work out.”

Silver Timber won his only race over the course, taking this year’s Churchill Downs Turf Sprint on Oaks Day in course-record time for the BC Turf Sprint’s five-furlong distance.

Over the last two years, Chamberlain Bridge has been a major force in this division, having won a remarkable eight turf-sprint stakes in that time. He clearly fits Saturday, but he not only will have to overcome the inside post, where being pinned against the hedge by a swarm of rivals can cramp one’s style, but also a recent right-front foot abscess that led trainer Bret Calhoun to skip a scheduled workout last weekend with the millionaire gelding.

“I think we’re good to go,” Calhoun said. “The timing was far enough out from the race that the foot shouldn’t be a factor. I’m happy with how we’re going into this. Now it’s up to the horse.”

Some of the many other possibilities in the Turf Sprint include Central City, whose three cracks at the turf-sprint specialty have all been terrific; Stradivinsky, a former claimer now racing for the ever-dangerous tandem of jockey John Velazquez and trainer Rick Dutrow; Unzip Me, a Southern California filly with 7 wins from her last 8 races, all turf sprints; Bridgetown, runner-up last year in the BC Juvenile Turf; Quick Enough, winner of the Grade 3 Morvich last out at Hollywood Park; Rose Catherine, an ultra-quick daughter of 2004 BC Sprint winner Speightstown; and Grand Adventure, a Canadian colt in solid recent form at Woodbine.

Stradivinsky was claimed for $50,000 by Dutrow here in May, when the gelding earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in a dominant victory.

“He’s already won on that grass course, so we figure that’s a little bit of an advantage,” Dutrow said.

Four of the 14 main-body horses are female: Unzip Me, Rose Catherine, Waveline, and Canadian Ballet. Two in the field are 3-year-olds: Bridgetown and Rose Catherine.

In all, 15 are entered, although the longshot also-eligible, Yield Bogey, can make the race only in the case of a scratch by 7 a.m. Eastern on Friday.

This is just the third running of the BC Turf Sprint and the first at five furlongs. The first two were run at 6 1/2 furlongs “down the hill” at Santa Anita, with Desert Code winning at 36-1 in 2008 and California Flag prevailing as the 3-1 favorite in 2009.

California Flag is back Saturday, although his form is discouraging, especially his last-place finish in the Woodford. He will break from post 12 with Victor Espinoza aboard.

“It was unsettling not to see him really try last time,” trainer Brian Koriner said. “He just couldn’t seem to get a hold of that course over there. But if he gets this one, he’ll be back in the game.”

The Turf Sprint is carded as the sixth of 11 Saturday races and is the first leg of a $2 million-guaranteed pick six. Post time is 3:15 p.m. Eastern.