10/06/2009 11:00PM

Contenders tune up much like they did last year


Lately, some of the more prominent Turf Sprint contenders have been reprising their schedules from last year, notably in last week's Morvich at Santa Anita and Prix de l'Abbaye at Longchamp.

California Flag, who had surgery to remove bone chips from an ankle after closing out 2008 with a win in the Hollywood Turf Express, wired the Morvich for the second straight year under Joe Talamo. His half-mile time of 43.04 seconds sounds fast, until you realize he scorched the same real estate in an otherworldly 41.81 seconds in the inaugural Turf Sprint and was still on the lead at the stretch call before the roof fell in.

"He's by far the fastest horse I've ever ridden," said Joe Talamo, who has been aboard for all seven of California Flag's wire-to-wire victories.

Meanwhile, Desert Code wound up seventh of 10 in the Morvich, which is exactly where he finished last year as a prelude to a shocking 36-1 upset in the Turf Sprint.

"He basically needed the race," said jockey Richard Migliore. "He made a little run, then kind of leveled off. No amount of work can do what a race can do."

Meanwhile, Total Gallery and Fleeting Spirit, a neck apart finishing one-two in last Sunday's Prix de l'Abbaye, are both under consideration for the Turf Sprint, but reading between the lines of post-race comments from their respective connections, Fleeting Spirit seems far more likely to venture across the pond.

Total Gallery, a 3-year-old who was making his first start outside Britain for trainer Stan Moore, demonstrated the ability to handle firm turf by turning back Fleeting Spirit for his first group stakes win.

"He's just improved and improved," said Moore afterward. "We thought the ground might be a bit too quick, but he's proved there that he's pretty awesome. We'll play it by ear and see how he comes out of the race. He's definitely a horse to be reckoned with next year."

Fleeting Spirit was the lukewarm favorite in the 2008 Turf Sprint after running fifth in the Prix de l'Abbaye, and the 4-year-old filly is on target for another crack at the boys after finishing strongly for second to Total Gallery.

"I think she's the best sprinter in Europe, so it would be good to take on the Americans and try to become world champion," said co-owner Paul Roy.