09/30/2008 11:00PM

Cost of Freedom shoots to the top of the pile

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On July 28, Cost of Freedom was racing under a $50,000 claiming tag. Just two months later, he's among the leading contenders for the Breeders' Cup Sprint following Saturday's half-length victory over division leader Street Boss in the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita.

Cost of Freedom was one of three horses who vaulted into the top 10 list for the BC Sprint on Oct. 25 with big performances last weekend. Black Seventeen punched his ticket into the Breeders' Cup after upsetting defending champion Fabulous Strike to capture the Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont Park, while Fatal Bullet ran his record to eight wins in nine starts over artificial surfaces after dominating Turfway Park's Grade 3 Kentucky Cup Sprint.

Cost of Freedom was claimed by trainer John Sadler for $50,000 in the interests of owners Gary and Cecil Barber at Del Mar on July 28. The Ancient Title was Cost of Freedom's second victory in as many tries since joining Sadler's barn and his third in as many starts over the artificial surface at Santa Anita. The 110 Beyer Speed Figure he earned in the Ancient Title is the best last-out Beyer of any of the leading contenders for this year's Sprint.

"He was running 5's on the Ragozin sheets when he was entered for $50,000 at Del Mar, and any horse that runs 5's we'll look at for that price," Sadler said when asked to explain the reasoning behind dropping the claim. "Besides, he never had run a bad race. Obviously, being a 5-year-old with only eight starts to that point, there were gaps in his training, and I was a little more skeptical than my owners. But they are gambling-type guys, and with them I have the option to be a little aggressive."

Sadler had to win a shake against four other trainers to get Cost of Freedom that day.

"You have to keep a sense of balance and realize we were lucky to have won the shake," said Sadler.

Cost of Freedom established a 6 1/2-furlong Del Mar track record of 1:15.65 the day he was claimed, and set another in his next start just 12 days later, running six furlongs in 1:08.29 to win a first-level allowance at Del Mar.

"Obviously he's shown a liking for the synthetics," said Sadler. "My only concern about the Breeders' Cup is whether he might bounce. The timing is a tad short since he'll be coming back in 30 days, but decisions and choices are so much more relaxed when you're in your own back yard like we'll be with the Breeders' Cup out here this year."

Black Seventeen was shipped back to his Santa Anita base after his game head decision over Fabulous Strike in the Vosburgh, a race decided over a sloppy track.

"He pulled up pretty tired after traveling all that way and running so hard, and that's our main concern looking ahead to the Sprint, although we're pointing in that direction for now," said trainer Brian Koriner.

Black Seventeen earned a 108 Beyer for winning the Vosburgh.

Fatal Bullet also earned a 108 - a career high - for his 7 3/4-length triumph in the Kentucky Cup Sprint.

Trainer Reade Baker said he was looking forward to bringing Fatal Bullet to Santa Anita for the Sprint.

"He's run some very big races on synthetics, and I don't think we've even gotten to the bottom of him yet," said Baker.

* Trainer Kiaran McLaughlin said that Lucky Island has been taken out of consideration for the Sprint following his disappointing performance in the Vosburgh, but that Abraaj has returned to the track and is still a candidate to make the race. Abraaj, who has not started since winning the Grade 2 Vanderbilt on July 30, was forced to miss the Vosburgh due to a minor ankle issue.