Updated on 09/15/2011 2:12PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Sprint (10/11)


ELMONT, N.Y. - Last weekend's three key preps for the $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Belmont Park on Oct. 27 produced three outstanding performances.

At Santa Anita on Saturday, Swept Overboard swept by the defending Sprint champion, Kona Gold, in the final sixteenth of the Ancient Title for a 2 1/2-length win. On Sunday at Belmont, Delaware Township powered through the stretch to win the Forest Hills for the second year in a row. On Saturday at Keeneland, 9-year-old Bet On Sunshine, making his record fifth appearance in the Phoenix Stakes, closed resolutely to win the race for the second time.

Swept Overboard's trainer, Craig Dollase, is headed to the Sprint for the second time after winning the race with Reraise in 1998. Dollase said he liked his chances with Reraise, the third betting choice that year, and feels confident Swept Overboard, who became a Grade 1 winner in the Ancient Title, could give him his second Sprint win.

Swept Overboard, a 4-year-old, earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 122, topped this year only by Aptitude's 123 in the Jockey Club Gold Cup.

"I wouldn't want to change places with anybody," Dollase said. "I know he had a weight advantage, but I think he would have won carrying whatever."

In the Ancient Title, Swept Overboard closed from last into a sizzling pace to overtake Kona Gold, the 1-5 favorite, in deep stretch. Kona Gold packed 127 pounds, 11 more than the winner. It was Kona Gold's first loss since March 2000.

"It was a lot of weight and he ran his guts out," said Kona Gold's trainer, Bruce Headley. "That's a good horse that beat us."

Kona Gold will try to become the first horse to win two runnings of the Sprint.

Delaware Township cruised to a 3 1/4-length win over Hook and Ladder in the Forest Hills, a race he won last year before finishing 10th in the Sprint at Churchill. Delaware Township's trainer, Ben Perkins Jr., said having the Sprint at Belmont, with its sweeping turns, is a tactical advantage.

"Our horse performs better here because he's not a classic sprinter," Perkins said. "He's not quick; he's got that big stride."

The connections of Hook and Ladder and Peeping Tom, who finished fourth in the Forest Hills, said they are considering the Sprint.

Bet On Sunshine, third in both the 1997 and 2000 Sprints, came with a tremendous late run to win the Phoenix by 1 3/4 lengths over Robin de Nest. Bet On Sunshine's trainer, Paul McGee, said he won't do much with his gelding before the Sprint.

"I'll train him light; he shouldn't need a whole lot," McGee said.

Trainer Linda Rice, who saddled City Zip to a third-place finish in Saturday's Kelso on the turf, said she will cross-enter the Sprint and the Mile.