Updated on 09/15/2011 1:15PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Sprint (10/18)


ELMONT, N.Y. - The $1 million Breeders' Cup Sprint is usually one of the most popular races on the card with horsemen, and this year was no exception. Once again, the six-furlong Sprint drew an oversubscribed field when pre-entries were announced Wednesday at Belmont Park.

Eighteen of the country's best sprinters, including the defending champion and likely favorite, Kona Gold, were pre-entered, but only 14 will be permitted to face starter Bob Duncan on Oct. 27.

There were no surprises among the four horses selected as alternates by the Breeders' Cup racing directors/secretaries panel.

Waiting in the wings are Hook and Ladder, Yonaguska, Snow Ridge, and I Love Silver, who have been ranked in order of preference to draw into the field. For any of these horses to gain a starting berth, there must be defections before final entries are drawn next Wednesday.

City Zip was pre-entered in the Sprint and the Mile, which is his connection's first preference if the weather stays reasonably dry. I Love Silver also was entered in the Mile and will start there. If City Zip goes to the Mile, Hook and Ladder will draw in.

"He'll probably get in, if we want to run," Hook and Ladder's trainer, John Kimmel, said. "It's a tough race; one of the toughest of the day."

The $100,000 Sport Page, also on Oct. 27, could serve as an alternate race for Hook and Ladder and Snow Ridge.

Kona Gold, who after seven consecutive victories suffered his first defeat this month in the Grade 1 Ancient Title, will try to become the first horse to win two runnings of the Sprint. Kona Gold, who will be ridden by Alex Solis, is scheduled to arrive in New York next Tuesday after a final work at Santa Anita, according to trainer Bruce Headley.

Kona Gold was smoking in a bullet five-furlong work in 58.20 seconds on Tuesday.

One of Kona Gold's chief rivals will be Swept Overboard, who beat him in the Ancient Title Handicap. The weights were lopsided that day - Kona Gold packed 127 pounds, giving Swept Overboard 11 pounds. There will be no such weight spread in the weight-for-age Sprint.

Swept Overboard sizzled in a bullet five-furlong move in 58 seconds on Wednesday at Hollywood.

"He came off the track like, 'Give me more,' " said Craig Dollase, Swept Overboard's trainer.

In addition to Kona Gold and Swept Overboard, the strong West Coast contingent consists of front-runners Caller One and Five Star Day; and El Corredor. Caller One and El Corredor will arrive Tuesday. Five Star Day has been training at Belmont since Oct. 10 and looked awesome in his five-furlong work in 1:00.05 on Tuesday.

The Bobby Frankel-trained Squirtle Squirt has been in New York since winning the Grade 1 King's Bishop in August at Saratoga.

The strongest representatives among the locally based horses are Forest Hills winner Delaware Township and Vosburgh winner Left Bank, who have won seven of nine starts at Belmont combined. Carter winner Peeping Tom also calls Belmont home. Alannan, a non-factor in the Vosburgh when sixth, has trained in New York since August.

At age 9, Bet On Sunshine, who trains in Kentucky for Paul McGee, is looking to become the oldest winner of a Breeders' Cup race. The gelding finished third in the 1997 and 2000 Sprint.

The speedy Xtra Heat, the lone filly in the bunch, has history on her side: Three fillies have captured the Sprint, including the two times the race was run at Belmont. Adding credibility to the filly angle is the six times females have finished second in the Sprint.

Xtra Heat worked five furlongs in 59.60 seconds at Laurel on Wednesday.

Mozart, the lone European pre-entered, will try to emulate Sheikh Albadou, the only foreign-based runner to win the Sprint, in 1991.

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