Updated on 09/15/2011 2:06PM

Countdown to the Cup: The Sprint (9/27)


Left Bank is headed straight to the Breeders' Cup Sprint after wearing down pacesetter and favorite Squirtle Squirt to win last Saturday's Grade 1 Vosburgh at Belmont by a half-length.

Left Bank's time of 1:20.73 was the Vosburgh's fastest running at Belmont and the second-fastest in 62 runnings. Only Dr. Fager ran a faster Vosburgh, 1:20.20, at Aqueduct in 1968.

Left Bank's trainer, Todd Pletcher, has run three horses in the Sprint, with his best finish coming from More Than Ready, who was fifth last year.

The Sprint usually draws a capacity field of 14 runners, many of whom come out of the gate at breakneck speed. Pletcher said it is a tricky race to win. Of the eight Breeders' Cup races, "You could make a case the Sprint is possibly the most difficult race to win," Pletcher said.

Pletcher said that while he would prefer the Sprint were run at seven furlongs, he believes Left Bank will be able to get good position behind a blazing pace.

"I think seven furlongs is his best distance, but he's run big races at three-quarters, and hopefully it will even out with a very hotly contested pace."

Artax (1999) is the only Vosburgh winner to capture the Sprint, and he had a win in between, in the Forest Hills.

Squirtle Squirt also will run back in the Sprint. Say Florida Sandy, a well-beaten fourth in the Vosburgh, is not expected to run.

Snow Ridge and City Zip, the winner and runner-up in last Saturday's Kentucky Cup Sprint, are headed to the Breeders' Cup. Linda Rice, trainer of the 3-year-old City Zip, said she didn't know if City Zip would have another race before the Sprint.

Xtra Heat, the remarkable filly who has won 16 of 19 starts, prepares for the Sprint in Saturday's $100,000 Sweet and Sassy at Delaware Park.

Caller One, who might pose the biggest threat to Kona Gold in the Breeders' Cup Sprint, was under consideration for Saturday's $60,000 Marfa Stakes at Turfway, but instead will train up to the Sprint, according to his trainer, Jim Chapman.

Next weekend at Santa Anita, Kona Gold will defend his title in the $200,000 Ancient Title Breeders' Cup Handicap, a race he has used as a springboard to the Sprint the last three years.

Sprint hopefuls also will be in action in New York and Kentucky next weekend.

At Belmont, Forego winner Delaware Township will run in the $250,000 Forest Hills Handicap on Oct. 7. Peeping Tom, who was forced to miss the Vosburgh because of a cough, is possible for the Grade 2 Forest Hills.

On Oct. 6 at Keeneland, Bet on Sunshine is expected to make his fifth appearance in the $250,000 Phoenix Breeders' Cup, a race that propelled him to a pair of third-place finishes in the Sprint, in 1997 and last year.