07/27/2012 3:26PM

Del Mar: Amazombie fresh for Bing Crosby Stakes

Email
Barbara D. Livingston
Shackleford (right) outfinishes Amazombie to win the Churchill Downs Stakes on Kentucky Derby Day.

DEL MAR, Calif. – In the nearly three months since Amazombie finished second to Shackleford in the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes on May 5, the performance has increased in stature.

Shackleford went on to win the Grade 1 Metropolitan Mile Handicap at Belmont Park in late May and should have a major role in one-turn races in coming months.

Amazombie had a springtime vacation, one that trainer and co-owner Bill Spawr insists has been a benefit. Amazombie’s rest comes to an end Sunday in the $300,000 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar. The Grade 1 Bing Crosby is a vital race in Amazombie’s season, one that Spawr and co-owner Tom Sanford hope will end in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Santa Anita on Nov. 3.

Last fall, Amazombie won the BC  Sprint at Churchill Downs, a victory that led to him being named the champion sprinter of 2011.

Amazombie has every chance to win that title again this year. But this year’s sprint title could also go to The Factor, a five-time stakes winner who is Amazombie’s main rival in the Bing Crosby, which is run over six furlongs.

[Complete coverage of racing at Del Mar: News, PPs, and video]

Spawr said that Amazombie has thrived during his recent break. When jockey Mike Smith worked Amazombie a half-mile in 47 seconds Thursday, the Hall of Fame rider noticed a difference.

“Mike said he was stronger and more eager than before,” Spawr said. “I think the time off has helped. We won’t have any excuses.”

A winner of 11 of 26 starts and $1,725,378, Amazombie has started three times this year. In addition to the seven-furlong Churchill Downs, he was third behind The Factor in the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes over seven furlongs at Santa Anita on Feb. 25 and won the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes there over 6 1/2 furlongs April 7.

Third in the 2011 Bing Crosby, Sunday’s race will be Amazombie’s first start over six furlongs since the BC Sprint.

There are only five entrants in the Bing Crosby. Amazombie drew the rail, with the speedy Comma to the Top to his outside. Don Tito, who won an optional claimer at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 8, is in the middle of the field, inside of two runners trained by Bob Baffert – The Factor and Capital Account.

The Factor has the speed to take the lead, while Capital Account is best as a stalker. A 5-year-old horse, Capital Account is making his stakes debut in the Bing Crosby.

Spawr has a slight concern about Amazombie’s rail draw and the pace scenario. He would prefer that the 6-year-old Amazombie be a few lengths off the pace for the first half of the race and not too close to the front.

In the Churchill Downs Stakes, Amazombie was always near the front, led in the stretch, and was beaten a length.

“I hope we don’t have to do that,” Spawr said.

“We drew the rail, and that’s compromising, but there are only five horses. For him and his style, it won’t be as big of an issue as if there were 10 horses and he would get shuffled back.”

The Factor is winless in two starts since the San Carlos, a disappointing sixth in the $2 million Golden Shaheen Sprint in Dubai in March and a second, as the 9-10 favorite, in the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Hollywood Park on June 30.

“He got tired,” Baffert said. “He was a little short. The track was demanding, and he ran as hard as he could.

Baffert expects a better performance Sunday.

“He’s got no excuses,” he said. “He’s doing as well as he can do. He needs to get it done.”