10/29/2009 11:00PM

Desert Code looking for Turf Sprint repeat


Last year, Desert Code finished seventh behind the victorious California Flag in the Morvich Handicap before upsetting the Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

This year, California Flag led gate to wire in the Morvich again, with Desert Code seventh. Is there a pattern developing here?

"We're hoping to repeat," David Hofmans, trainer of Desert Code, said with a smile. "If there's enough speed to go early with California Flag, I'd have to think we'd have a shot."

Desert Code was 36-1 when rallying to win the 2008 BC Turf Sprint, and he figures to be a long price again when defending his title.

"Maybe 15-1 or 20-1, I don't know," said Hofmans, whose two other Breeders' Cup winners (Alphabet Soup, 1996 Classic, and Adoration, 2003 Distaff) also have returned big mutuels. "But he should get some of the sentimental vote."

Hofmans said one major reason for greater optimism this year is that Desert Code, a 5-year-old horse owned by Tarabilla Farms Inc., "is probably more fit. I got to train him more at Del Mar this year than last year."

In both years, the Morvich served as a much-needed BC prep following a layoff - 11 weeks in 2008 and 5 1/2 months in 2009.

The $1 million Turf Sprint, to be run "down the hill" at 6 1/2 furlongs, is oversubscribed with 22 horses (14 can run). At least four female runners are expected, with the speedy Canadian Ballet, the first also-eligible, displacing Fleeting Spirit, who is expected to opt instead for the BC Sprint.

Diamondrella, the IEAH Stables mare who has been transferred into the care of trainer Richard Dutrow Jr. since winning the Oct. 10 First Lady at Keeneland, is one of the logical favorites.