10/23/2008 11:00PM

Even linemakers can't agree on who's best


ARCADIA, Calif. - The inaugural running of the $1 million Turf Sprint may be the most competitive of the nine Breeders' Cup races to be run Saturday. To illustrate the point, consider the differences in two morning lines set for the race.

Santa Anita morning-linemaker Jeff Tufts installed Get Funky as a lukewarm choice at

9-2. Mike Watchmaker, national handicapper for Daily Racing Form, set that horse's odds at 10-1, or his co-fifth choice. Watchmaker installed Mr. Nightlinger as his 3-1 morning-line favorite while Tufts made that horse his co-third choice at 6-1.

If success down Santa Anita's hillside turf course counts, then Get Funky may be the right horse, regardless of his odds. Get Funky, trained by John Sadler, has won 2 of 3 sprints on this course at the Turf Sprint distance of 6o1/2 furlongs.

The race he lost was the Grade 3 Morvich here on opening day of this meet, when Sadler felt the course was favoring speed. California Flag, who is also in this field, carried his speed to a three-length victory over Get Funky, while in receipt of seven pounds. On Saturday, they'll be at equal weights.

"He'd be the favorite if he didn't get beat last time," said Sadler, who trains Get Funky for owner Keith Abrahams. "He's won all his turf sprints except the last one, and last time it was opening day, it was 100 [degrees]; he got a little dehydrated on us because it was so hot. But he's good in this race."

Sadler believes that California Flag "freaked" while able to get a clear lead in the Morvich.

"We think on the big day he'll get some more company up front," Sadler said.

Mr. Nightlinger, who has won five straight turf sprints, might just be the one to supply that company. A son of Indian Charlie, Mr. Nightlinger has been in front in all of his victories and he'll likely need to use his speed from post 14.

"He'll be forwardly placed, and anybody that rushes up and wants to show speed, that'll give us the opportunity to sit off," said trainer Bret Calhoun, whose horse is trying this course and 6 1/2 furlongs for the first time.

Scott Lake has run two horses in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on dirt, finishing second in 2002 with Thunderello and third in 2003 with Shake You Down. Saturday, he'll run the 6-year-old True to Tradition in the Turf Sprint. True to Tradition has won 3 of 4 starts since Lake added blinkers to his equipment following a loss to First Defence in the Grade 3 Jaipur at Belmont.

"I thought he was begging for blinkers," Lake said, noting that in his two starts before getting them, True to Tradition "got to those horses and hung a little bit. Since the addition of blinkers he's won three out of his four starts, and the one start he got beat wasn't his fault."

Heros Reward finished a length behind True to Tradition in the Nearctic at Woodbine 21 days ago. Trainer Dale Capuano believes that Heros Reward will relish Santa Anita's hard turf course.

The Europeans will be well represented with Diabolical, and the fillies Fleeting Spirit and Only Answer. Diabolical, now owned by Godolphin, began his career in the U.S. with trainer Steve Klesaris. Though best known as a dirt sprinter, he has won on turf.

Fleeting Spirit, a 3-year-old Irish-bred trained by Jeremy Noseda, has defeated males three times, while Only Answer - a 4-year-old Great Britain-bred filly trained by Andre Fabre - has faced colts in her last 10 starts, winning four.

Trainer Steve Asmussen believes longshot Storm Treasure has a puncher's chance to make an impact. He lost by only 1 1/2 lengths to True to Tradition, and Asmussen believes the added distance of this race will help.

"His last eighth of a mile is tremendous," he said. "It's just if he doesn't lose too much ground down the hill for the first time."