09/29/2009 11:00PM

Horse-for-course angle ultra-important


A downhill run from the break, a slight right (the only right turn in North American racing), and a brief crossover onto the main track make this one of the most idiosyncratic turf-sprint layouts in captivity. While the horse-for-course angle can be overblown elsewhere, it applies to the "about" 6 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita absolutely. Desert Code, last year's inaugural winner at $75, has won 5 of 8 career starts under those conditions heading into Wednesday's Morvich, the opening-day feature at Santa Anita that loomed a key prep for Downhill Racer 2.

Desert Code (who has won just twice from 14 starts under different circumstances) staged an incredulous rally in last year's Turf Sprint, closing from 10th at the stretch call to get up in time as the longest shot in a 14-horse field. Of course, it helped that California Flag (slated to defend his Morvich title Wednesday) cut other-worldly splits of 41.81 seconds for the opening half-mile and 1:05.32 for six furlongs.

Those two, along with Stoneside, Bruce's Dream, and Perfect Officer, were the ones to watch out of the Morvich. On Sunday morning, it may be worth trying to get a look at the Prix de L'Abbaye from Longchamp. Otherwise, the picture is rather fuzzy five weeks out. Of the three Win and You're In races so far, King's Apostle, winner of the Prix Maurice de Gheest, has been retired; Danleigh, winner of the Mankato Stakes, will reportedly remain in Australia for the Schweppes Stakes (Oct. 24) at Moonee Valley and the Patinack Farm Classic (Nov. 7) at Flemington; and the well-traveled Yankee Injunuity, beaten a head as the favorite in the recent Kentucky Cup Turf Dash, has a berth after winning a hand-timed Arlington Sprint Handicap back on July 11.

Perhaps the most intriguing entrant would be the 5-year-old mare Diamondrella, purchased last week by IEAH Stables, who could conceivably run here, or in the Mile, or in the Filly and Mare Sprint.