07/27/2017 1:26PM

Hovdey: A little snip, snip, and then zoom, zoom!


Hide the children and bolt the doors. The wild things are being let loose both East and West on Saturday, when Saratoga presents the Alfred G. Vanderbilt and Del Mar offers the Bing Crosby, both at three-quarters of a mile.

These are the quick-twitch Thoroughbreds, built for rapid delivery, able to shade 12 seconds for every one of those six furlongs if the situation demands. There is nothing fancy or fussy about them. No pointless pretensions to settling, rating, or someday getting a route of ground. They are the equine version of the athlete described by the track coach Sam Mussabini, played by Ian Holm, in “Chariots of Fire.” To wit:

“A short sprint is run on nerves. It’s tailor-made for neurotics.”

Some of them hide it well. Peter Miller, who has three entrants in the Crosby, describes his boys as laid-back clock-punchers with very few issues beyond their next meal. Roy H, St. Joe Bay, and Solid Wager are all graded stakes winners and are among 11 in the 72nd running of the Grade 1 Crosby.

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“I wish you could pinpoint a horse’s hole card by personality, but with sprinters, it’s more on body type,” Miller said this week from his San Luis Rey Downs stable.

“Of course, they’re all geldings,” Miller noted. “I have a propensity for geldings. They’re easier to work with, and besides, the odds of making a stallion are, what, one in a hundred thousand? That’s not to say it’s always the answer. If it was so easy to turn a colt into a graded stakes horse just cutting him, wouldn’t they all be geldings?”

Miller conceded that the removal of Roy H’s testicles last year contributed to his emergence this year as one of the best sprinters in the West. The 5-year-old son of More Than Ready, named for the grandfather of owner Gary Hartunian, was 1 for 11 as 2017 dawned. Then, beginning in April, he marched through two allowance races and made a triumphant stakes debut in the True North at Belmont Park on June 9. Announcer Larry Collmus, sounding somewhat surprised by the way Roy H took command, referred to Miller’s runner as “the Californian,” as if he’d come from a galaxy far, far away.

“That’s okay,” Miller said. “I don’t mind being known as the trainer from California, although sometimes it does feel like we’re on Mars out here.”

The lead actor in the Vanderbilt is A. P. Indian, a 7-year-old gelding who has won 11 races, $1.4 million, and been in the money in 18 of his 20 starts. Whitmore and Mind Your Biscuits, the two best sprinters east of the Mississippi, have passed on the race, leaving Awesome Banner and Limousine Liberal as the horses A. P. Indian has to beat.

Miller’s trio is coming up against Drefong, who is making his first start for Charles and Susan Chu since winning the Breeders’ Cup Sprint last November. Miller was asked why he is throwing all his eggs in one Del Mar basket rather than sending one of them to Saratoga for the Vanderbilt.

“Yeah, I suppose we could have divided and tried to conquer,” the trainer replied. “But the Crosby is a Breeders’ Cup Win and You’re In race, and this is where the Breeders’ Cup will be run.”

Enough said. The Crosby, with its field of 11, figures to be at least an early dress rehearsal for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 4 at the same distance. And no one has ever had to apologize for trying to win the coveted summer event, taken in the past by such world-class sprinters as Viking Spirit, Kissin’ George, Chinook Pass, and Kona Gold.

Solid Wager and St. Joe Bay gave Miller one of those days a trainer would like to have over and over again when they finished in a dead heat for the win in the Grade 3 Midnight Lute Stakes last Dec. 31. Solid Wager, a son of Birdonthewire, also won both the 2015 and 2016 runnings of the seven-furlong Cary Grant Stakes for California-breds at Del Mar, while St. Joe Bay’s best race over the track was a 6 1/2-furlong allowance score in December.

Paco Lopez, who rode Roy H for the first time in the True North, is coming to town for an encore. Joe Talamo is back aboard Solid Wager, and Kent Desormeaux is reunited with St. Joe Bay, the winner of the Grade 2 Palos Verdes. His last race was a fourth-place finish to Mind Your Biscuits in the Dubai Golden Shaheen in late March.

“He ran well over there, but he definitely needed some farm time after he came back,” Miller said. “His coat turned, and he lost probably a hundred pounds.

“The time seemed to do him some good,” Miller added. “He’s been working right along since he came back in. Kent was on him the other day and liked how he went, so I’m hopeful he doesn’t have the Dubai bounce.”

Celluloid heroine

Anyone waiting for the traffic to clear after the Del Mar races Saturday might want to wander down to the amphitheater paddock for a sneak preview of the documentary “Zenyatta: Queen of Racing,” directed by film historian Edward “Kip” Hannan. Your humble correspondent wrote the text for the narration and was paid accordingly but derives no further benefit from the experience other than pride of association with this tribute to the greatest mare ever to grace the arena.