07/31/2016 8:59PM

Lord Nelson blazes in Bing Crosby, earns Breeders' Cup Sprint berth

Lord Nelson and jockey Flavien Prat win the Bing Crosby Stakes on Sunday at Del Mar.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Trainer Bob Baffert ended a memorable day Sunday with a powerhouse victory by Lord Nelson at Del Mar in the Grade 1, $301,035 Bing Crosby Stakes, which earned Lord Nelson an automatic berth into the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 5 at Santa Anita through the “Win and You’re In” program.

The race was never in doubt. Lord Nelson ($4), the favorite, sat third while just behind and outside two dueling leaders, effortlessly moved to them on the turn, then drew away through the lane for a four-length victory.

What is in doubt is whether he ran the fastest six furlongs in track history. He just might have, but there’s no way of knowing for certain.

Lord Nelson was timed in a blistering 1:07.65 for six furlongs. The track record is listed in the program as 1:07.60, set by King of Cricket in 1973. However, King of Cricket actually ran six furlongs in 1:07 3/5, and that is expressed in the program as 1:07.60. But in his era, races were timed in fifths of a second, instead of the more-precise hundredths of today. So, King of Cricket could have run six furlongs anywhere from 1:07.60 to 1:07.79.

Lord Nelson will head into the fall as perhaps the horse to beat in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Since returning from a five-month layoff, he has won all three of his starts, his prior two at Santa Anita, including the Grade 1 Triple Bend going seven furlongs. On Sunday, he ran the fastest race of his life on raw time, and likely a career-best Beyer Speed Figure, eclipsing the 100 he earned in his first two starts this year.

“He’s improving. He’s become a really serious sprinter,” Baffert said. “I was worried about the cutback, but he’s doing so well. He’s improving. He was close to those splits and he kicked.”

Subtle Indian and Justin Squared dueled through blazing fractions of 21.16 seconds for the opening quarter and 43.73 seconds for a half-mile. Lord Nelson, under Flavien Prat, was up by two at mid-stretch after the two leaders chucked it, and he doubled his lead at the wire.

Indexical, a 42-1 shot, finished second, 3 1/4 lengths in front of third-place Alsvid. Kaabraaj was fourth and was followed, in order, by Home Run Kitten, Justin Squared, Dream Saturday, and Subtle Indian. Bluegrass Bronco was scratched Sunday morning.

Lord Nelson was the third winner on the card for Baffert, who also won with American Pharoah’s full sister, the 2-year-old filly American Cleopatra, in her debut, as well as an allowance race with Jazzy Times.

Lord Nelson, 4, is a son of Pulpit, whom B. Wayne Hughes of Spendthrift Farm acquired late last year as a stallion prospect. Baffert said he told Hughes that Lord Nelson could continue to race at age 4 if he was freshened, hence the lengthy vacation until his 2016 debut on June 3.

Now, with three wins in three starts, Baffert said he just wants Lord Nelson “to hold that form until the Breeders’ Cup.”

Lord Nelson has now won six times in 12 starts. He ended the weekend on an upbeat note for Hughes, whose mare Beholder was narrowly beaten on Saturday in the Grade 1 Clement Hirsch here.

“That’s the ups and downs of the game,” Baffert said.

On Sunday, with three wins here and a second with American Freedom in the Haskell at Monmouth, the needle was pointing up for Baffert.

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