09/26/2012 4:41PM

Santa Anita: Eddie D an audition for Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint hopefuls

Benoit & Associates
Comma to the Top will try racing down the hill at Santa Anita for the first time in the Eddie D.

ARCADIA, Calif. – A million-dollar turf sprint will be run Nov. 3 at Santa Anita, but the locals won’t know until Friday if they are good enough for the Breeders’ Cup.

A field of 13 entered the Grade 3, $100,000 Eddie D Stakes on Friday, opening day of the Santa Anita autumn meet. It is a six-figure prep race with seven-figure ramifications, and multiple stakes winner Comma to the Top is among the principal starters.

[SANTA ANITA: Get opening-day PPs and watch the full card live]

So is he good enough for the BC Turf Sprint?

“I think he is, but he’s never run down the hill before,” said Peter Miller, Comma to the Top’s trainer. “We’ll find out.”

The same question applies to improving Shrug – can he earn his way to the BC Turf Sprint?

“We’ll reassess after the race,” said trainer Carla Gaines, who also starts Red Sun.

What about Koast and Calimonco?

“It depends on how they do,” trainer John Sadler said.

None will commit. No reason to yet. The Eddie D Stakes, renamed in honor of popular Hall of Fame jockey Eddie Delahoussaye, did not attract any superstars. But it did draw a good field in which a legitimate case can be made for more than half the runners.

While top local turf sprinters Lakerville, Mr. Gruff, Caracortado, and California Flag are either sidelined or training to the BC Turf Sprint, the Eddie D is a chance for lesser-known runners to emerge.

Shrug did not mature until this year at 4.

“His problem early was learning to relax,” Gaines said. “He was a frustrating horse, because it seemed like a mile was maybe not his best, but the dynamics of sprinting in Southern California you have to have a massively good horse.”

Shrug ended up as a leading contender in the Eddie D partly by chance. He ran two fast allowance races in summer on the main track at Betfair Hollywood Park, but one start this summer at Del Mar was all Gaines needed to see he was not a true synthetic horse.

A five-furlong turf sprint called The Green Flash “was my only option,” she said. “He was there [at Del Mar], he was good, I thought why not try the grass again?”

Good idea.

Shrug won the Green Flash by a nose over Lakerville, which worked well for jockey Victor Espinoza and not so well for jockey Garrett Gomez.

Gaines said Gomez worked extensively with Shrug teaching him to settle, but he was committed to Lakerville in the Green Flash.

Espinoza picked up Shrug; Lakerville lost by a nose and was later sidelined.

Red Sun is the second Gaines starter. He returned from a one-year layoff with a super runner-up finish Aug. 30. Gaines would prefer more time between starts.

“I just don’t know if he’s going to bounce off that race, or not.”

Koast finished fourth as the Green Flash favorite.

“I think he’s better at 6 1/2, and he’s won two down the hill, so it’s a good spot for him,” Sadler said.

Sadler also starts Calimonco, who lost a shoe finishing fifth in the Grade 2 Del Mar Mile. The field for the Eddie D also includes potential pacesetter Chosen Miracle, Octane, Mensa Heat, and shipper Unbridled’s Note.