10/04/2012 1:59PM

Santa Anita: Sprint Championship next step in Amazombie's quest to repeat in Breeders' Cup Sprint

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Amazombie wins the Bing Crosby under his regular rider, Mike Smith, at Del Mar in his most recent start.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The 2012 campaign of the reigning sprint champion Amazombie has been built around two autumn races – Saturday’s $250,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship and the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 3.

He won the same two races last year, when the Breeders’ Cup was held at Churchill Downs, and is prepared for another attempt in coming weeks.

They are races that co-owner and trainer Bill Spawr expects to win.

[SANTA ANITA: Get PPs, watch Saturday's full card live]

“I think this is the best he’s been, and I shouldn’t say that because it’s bad luck,” Spawr said. “We feel – myself, my employees, and Mike Smith – he’s stronger since his last race.”

Smith is the regular rider of Amazombie, who has won two of four starts this year. The wins came in the Grade 2 Potrero Grande Stakes here in April and the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar on July 29, his most recent start.

In the last few weeks, Amazombie has consistently worked fast at Santa Anita, including six furlongs in 1:13.20 on Sept. 22. That was accomplished over a track that has not produced quick times of late.

More important to Spawr, Amazombie, a 6-year-old gelding, seems to recover from his workouts with little difficulty.

[BREEDERS' CUP 2012: DRF top 10 lists, video replays, latest news]

“It’s the way he comes out of his works,” Spawr said. “He’s already cooled out when he gets back to the barn. You follow him back to the barn, and it’s like he galloped.”

Co-owned by Tom Sanford, Amazombie will be a heavy favorite in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, which is run over six furlongs and was formerly known as the Ancient Title Stakes. The Santa Anita Sprint Championship is part of the Breeders’ Cup’s “Win and You’re In” program, offering a fees-paid berth to the BC Sprint for the winner.

Amazombie is part of a field of seven in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship and should be well-placed under Smith. Amazombie is best when stalking the pace, which should be an easy job in a race with ample speed.

The 3-year-old filly Reneesgotzip, the 3-year-old colt Jimmy Creed, and the 4-year-old gelding Castletown can contribute to a quick pace. All three are making their first starts in a Grade 1 sprint. Reneesgotzip was second in two Grade 1 races for 3-year-old fillies around two turns earlier this year – the Las Virgenes Stakes and Santa Anita Oaks.

Trainer Bob Baffert has two prominent runners – Capital Account and Coil, who were first and second in the Grade 2 Pat O’Brien Stakes at Del Mar on Aug. 26. Coil won the Grade 1 Haskell Invitational last year but has raced in sprints this year.

Camp Victory, the winner of the Grade 1 Triple Bend Handicap at Betfair Hollywood Park in June and third in the Pat O’Brien, will benefit if a quick pace develops.

“He just needs a lot of speed to run at,” jockey Joe Talamo said. “The last time we had no chance to be where we wanted. They sprinted the last quarter. It didn’t set up for him.

“With a lot more speed, he’ll be rolling in the last quarter.”