Updated on 09/15/2011 1:16PM

Sprint: Pletcher takes another swing


ELMONT, N.Y. - Todd Pletcher, who has saddled three starters in the $1 million Sprint, said the Sprint has often proven to be one of the more difficult races to win on the Breeders' Cup card. And this year's Sprint, Pletcher said, might have the strongest field yet.

"You could argue it's the toughest Sprint, and that it's the toughest race on this year's card," Pletcher said Thursday at his Belmont Park barn.

Pletcher finished ninth with outsider Rare Rock in 1998. Last year, he had two legitimate contenders, More Than Ready and Trippi, who both drew tough posts. More Than Ready broke from the rail and had an extremely rough trip, finishing fifth. Trippi drew post 2 and didn't fare much better in the trip department, checking in ninth.

"The post plays a huge role, unquestionably," Pletcher said. "But there's no point in worrying about it, because you have no control over it."

This year, Pletcher might have his strongest Sprint contender in Left Bank, who became a Grade 1 winner for owner Michael Tabor in the Vosburgh at Belmont Park Sept. 22.

Pletcher, who is looking for his first Breeders' Cup win, said Left Bank is probably better suited to seven furlongs than the Sprint's six furlongs. But Pletcher said there are factors in Left Bank's favor.

"He's in great form and he likes Belmont," Pletcher said. "What is difficult for us and everybody else is that you have a 14-horse field with a lot of early speed. Everyone is trying to maneuver for a good trip. There are things like, how many are stacked up on the turn and who's on the inside looking for a way out."

Left Bank figures to be tracking a blistering pace, set by Caller One, Five Star Day, Squirtle Squirt, and Xtra Heat, who all have significant early speed.

Left Bank is scheduled to work five furlongs on Sunday.

* Alannan, a Sprint longshot, worked five furlongs Thursday over Belmont's main track in 1:00.45, breezing, under jockey Edgar Prado. Trainer Carl Nafzger was in Kentucky and didn't see the work, but said the time was satisfactory.

Alannan was never a factor in the Vosburgh, finishing sixth, beaten 16 1/2 lengths. Nafzger said the 5-year-old Alannan, who will be making his first appearance in the Breeders' Cup, lost a shoe when he left the gate.

* As of Thursday, the pre-entered Sprint horses training at Belmont were Delaware Township, Squirtle Squirt, Left Bank, Five Star Day, Peeping Tom, City Zip, Alannan, Hook and Ladder, Yonaguska, and Snow Ridge.

California horses Caller One, Swept Overboard, and I Love Silver (who is expected to run in the Mile) are scheduled to arrive in New York on Saturday. Another plane from California on Tuesday will bring Kona Gold, the Sprint's defending champion, and El Corredor. Mozart will arrive from Ireland with the rest of trainer Aidan O'Brien's Breeders' Cup contingent on Tuesday. Bet on Sunshine flies into town from Kentucky on Wednesday. The final Sprint contender to arrive at Belmont will be the filly Xtra Heat, who is scheduled to ship by van from Laurel Park by noon on Friday, the deadline for all Cup contenders to be on the grounds.

* With the exception of City Zip, the rider assignments are firmed up for the 14 horses in the body of the field. City Zip's first preference is the Mile, in which he would be ridden by Jorge Chavez. Chavez will ride Xtra Heat in the Sprint.

Here are the other horses in the main body of the race, with riders: Delaware Township (Eibar Coa), Kona Gold (Alex Solis), El Corredor (Victor Espinoza), Caller One (Corey Nakatani), Swept Overboard (Eddie Delahoussaye), Squirtle Squirt (Jerry Bailey), Left Bank (John Velazquez), Bet on Sunshine (Calvin Borel), Five Star Day (Garrett Gomez), Mozart (Michael Kinane), Peeping Tom (Shaun Bridgmohan), and Alannan (Edgar Prado).

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