11/03/2009 12:00AM

Tightly bunched cast in Turf Sprint

Barbara D. Livingston
Locally based California Flag was made the lukewarm 7-2 favorite in the Turf Sprint.

ARCADIA, Calif. - A lukewarm 7-2 favorite and a handful of co-third-choices at 8-1 illustrate the deep and contentious nature of the $1 million Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, which drew an overflow crowd when entries were taken and drawn Tuesday at Santa Anita.

California Flag, the locally based speedster who owns the turf-course record for 6 1/2 furlongs, was listed as the 7-2 choice in the Turf Sprint, which is set for Saturday as the second of eight BC events. Diamondrella, one of three female runners in the "down the hill" race, is tabbed at 4-1, followed by four horses at 8-1: Noble Court, Silver Timber, Lord Shanakill, and Cannonball.

In all, 16 horses were entered, although only as many as 14 can start. Two also-eligibles, Tenga Cat and Cherokee Heaven, will be on the program as Nos. 15 and 16, respectively.

California Flag will start from post 3 with Joe Talamo aboard. Trained by Brian Koriner, the gray 5-year-old gelding comes off a front-running score in the Sept. 30 Morvich Handicap over the Santa Anita turf.

Besides Diamondrella, winner of the Grade 1 First Lady at Keeneland in her last start, the other female starters in the Turf Sprint are Gotta Have Her (15-1) and Canadian Ballet (20-1).

Desert Code, winner of the Turf Sprint last year at 36-1 under Richard Migliore, is back to defend his title. With Migliore named back, he was assigned post 13 at morning-line odds of 20-1.

From the rail, this is the main body of the Turf Sprint field: Noble Court, Silver Timber, California Flag, Lord Shanakill, Get Funky, Cannonball, Gotta Have Her, Square Eddie, Diamondrella, Canadian Ballet, El Gato Malo, Strike the Deal, Desert Code, and Delta Storm.

The Turf Sprint will be the third race on the Saturday card, with post time set for 2:23 Eastern. The Juvenile Turf will precede the Turf Sprint as the first BC race of the day.