10/15/2008 11:00PM

Turf Sprint draws lots of locals


With eight California horses among the 19 pre-entries, there seems to be a home-field bias in regard to the inaugural Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint.

The obvious inherent advantages to being at home are logical factors in the lopsidedness of the pre-entry list, while the wild-card aspect of the 6 1/2-furlong "down the hill" turf course at Santa Anita also may be coming into play. Four pre-entered horses from the eastern United States, including True to Tradition, have never raced over the unique parcel of turf, which requires horses to run over a slightly downhill, undulating, dog-legged slope before briefly crossing over the main track and straightening away for the last quarter-mile or so.

Unfamiliarity with the quirks of the famed Santa Anita course "is always in the back of your head," said Scott Lake, who sent out True to Tradition to win the recent Nearctic Stakes at Woodbine. "But it's there, and you've got to deal with it."

Lake is counting on True to Tradition's vast experience in other realms to allow the gelding to seamlessly adapt.

"My horse has pretty much done it all," he said. "Turf, dirt, short, long, slop, Polytrack. It hasn't mattered so far, and hopefully this won't either."

California trainer Richard Mandella, who pre-entered One Union, said European horses should have very little trouble with the course. There are three pre-entered: Diabolical and a pair of fillies, Fleeting Spirit and Only Answer.

"The Euro horses, they've seen stuff like that," Mandella said. "They've always been natural to fall for it. In the heat of the battle, I think they all work it out anyway."

One Union most recently was third in the Sept. 24 Morvich, which was run over the same ground as the BC Turf Sprint.

"The six furlongs over at Hollywood has always been a little short for him, and a mile's been a little too long," Mandella said. "I thought he ran real good in the Morvich, and because of that I'm taking a shot."

Three BC Turf Sprint horses are from the Midwest, including the likely favorite, Mr. Nightlinger. A fifth horse from the eastern United States, Rebellion, ran fourth in the Morvich after being sent west early by trainer Graham Motion, who has listed the BC Dirt Mile as a first preference for Rebellion.

If Rebellion goes in the Dirt Mile, that would allow the first of the five also-eligibles, Desert Code, to make the Turf Sprint. In order, the others waiting to get in are Storm Treasure, Eaton's Gift, Doppio, and Slew's Tizzy.