10/08/2008 12:00AM

West Coast horses top Sprint


A series of untimely injuries, the majority to East Coast-based runners, will give this year's edition of the Breeders' Cup Sprint a decidedly West Coast flavor when the race is decided over the Pro-Ride surface at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

The first and most noteworthy Sprint contender to bow out of the race was division leader Benny the Bull, who was retired in late August after suffering a chip in his ankle. A similar injury compelled trainer Kiaran McLaughlin to withdraw Abraaj from consideration for the Sprint earlier this week. McLaughlin had previously announced that his other Sprint hopeful, Lucky Island, would bypass the event to be freshened up following a pair of disappointing outings.

The Sprint received another significant blow Monday when trainer Bruce Levine announced that his undefeated Bustin Stones had been retired due to recurring foot problems.

Those defections have thrown the spotlight on Southern California, which is home to five of the top seven members of the division pointing for the Sprint. That group includes likely favorite Street Boss, defending champion Midnight Lute, Ancient Title winner Cost of Freedom, and Grade 1 winners Black Seventeen and In Summation.

Midnight Lute got back on track for the Sprint earlier this week after working six furlongs in 1:10.60 at Santa Anita, much to the delight of trainer Bob Baffert. Midnight Lute has also been plagued by foot issues and has started just once in 2008.

Last Saturday's Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland may have provided two additional starters for the Sprint, with the connections of both winner Sing Baby Sing and runner-up Talent Search now considering the race. The 26-1 Sing Baby Sing rallied to defeat Talent Search by three-quarters of a length in the six-furlong Phoenix.

"I'm not sure if we've got enough points to get in, but we'll consider going if he comes out of this last race well and can get into the field," said Jack Bruner, trainer of Sing Baby Sing.

Sing Baby Sing earned a 101 Beyer Speed Figure in the Phoenix, matching his career best.

Talent Search, third as the pacesetter in the 2007 Sprint, was making his first start since finishing second behind Benny the Bull in the Grade 1 De Francis Memorial Dash at Laurel 10 months earlier.

"I thought he ran a brilliant race for what I'd done with him," trainer Bobby Frankel said. "I didn't think I had him nearly fit enough."

Frankel said he's withdrawn First Defence from consideration for the Sprint. First Defence stopped badly and finished far back in the Grade 1 Vosburgh.

- additional reporting by David Grening