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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Just One Month Away: Previewing the F&M Sprint

Given that we are now barely a month away from the Breeders’ Cup, I thought I would take this opportunity to highlight contenders in the new Filly & Mare Sprint (6 furlongs) to be held on October 26.

As there are no races classified as “Win and You’re In” in this category, all fillies and mares will need to earn their way in via graded stakes points earned in “challenge” races. The only remaining graded stakes to be run in this category are:

9/26: G3 Senator Ken Maddy Handicap (6.5f, Oak Tree at Santa Anita) on turf
10/6: G3 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes (6f, Keeneland)

Unfortunately, a major contender is no more, as Indian Flare died of cardiovascular shock from internal bleeding following a catastrophic broken pelvis injury in the G1 Ballerina.

Given that the field is limited to 14 entries, here are the top possible entrants in terms of points earned thus far and based on quality performances which may lead the BC committee to select them for entrance:

Dual G1 (Test and Prioress) stakes winner Dream Rush will train up to the BC as will G1 Ballerina victress Maryfield, and River’s Prayer who is five for five this year, with her biggest win in the G1 Princess Rooney Handicap at Calder on July 7. These three seem to be a lock—if there ever is such a thing—to run in the F&M Sprint; that is if River’s Prayer’s connections pay to supplement her.

Likely contender Baroness Thatcher is gearing next for the Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes at Keeneland on October 6—an interesting choice to prep on polytrack before running on Monmouth dirt, a la Street Sense. While she’s earned plenty of points to guarantee entry, it’s disappointing that Baroness Thatcher has won only once this year in 8 tries—and that win was back in January in the G3 Santa Ysabel Stakes at Santa Anita. Hopefully a strong showing can propel her on the right track; she’s a three-year-old I felt showed great promise early.

Some of the less-than-impressive likely starters, particularly as the season has progressed include Pussycat Doll who has also earned entrance based on points, but hasn’t won since January (G1 Santa Monica Handicap at Santa Anita). Oprah Winney has won four of six races this year, but seems to being flying under the radar coming into the BC; she did score a nice win in the non-graded Schenectady Handicap on September 9, but her only graded stakes win this year was in the G2 Barbara Fritchie BC Handicap back in February at Laurel. Any Limit hasn’t been seen since finishing third in the G2 Vagrancy Handicap at Belmont on June 17. Forever Together ran well earlier in the year, but failed when attempting to stretch out in the non-graded Susan’s Girl BC Stakes at Delaware in mid-June.

Boca Grande finished an excellent second to Dream Rush in the G1 Test Stakes, but hasn’t recorded a workout since finishing fourth in the G1 Ballerina on August 26, so if she’s being rested, it better end soon. [UPDATE: Not sure how I missed these, but Boca Grande has indeed posted four workouts since the Test; she's entered in the 8.5f G3 Indiana Oaks on Friday, October 5. It doesn't look like they are going to keep her with sprinters, but may aim for the Distaff]

Silver Knockers was third to Dream Rush in the G1 Prioress last out. Swap Fliparoo finished fifth when she stretched out to one mile in the recent grassy G3 Noble Damsel Handicap at Belmont, and her previous races were hardly impressive, so her readiness for the dirt sprint is dubious at best. Sweet Fervor was last seen finishing just behind Ginger Punch in the G2 First Flight Handicap at Belmont on July 8.

Number 13 on the list is Silmaril who handily won the G3 Endine Handicap at Delaware on September 8. After her, there are several tied on points, some of whom appear to be on the upswing as the fall season begins. Those include Jazzy who impressively took the G2 Gallant Bloom at Belmont last weekend over fellow sprint-contender Cuaba. Unfortunately for her owners, Jazzy will have to be supplemented to enter and that may depend on whether or not a certain hot filly is entered or not; that would be the freakishly-speedy La Traviata who picked up her first stakes win in the G3 Victory Ride at Saratoga on August 25—scuttlebutt is, however, that her owners (who include Rags to Riches’ owner Michael Tabor) are leaning towards entering her against the males in the BC Sprint.

Seemingly headed in a downward direction are G City Girl who faded to fourth in the Endine, and Shaggy Mane who was an extremely disappointing eighth in the Masters Stakes at Presque Isle on September 15. The impressive winner of that prep, Miss Macy Sue, rolled in a new track record time, and looks particularly promising.

Another possible runner is recent G2 Honorable Miss Handicap winner Burmilla who failed as odds-on favorite in the G1 Ballerina.

So, with a month of workouts yet to go—barring injury—which fillies and mares look most promising? Obviously Dream Rush can’t be ignored BUT…after her scratch from the recent G2 Gallant Bloom Handicap due to a “snotty nose” I would carefully watch her workouts. If her connections choose to enter her here, La Traviata could be a monster, as she is currently training over the Monmouth track and already won here (Post Deb Stakes). However, she has also not yet been seriously tested, so this quality of horses might be a disappointing reality-check. Honestly, I like the three-year-old Baroness Thatcher—a lot—and Miss Macy Sue. However, there is no way I’m going out on a limb yet and pick a winner—just some hopeful picks. Feel free to chime in with thoughts, comments, picks...


John said...

Nice post Valerie. . . don't undersetimate Swap Fliparoo. If Jerkens runs her, she will be dangerous; H A Jerkens should never be underestimated.

Valerie said...

I see Swap Fliparoo finished a well-beaten third behind Pool Land and Altesse in the 1-1/16 mile Beautiful Pleasure Stakes at Belmont on Wednesday. Looking over her PP's, running her at this distance is a bit out of character, although she's gone 1 mile before (and even on turf) and even 1-1/8 mile, but she's up and down from sprints to routes...Her workouts all summer have been excellent, but the actual race results less so. What's Jerkens thinking? Madman or genius?