With so many divisions seemingly wide-open for the Breeders' Cup, there was at least one that we thought we had a pretty good grasp on. The Sprint.
In the last seven days the Sprint went from being a division with two clear-cut favorites, to one with more questions than perhaps any other division.
First, defending champ Midnight Lute's comeback was derailed last weekend at Del Mar, as he finished a disappointing 10th in the Pat O'Brien Handicap. It left serious questions as to whether he is the same horse who won the 2007 BC Sprint and Eclipse Award, and if he is suited for running well on synthetics. Stay tuned there.
More stunningly, we learned on Wednesday that Benny the Bull has been retired. We were all looking forward to watching him in the Forego and pointing towards the Breeders' Cup, where he was going to attend to some unfinished business. But now the best sprinter in the world, who had won five straight, is no longer in the mix and it has left a gaping hole in the division.
So where does this leave the sprint division? Well, I guess the new favorite becomes Street Boss, who has also won five straight and is a synthetic specialist. His closing style is very much like Benny the Bull's and now the Bruce Headley trainee looks to have the edge on the rest.
Lucky Island also becomes a major contender. The Argentine-bred has won four in a row, including two in graded company and may have more talent than Street Boss. But will he like the surface? Same goes for the undefeated Bustin Stones, who has gone gate-to-wire in all five dirt starts. But he hasn't run since April.
One horse it would be wise not to forget about is Fabulous Strike, who when healthy, might be faster than any of these. I talked to trainer Todd Beattie about the 5-year-old Smart Strike gelding today, and he said all systems are go.
Fabulous Strike, who has won 10 of 15 starts but has raced just once this year, has been scratched from his last two starts, including the Vanderbilt. Beattie said Fabulous Strike had a bad foot bruise that required work and some rest, but he is now on target for the Sept. 27 Vosburgh, a race that he won by nearly six lengths last year. The Breeders' Cup is definitely the goal.
"He's training fantastic," said Beattie, who is based out of Pennsylvania and has Fabulous Strike stabled at Presque Isle Downs. "He's right on schedule for the Vosburgh. We've had some bumps in the road, but the good news is that we'll have a real fresh horse for the Breeders' Cup. I have a lot of confidence in him and now it seems like the division is open to anybody."
One other we must not forget is J Be K. The 3-year-old faltered in the King's Bishop but he is still a force with his electric speed.
It should be an interesting two months.