Of all the Breeders' Cup divisions, at the moment there may not be a more unsettled one than the Sprint. After 25-1 Dancing in Silks won a four-way photo in the 2009 BC Sprint at Santa Anita last fall, things have gotten even shakier through five and half months of 2010.
If you had to pick a leader of the division right now, who would it be?
Is it speedy 3-year-old D' Funnybone, a five-time grade II winner but untested against older horses? Four-time grade I winner Vineyard Haven, who hasn't even made his season debut as of yet? Kinsale King, proven against the world's best on synthetics and turf but still without a start on dirt? Or is it Hollywood Hit, a red-hot sprinter who scored his first graded stakes win earlier this month? Take your pick.
If you are as confused as I am, here is a starter list that hopefully answers a few questions about the contenders as we move into the summer's biggest sprints. Let's hope things sort themselves out.
Atta Boy Roy--Burst onto the scene in Churchill Downs Stakes (gr. II) and was runner-up last out in the Aristides (gr. III). Washington-bred was a $4,500 yearling. Has big edge at Churchill, which of course is the site of this year's Breeders' Cup. Great story.
Bribon--Won the six-furlong True North (gr. II) on June 5 in third start of the year. Has been very consistent over the past year and half, posting five wins and two runner-ups while racing on both dirt and turf. The 7-year-old millionaire had been racing mostly at one mile prior to the True North, but the cut back seems to suit him just fine.
Comedero--Arkansas-bred has now won eight of nine overall and five in a row, including last weekend's Red Legend at Charles Town, which is the richest sprint in the country, save the BC. Another great story.
Cost of Freedom--Synthetic specialist has won both starts this year, including the Los Angeles Handicap (gr. II) June 5 at Hollywood. The 7-year-old has won five of eight starts since being claimed by John Sadler in July, 2008. Broke his maiden on dirt way back in 2006, but has not been back on that surface since. That leaves major questions about Breeders' Cup.
Crown of Thorns--Has no published works since missing by a nose in last year's BC Sprint. It was reported in February that he was sore and not in serious training. It is unclear when and if he will return.
Custom for Carlos--Now a three-time graded stakes winner, the 4-year-old has made seven of his last eight starts at different racetracks, winning four of them. Scored the six-furlong Count Fleet Handicap (gr. III) at Oaklawn on April 9. Last work was on May 30 at Churchill. According to trainer Eddie Kenneally, has since suffered a foot injury and is only in "light training" at the present time. Kenneally hopes the colt will return to racing later this summer.
Dancing in Silks--The BC winner from last year ran a disappointing fifth to the recently retired Bob Black Jack Feb. 20 in the San Carlos and was turned out for a few months afterward. Trainer Carla Gaines said today that he has been returned to the track for light galloping and will begin having works on the Santa Anita training track in a few weeks. Gaines said the major goal is still the BC Sprint despite having never raced on dirt. Look for Dancing in Silks to make his next start during the Del Mar meet.
D' Funnybone--Clearly the top 3-year-old sprinter in the nation. A five-time grade II winner, he romped in the Woody Stephens (gr. II) June 5 at Belmont. Look for him in the King's Bishop at Saratoga for his first grade I sprint test. When all is said and done, may be the top contender for BC Sprint.
Fatal Bullet--The 2008 BC Sprint runner-up looks like he is trailing off a bit. Now 5, he is 0-for-2 this season after a failed stretch out attempt June 5 in the Eclipse (Can-III) at Woodbine. The 5-year-old gelding is another synthetic specialist.
Gayego--A disappointing eighth in the Golden Shaheen in Dubai in March, last year's fourth-place finisher in the BC Sprint has been working up a storm since returning to New York. Shows a bullet five-furlong work in :59.66 last Saturday at Belmont. Look for him to return to racing next month.
Hollywood Hit--One of the hottest sprinters in the country right now, the 4-year-old has crossed the wire first in six straight races, though he was DQ'd from a race at Woodbine in his season finale last fall. Destroyed the field in the Vigil (Can-III) May 9 for his first graded stakes win while setting seven-furlong track record. Last five races have come on Polytrack at Woodbine, but recorded one of his sharpest wins on the Lone Star dirt in May, 2009, which is a good sign.
Kinsale King--Golden Shaheen win, which was his fourth straight victory, proved he is one of the world's best. Will stay in England for the July Cup after his very good third in the Golden Jubilee at Ascot in his turf debut last week. With no dirt starts, you would have to think he is more likely to point for the BC Turf Sprint at Churchill.
Munnings--Won his season debut in the Gulfstream Park Sprint Championship (gr. II) in February before finishing third in Carter Handicap (gr. I). His last-place effort in the Churchill Downs Stakes on Derby Day can be excused because has never run particularly well over the slop. Look for him a Saratoga.
Musket Man--Turned in a huge effort against Quality Road in Met Mile (gr. I). Has raced at everything from six furlongs to 1 1/4 miles with wins at four different distances. Will Derek Ryan turn him back and make the BC Sprint his major goal? Remember, the first two wins of his career were at six furlongs and he is by Yonaguska. It will be interesting to see where he winds up this summer.
Vineyard Haven--Anxiously awaiting his 4-year-old debut. The four-time grade I winner has been working steadily at Belmont and will likely make his season debut at Saratoga. The Forego (gr. I) has been mentioned as his major summer goal. No reason to think he won't be a major factor come November.
Warrior's Reward--Looks like he has found his calling sprinting, which was solidified with his win over Musket Man in the Carter in April. Followed up with a solid runner-up in the Churchill Downs Stakes before being crushed by Quality Road in Met Mile. His summer campaign will tell us if he is among the elite.