Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
By Peter Fornatale
The Breeders' Cup Sprint is always a fun one to watch as some of the fastest horses on the planet go toe-to-toe in a grueling test of end-to-end speed.b
There are a few notable trials for the Sprint and perhaps the most relevant this season will be the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, particularly as it was run over the same course and distance as the Sprint field will face at this year's Breeders' Cup.
Looking to emulate Roy H, who took the Sprint Championship prior to winning the last two renewals of the Breeders' Cup Sprint, Shancelot comes into this race off of the back of two narrow defeats.
He has only had five starts but has made rapid progress in his short career, running a 121 Beyer when winning the Amsterdam on just his third start, a remarkable effort. That is not only the best figure run by any horse in North America this season – and by some way – but also the best number clocked by a 3-year-old sprinter in the near 30-year history of Beyer ratings. Simply put, if Shancelot reproduces that figure he will win.
But can he do so? Despite his loss, he was probably the best horse in The H. Allen Jerkens Stakes at Saratoga, racing on the worst part of the track but still well clear into the final furlong until his stamina appeared to desert him, collared last home and weakening into third.
He was beaten again last time but again showed fine speed, just nailed close home by Omaha Beach who is set to start favourite for the Dirt Mile and looks a top-class performer. There was probably little shame in that and might enhance Shancelot's price a little.
The main danger to Shancelot would have to be Mitole, who has just one defeat to his name this season in the Alfred G. Vanderbilt, disappointing but probably left a bit short following a hard race prior. He proved next time that was not his true form and he has consistently run big numbers this season, so looks worthy of his place at the head of the betting.
Mitole's conqueror in the Vanderbilt was Imperial Hint, who finished third in the Sprint in 2018. While he did benefit from Mitole's flop, he still hit a big number there, clocking a 114 Beyer. He scrambled home from Firenze Fire last time out but that run should put him spot on for this. He is a forward-going sort and his draw, in stall 9, has not been kind.
That defeat in the Vosburgh was Firenze Fire's fourth in a row and he has now finished behind Mitole and Imperial Hint on each occasion. He ran a nice number when winning the Listed Runhappy Stakes in May but has a bit to find shipping in here.
Whitmore is another horse who looks up against it on form lines from earlier in the season, finishing well behind Mitole twice and then Engage last time out. Engage, himself, has not run a three digit Beyer this season and will need a big step forward, or others to underperform, to make the winner's circle here.
Catalina Cruiser had Whitmore behind when landing the True North Stakes and has only suffered one defeat in his career. That came when favoured in the 2018 Dirt Mile, where he was far too keen, and this is obviously a horse with a lot of talent. He had a brutal trip last time out in the Pat O'Brien but showed tremendous tenacity to rally for the win and is trained on the West coast so has home advantage. He has the Beyers to figure, is well drawn with the appropriate running style and looks to have leading claims.
Matera Sky finished ahead of Imperial Hint in the Dubai Golden Shaheen but has disappointed since and this Japanese raider has the worst of the draw in stall ten.