The Breeders' Cup gets kicked off with a bang on Friday with the Filly & Mare Sprint. Now at 7 furlongs, the race is a platform for fillies looking to stretch their speed or shorten their closing kicks. In this, I believe you have to consider the nature of the track, itself, and the speed of the fillies, themselves.
There is a great deal of speed in this race, highlighted by the dynamite starter, Dearest Trickski. I believe this filly will be winging it from the outside (post 9). The one kicker, though, is she has to clear Dream Run (who was fast enough to set the pace last year, at 6 furlongs). This does not sit well for Dearest Trickski, so I will throw her out. The distance of 7 furlongs is her limit, so under this pressure I have to pass. In this, I will look at stalkers and closers. Dream Run, if she loves the surface, will be softened by such a battle. I cannot see her putting Dearest Trickski away and holding off a fleet of closers/stalkers.
The stretch at Santa Anita is shorter than most (like Monmouth's last year), but the Pro-Ride will suit closers better than a dirt course. In this, we have to look at who are the fastest stalkers and who are the fastest closers. Two names pop out to me, according to the numbers: Zaftig and Indian Blessing. They are lengths faster than their rivals on the numbers, but both have to answer some important questions: will they perform well off a layoff (Zaftig) and will they be as fast on a synthetic course (Indian Blessing). Zaftig, being by Gone West (who produces a great deal of turf horses) out of a Cozzene (a turf champion) mare seems to be made for the surface. Since the Acorn, I have believed that she is the fastest of her generation, but an injury has kept her in the barn until now. Jerkins is batting 22% with 'off the shelf' runners, and comes from a typically conservative training philosophy. The only worry is that his father (Allen) twice had arguably the best filly in a race (Sky Beauty) and could not win with her in the Breeders' Cup Distaff. Nonetheless, I am going to chalk that fault, and expect her class to get her there on Friday.
I cannot leave out Indian Blessing, especially with the hot pace in her face. Her class will keep her second, or third. A third filly that pops up, in my mind, is Ventura. She has the speed and closing ability to win this if Zaftig or Indian Blessing do not take to the surface. Frankel will have her ready, and we have no doubts about her ability to handle the surface. I am going to throw out (of the top 3) Intangaroo, as I believe she is 3 lengths slower on synthetics than dirt. Miraculous Miss and Magnificience will be coming late, as well. I have a great deal of respect for the latter, but I believe she is not a huge fan of the surface. This seems to be the curse of Bruce Headley's runners.
A 'doozy' to start the day(s) goes to Zaftig.
1. (6)Zaftig 8-1
2. (5)Indian Blessing 2-1
3. (12)Ventura 4-1
4. (3)Intangaroo 6-1
5. (1)Magnicience 15-1