The more I break down the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Filly and Mare Sprint (G1) on Saturday, the more I realize that there is not an abundance of pure speed in this field. FINLEY’SLUCKYCHARM, morning-line favorite UNIQUE BELLA and fellow California-based contender PRINCESS KAREN appear to be the trio that could be contesting the early lead. And since the superb Finely’sluckycharm is drawn inside of that pair, I will give her the nod to lead this field in wire-to-wire fashion.
Trained by Bret Calhoun, the consistently excellent daughter of Twirling Candy dons a nifty 12-9-2-0 lifetime mark and is a confirmed front-runner who could be sitting on a big performance second time off the layoff. The dark bay four-year-old overcame trouble following a tardy break to win at Keeneland last time, in a race that she was not fully cranked up for. I do have some concern that her connections have said she has been ‘turning off some’ in the mornings, but in this race I think she will be full throttle from the opening bell.
Unique Bella is quite unique in how talented that she is. Hollendorfer trainee has a world of speed but proved last time that she can fire from off the pace in a facile L.A. Woman (G3) tally. The gray daughter of Tapit has ripped off wins in five straight and this seven-furlong distance could be an ideal one for her at this stage of her career, making a second run since the spring. The sensational filly was a 10-length maiden heroine in a lone prior run at Del Mar and has posted nothing but bullet morning drills since early September. She is a formidable foe who is a must use in everything. If a sophomore filly fails to win the Distaff, will this filly garner votes for championship honors if she wins this race in style?
PRINCESS KAREN is a notch below the best in the field but has a lot of early gas and would be an enticing top-three player at big odds if able to overcome the post for Jeff Bonde. The bay daughter of Stay Thirsty was no match for ‘Bella last time, though she makes a third run off the layoff in this affair and gets Leparoux to ride. The thinking here is that she has to send and try and clear to have any chance. I will use her in the lower rungs of the exotics.
This field doesn’t lack for class with an accomplished group awaiting the speedsters. And if the race happens to fall apart, you could throw the proverbial dart at a slew of talented fillies and mares.
Grade 1 heroines PAULASSILVERLINING, BY THE MOON, CARINA MIA, FINEST CITY, the defending champ in this field, and CONSTELLATION make a lot of sense, as do surging synthetic star AMI’S MESA, Del Mar aficionado SKYE DIAMONDS and Ballerina (G1) second HIGHWAY STAR.
My wagering will center around the first pair mentioned in this field — Finley’sluckycharm and Unique Bella. I will box them in a stout exacta and will punch trifecta and superfecta tickets with each in the top slot.
Champion DREFONG will aim for a repeat in the $2 million TwinSpires Sprint (G1), and since my infatuation with this colt has been well documented on a few occasions, he is my selection. The four-year-old son of Gio Ponti is sensational and he might be the best sprinter that I have seen in a long while. The Kentucky-bred is genuinely brilliant from the gate and all signs indicate that he will deliver yet another sensational performance on this biggest stage.
The Bob Baffert pupil amazes me to an extent — as the four-year-old is super swift early, keeps a very high cruising speed around the turn, and then switches to another gear in the stretch the moment he is given his cue. A picturesque colt, like most genius animals, he has the potential of doing his own thing at times (he dumped Mike Smith in the Bing Crosby [G1] in his 2017 debut), though that was an isolated incident to this point.
He was so impressive in his recent Forego (G1) romp that I was not sure if he could improve off of such a performance. But as was stated earlier this week about Drefong — “He couldn’t look any better,” Bob Baffert said. “He’s doing the best he’s ever done.” That could spell trouble for his foes.
Four additional Grade 1 winners are in the field, led by Dubai Golden Shaheen (G1) star MIND YOUR BISCUITS. The Chad Summers trainee didn’t fire in the Forego last time out, but we will draw a line through that and find one of the better sprinters in the country. Winner of the Malibu (G1) in his 2016 finale, the chestnut son of Posse was a fast-closing third in this race a year ago in a field that might have been better than this one, and he looks like a most logical upset contender if Drefong fails to produce his best effort.
ROY H has never been better and has amassed four wins and a second from five tries this campaign, including a measured score in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship (G1) most recently. The Peter Miller trainee was a troubled second in a lone local appearance at Del Mar and will be fresh in making just a third showing since June.
RANSOM THE MOON is a Grade 1 hero from just a single try on this main oval and has posted five consecutive triple-digit BRIS Speed figures for Phil D’Amato. The Five-year-old son of Malibu Moon has a fine turn of foot and will benefit if the pace is fast and contested in the early going of this dash.
TAKAFUL was best in the Vosburgh (G1) in preparation of this run and the three-year-old colt has a good amount of early speed to get into the race from the opening bell. Kiaran McLaughlin pupil has fired a pair of bullet drills leading up to this, and though I wasn’t super impressed with the field at Belmont last time, there is no denying this colt’s talent. Chasing Drefong from the start could lead to his undoing, though.
IMPERIAL HINT has burst onto the scene in 2017 and rides in on a five-race win streak where he hasn’t been challenged for the most part. The Luis Carvajal trainee is the wild card in the cast but I think he rates a big chance even if he hasn’t faced the top in his division this season. The dark bay son of Imperialism earned a hefty 111 BRIS Speed number in a latest offering and is proven capable of running on or just off the pace. The outside draw is also a benefit in this sprint field. In addition, the fact that pilot Javier Castellano has gone to Gulfstream and Parx to ride this four-year-old in his last pair says a lot to me.
CALCULATOR and WHITMORE each possesses a fine turn of foot and give the impression of key exotics players at a price. The former was a big second in the Pat O’Brien (G2) here while earning a lifetime-best 103 Speed figure, while the latter has racked up five wins from seven runs in 2017, with a score in the Phoenix (G2) at Keeneland last time out.
I am putting a lot of eggs in one basket with Drefong this weekend, singling him in all of my multi-race plays. I will also be playing trifectas and superfectas with the favorite on top, and Mind Your Biscuits, Imperial Hint, Roy H, Calculator and Whitmore underneath.
(Finley’sluckycharm photo: Coady Photography)
(Drefong photo: Adam Coglianese Photography)