Havana Grey (c) Jamie Newell/Horsephotos.com
European sprinters are winless so far in the 10-year history of the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint (G1), but there was no international representation at all in a few of those runnings. And with the distances changing according to the host track configuration, it’s arguable that a couple of beaten Europeans could have done better at a different venue.
Only two internationals will attempt to end the shutout, both sophomores with diametrically opposite profiles.
HAVANA GREY: Trainer Karl Burke had a great year with Laurens, who would have been a major Mile (G1) player before calling it a season, and fields an able contender in this spot. Among the leading sprint two-year-olds of 2017, Havana Grey trained on to win two more prizes over older horses at three. He’s retiring to stud next season with the Breeders’ Cup his last hurrah.
The speedy gray was in the exacta in seven of eight as a juvenile, his only subpar run coming in last summer’s Norfolk (G2). He wired the National S. and Dragon S. at Sandown good-to-firm, as well as the Molecomb (G3) on atrocious going at Glorious Goodwood. Havana Grey tried six furlongs just once, in the Prix Morny (G1), where he was passed by Unfortunately and fought on gamely to hold second from Albany (G3) winner Different League. Back down to five for the Flying Childers (G2), he was outdueled by Queen Mary (G2) winner Heartache.
As a five-furlong specialist, Havana Grey had to ply his trade against elders throughout this season. That’s usually a tall order, so the sophomore was understandably hit-or-miss. He was dispatched as the favorite in his Palace House (G3) reappearance, flashing his trademark speed but tiring to fifth to Mabs Cross, and finished a lackluster sixth behind Battaash in the Temple S. (G2).
Havana Grey was back on his game after a two-month break in the Sapphire (G2) at the Curragh. Attending defending champion Caspian Prince early, he shrugged off his pace rival by a length, and turned the tables on third-placer Mabs Cross. Havana Grey didn’t progress off that when sixth in the King George (G2) to Battaash and fifth in the Nunthorpe (G1) (where he wasn’t helped by racing by himself on the far side).
Again thriving in a return visit to the Curragh, Havana Grey held sway on the front end in the “Win and You’re In” Flying Five (G1). Unfortunately, the newly upgraded Group 1 witnessed a few key defections, giving the winner an easier task than it otherwise would have been.
Havana Grey wins the Derrinstown Stud Flying Five Stakes with a dominant performance pic.twitter.com/iOS5zSrOiD— RTÉ Racing (@RTEracing) September 16, 2018
In the interim, Havana Grey ran below form when eighth in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp (G1) on Arc Day. The fact he’s been unplaced in every 2018 start except his two Curragh scores is disconcerting, and that he’ll have plenty of pace company. His wet-track proficiency might keep him in the mix.
LOST TREASURE: An entirely different character, this Aidan O’Brien pupil is a late developer, and a deep closer with the habit of slamming on the brakes once he gets his head in front. Yet Lost Treasure fits here on the strength of his close fifth at astronomical odds in the Abbaye.
O’Brien summed up the wild card earlier this week in an “At the Races” stable tour:
“He’s a horse with an awful lot of ability, but he’s a tricky ride as he stops when he hits the front. He has a lot of speed and is one that won’t appreciate any rain that falls, as he wants fast ground. He’ll be ridden for luck and if it happens for him, he’ll ideally be arriving there as late as possible.”
Royally bred as a War Front half-brother to Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) contender Just Wonderful, and nephew of Filly & Mare Turf (G1) hopeful Athena, Lost Treasure was seventh in his only start at two on soft at Naas. He was not seen again until August, but crammed seven starts into a two-month span.
Lost Treasure revealed a serious engine, and a little waywardness, to get up late in a Curragh maiden on yielding. Five days later he followed up in a five-furlong handicap, keeping a straighter path to the finish. After a one-pace fourth in a Navan handicap, he switched to Dundalk’s Polytrack (around a turn) and easily rallied to the front. He got there too soon, however, and thought race was over. Thankfully the wire came in time to save him the victory in a photo.
With that profile, Lost Treasure looked ambitiously spotted in the Abbaye, but justified his placement with a barnstorming run through the field. He caught up to the top four but lacked room and had to settle for fifth, beaten all of a length by Mabs Cross with Juvenile Turf Sprint contender Soldier’s Call an heroic third.
Back to Navan a week later for Waterford Testimonial, Lost Treasure speared through late on the yielding ground. Unfortunately, he pulled the same trick of stopping, and this time it was costly as he lost the verdict (replay starts at 2:42).
O’Brien brought him out on five days’ rest to Dundalk for the Mercury. Lost Treasure added blinkers, but the headgear didn’t have a positive impact as he was a half-length third to Hit the Bid. Hence he’s blinkers-off for the Turf Sprint.
Lost Treasure’s running style and behavioral wrinkle are a recipe for a hard-luck story, and if he’s effective on rain-affected ground versus lesser, he probably would prefer it quicker. For those reasons, whatever he does here is a bonus ahead of a potentially breakout 2019.