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Octet of 3-Year-Olds Among 17 Breeders’ Cup Sprint Pre-Entries
Mitole winning the 2019 Breeders' Cup Sprint (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Octet of 3-Year-Olds Among 17 Breeders’ Cup Sprint Pre-Entries

Count 8 quick-footed 3-year-olds among the 17 horses pre-entered into the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint, which will be held at Keeneland on Saturday, November 7, as part of the two-day Breeders’ Cup World Championships weekend that begins the day prior.

Only 1 of the pre-entries listed the Sprint as second preference, so not every horse will make the gate in a race that has only seen 2 of the past 22 champions win gate to wire.

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Trainer Steve Asmussen, who saddled last year’s winner Mitole, pre-entered a trio of 3-year-olds topped by the undefeated Yaupon. His career did not begin until June 20, but he has easily won all 4 starts, including the Chick Lang Stakes (G3) last time out. The speedy front-runner may or may not be joined on the front end by his similarly-unbeaten speedy stablemate Nashville, who has won both of his career starts and whose second preference is the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. The third Asmussen pre-entry Echo Town has only missed the board once in 9 career starts and got his first taste of Keeneland dirt while finishing third in the Phoenix Stakes (G2) last time out in his debut against older horses.

Another 3-year-old hoping to make the overcrowded gate is the lone female pre-entry, Frank’s Rockette, who made this race her first preference over the Filly & Mare Sprint (which is 1/8 of a mile longer). Hailing from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, she easily dispatched of her older rivals in the Gallant Bloom Handicap (G2) last time out and will try to join Safely Kept (1990) and Very Subtle (1987) as the only females to beat the boys in this event.

C Z Rocket has been red-hot since trainer Peter Miller claimed him for $40,000 this past April. Along with earning berths in both the Sprint and the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile (his second preference) in his 2 most recent starts, the City Zip gelding set a new Keeneland record in July for winning a 6 1/2-furlong optional claiming event in 1:15 flat. Miller won this race in 2017 and 2018 with Roy H and appears to have another strong contender on his hands.

Vekoma also earned dual berths into the Sprint and the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile, and like C Z Rocket has the Sprint listed as his first preference. The George Weaver trainee is unbeaten in 3 starts this year, including the Carter Handicap (G1) and the Met Mile (G1), though he’s gone unraced since that latter race on July 4. He also won 3 of his first 4 career starts, including the 2019 Blue Grass Stakes (G2) over the local dirt.

Though internationally-based horses have yet to win the Sprint, trainer Hideyuki Mori has pre-entered a pair of American-bred runners representing Japan, including recent Nagoya victor Pingxiang whose first preference is the Big Ass Fans Dirt Mile. Jasper Prince, a 5-year-old mare who is by American stallion Violence out of a Canadian-bred mare, has won 5 of her 19 career starts including the Enif Stakes at Chukyo 2 starts back.

Trainer Bob Hess Jr. claimed Lasting Legacy for $80,000 out of his most recent start – a local fourth-place finish against optional claimers – with this race in mind. Though winless in 4 starts this year, he has 5 wins on his resume including the 2019 Mr. Prospector Stakes at Monmouth Park.

Other pre-entries include Bon Raison, Collusion Illusion, Diamond Oops, Empire of Gold, Firenze Fire, Hog Creek Hustle, Manny Wah, and Whitmore.

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