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Santa Anita Sprint Championship Preview: Top Three From 2020 Return
C Z Rocket (left) defeats runner-up Flagstaff (center) and third-place finisher Collusion Illusion (right) in the 2020 Santa Anita Sprint Championship (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Santa Anita Sprint Championship Preview: Top Three From 2020 Return

ARCADIA, CA – The top three finisher’s from last year’s edition return as part of the stout field entered in Saturday’s $200,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes (G2).

The Santa Anita Sprint Championship is a 6-furlong dirt sprint open to horses 3 and up that serves as the eighth event on an 11-race card with a local first post time of 12:30 PM. The race is also a Breeders’ Cup “Win and You’re In” event, awarding an automatic berth in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Del Mar this November.

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Here’s a look at the full field for the Santa Anita Sprint Championship:

1. Dr. Schivel 2/1 – He earned his place in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with his stretch-rallying victory in the 6-furlong Bing Crosby Stakes (G1) at Del Mar, his fourth straight score and second in a Grade 1. This 3-year-old won’t be intimidated by facing older horses for the third straight start and he won from the rail 2 starts back over this course and distance in his first start for current trainer Mark Glatt.

2. Vertical Threat 6/1 – He returns to California after winning the 7-furlong Russell Road Stakes at Charles Town in gate-to-wire fashion in his second start of the year while returning to form following a last-place finish in the Bing Crosby. He won the 6-furlong Smiling Tiger Stakes at Del Mar last year but missed the board in both prior graded stakes tries, including the 2020 Pat Day Mile (G2) (sixth).

3. Colt Fiction 8/1 – He won 5 of 6 dirt sprints starting with a maiden-breaking effort last August, though every victory came against much weaker fields than what he faces here. He wired optional claimers going 6 furlongs at Del Mar last time out, earning a career-best 98 Beyer that makes him competitive here, and he finished second behind a gate-to-wire winner in his lone prior stakes try.

4. C Z Rocket 5/2 – The defending champion won 7 of 8 starts between May 2020 and April 2021 but has gone winless in 3 subsequent starts, including the last 2 without Lasix. Trainer Peter Miller has voiced his concerns with this horse’s ability to run drug-free, which he’ll have to do again here. If he returns to form, then Miller could have his second 2-time inner in the past 5 years (Roy H, 2017-18).

5. Flagstaff 7/2 – After several close runner-up finishes in graded dirt sprint stakes, he broke through with a pair of 7-furlong triumphs in Kentucky this summer, incuding the Churchill Downs (G1). He finished third in the 7-furlong Pat O’Brien Stakes (G2) (a head behind C Z Rocket) and could be sharp cutting back a furlong for his second start off the bench. He was second in last year’s race.

6. Collusion Illusion 4/1 – A minor hiccup forced Glatt’s second entry to miss his planned 2021 return in the Bing Crosby, rerouting him to finish seventh in the 5-furlong Green Flash Handicap (G3) on turf. He returns to a race in which he finished third last year and will debut his new blinkers in a race after he fired a bullet 4-furlong work in :47.40 from the gate while donning the hood for the first time.

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