The sprint division had been wide open all year. But that all changed in the 81 seconds it took Midnight Lute to run seven furlongs in his easy victory in Saratoga's Grade 1 Forego on Sept. 1, a performance that suddenly established the 4-year-old son of Real Quiet as the solid favorite to win the Breeders' Cup Sprint at Monmouth Park on Oct. 27.
Midnight Lute earned a 124 Beyer Speed Figure, the highest figure by any horse this year.
Trainer Bob Baffert plans to train Midnight Lute right into the Sprint. Baffert shipped Midnight Lute back to Southern California on Sunday instead of keeping him in New York to compete in Belmont's Gradeo1 Vosburgh on Sept. 30. Midnight Lute won the Forego off a 4 1/2-month layoff.
"He runs well fresh," Baffert said last week. "Now we've just got to keep him happy and fresh."
The six-furlong Vosburgh is one of three key preps for the Sprint over the next several weeks. The others are the Grade 3 Phoenix at Keeneland on Oct. 6 and the Grade 1 Ancient Title at Santa Anita on Oct. 7. Midnight Lute was one of 21 horses nominated to the Vosburgh.
Among those pointing for the Vosburgh is Discreet Cat, who has not started since finishing seventh and last in the Dubai World Cup on March 31.
"I've got the impression the [Dirt] Mile will be our first preference in the Breeders' Cup, although I wouldn't rule him out of the Sprint just yet," said Rick Mettee. who oversees the Godolphin Racing Stable in New York. "First things first. We have to get through the Vosburgh before making those decisions."
Another intriguing possibility for the Sprint is Kelly's Landing, who has also not started since March 31, when he won the six-furlong Dubai Golden Shaheen at Nad Al Sheba.
"At the moment he's back in training, doing good and still on schedule to run in the Sprint," said trainer Eddie Kenneally. "I'd hoped to get him to the Phoenix, a race he won last year, but we ran out of time. If he goes in the Breeders' Cup it will be without a prep."