Saturday, Aug. 8, Del Mar
The Low-Down: With the Breeders' Cup Sprint on the California calendar this fall, Saturday's Bing Crosby joins October's Ancient Title Handicap as the pre-eminent preps for Thoroughbred racing's fastest fellas. The 64th running of this Grade 1 contest has just six entrants, giving speed horses a legitimate edge in a short field devoid of traffic troubles that normally cloud major sprint stakes.
Our Eyes: Victor Espinoza completely strangled the high-strung Zensational for the first several hundred yards of the Triple Bend Handicap on July 5. The Bob Baffert-trained sophomore was meeting older horses for the first time that day and beat a pretty soft field for a Grade 1 California sprint. The runaway locomotive races very unprofessionally and loses a lot of efficiency, but he's so darned fast he can make up for it on most occasions. From the rail and shortening up from 7 furlongs to 6, expect Espinoza to just give him free will from the jumpstart this time and let the chips fall where they may in the final furlong. While more than 600 races have been run on the Del Mar Polytrack since 2007, only 15 have broken the :45 barrier for the opening half-mile. Only 6 times has a horse run a sub-:45 opening half-mile and take a field wire-to-wire.
While not many 3-year-olds run in the Crosby historically, it's significant that only once since 1975 has a sophomore been good enough to win this (King's Blade in 1994), and only 4 times in its 63 prior editions.
Global Hunter wheels back in 14 days after a victory in the Grade 1 Eddie Read at 1 1/8 miles on turf. While he's never even raced at 6 furlongs, he was fourth in the 2008 Triple Bend at Hollywood sprinting 7 furlongs in Grade 1 company, beaten less than 5 lengths by the elite dasher Street Boss. Trainer A.C. Avila is asking for the moon and stars with this move, you'd have to think, if he wants the big trophy. A strong late run for a minor award seems most likely, and he's paired with sensational sprint-finishing jockey Corey Nakatani, who has made a career out of sprint moves down the lane on huge national stages.
The only horses capable of running early with Zensational appear to be the light-on-class Bamaha Breeze, who is capable of 44-and-change even over this Del Mar surface, and Delta Storm, a horse who upset eventual Vosburgh winner Black Seventeen in a thrilling Pirate's Bounty Handicap here last summer. This appears to be a "short straw" situation, whereas the horse who attacks Zensational likely will be cooked, leaving the other in the perfect-trip situation. Handicapping the jockeys aboard these two speed players, you have the aggressive Martin Pedroza in post 2 just outside Zensational, and the patient, route-specialist Joel Rosario in post 4 with Delta Storm. No doubt Delta Storm is the more talented on these two in question, and he just might get the trip needed to spring the upset.
The Bottom Line: If no one goes after Zensational, he's long gone. Simple as that. But my money and hopes will be that Pedroza attacks with Bamaha Breeze, and leaves Delta Storm sitting a close-up third and ready to pounce. We'll put win money on Delta Storm, and then back it up with a Zensational-Delta Storm exacta box.
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