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Breeders' Cup Sprint preview

One of the great stories of the Breeders' Cup will be if the unfashionable Runhappy wins the Breeders' Cup Sprint. It's a fascinating story, read more below.

This highly detailed preview comes courtesy of geegeez.co.uk. To find the full detail of their comprehensive Breeders Cup previews, click here.

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6.50pm GMT Breeders Cup Sprint

Key Trends (31 renewals to date)
 25 of the 31 winners had 5+ seasonal races
 At least one 6f win AND a sharp run at 7f in the last 12 months is a solid recent angle
 8 of last 12 had a 35-63 day layoff (though this is not a strong angle)
 28 of 31 had won a Graded stakes that season
 All of the last 21 winners had at least a 50% 1-2 strike rate at 6f
 16 of the last 22 had 2+ 6f wins that season
 16 of the last 21 showed a bullet workout leading up to the race
 10 of the last 17 hit Beyer top LTO (interesting, though not solid, angle)
 16 of31 winners were based in Southern California, including 3 of the last 4 Kentucky BC’s
 15 of the last 21 winners had at least a 38% win strike rate
- Highest average win payoff of ALL BC races
- Highest average exacta payoff of ALL BC races (almost 2x next in line)
- Wire runners should ideally have won over 6f at Arlington, Belmont, Churchill Downs, Keeneland or Fairgrounds (all have similarly long home straights)

How the runners fit



Pace:
This is the Sprint, so it stands to reason that there is plenty of early zip. Four who want to get on with it, three of them drawn nine or wider in this full 14 horse field. Runhappy has the best draw, in five, but will still do well to fend off the tacking-over trio.
Kobe’s Back and Barbados are the only two genuine hold up types in a field that comprises plenty of speed throughout.

Key Trials:
Pat O’Brien Stakes: Appealing Tale (made all, all out) beat Wild Dude (close up 2nd, challenged in straight, no extra), Kobe’s Back 4th (never in contention)

King’s Bishop Stakes: Runhappy (close up from wide draw, sent on half way, ran on well, impressive) beat Limousine Liberal (broke well to lead, dropped to 2nd halfway, re-pressed leader into straight, no extra), Holy Boss 3rd (close up, pushed three wide to challenge into lane, no extra)

Santa Anita Sprint Challenge: Wild Dude (held up off strong pace, ran on to lead furlong out, held on) beat Kobe’s Back (missed break, ran on well, just failed), Masochistic 4th (pressed leader, went on in stretch, faded)

Belmont Sprint Stakes: Private Zone (broke well to lead, made all) beat Clearly Now and Stallwalkin’ Dude (settled in 3rd, no extra in straight)

Phoenix Stakes: [Sloppy track] Runhappy (last away, rushed up to lead, made rest) beat Barbados (held up well off pace, strong run up rail into straight, took 2nd on line) and Work All Week

Summary:
Another very stern wagering examination, and another for light betting in general. With that said, prior to making my full analysis I struck my biggest win single of the weekend in this race! It’s actually not a big bet, as most of my betting goes into multi-race wagers on Breeders’ Cup weekend – framed largely around the main contenders and other possibles in this report. But well get to that in the ‘selection’ section.

Two horses battle for market leadership, Private Zone and Runhappy. The former is a weird one for me: while he’s a very capable animal – winner of four straight, including two Grade 1’s – he is not a six furlong horse. Indeed, the last time he ran at the trip was in this race last year. He finished a good third that day, from a good draw, and with a good trip.

This year he’s run exclusively at seven furlongs and a mile, and he doesn’t have a good draw in 13 of 14. I’m not for a second saying he can’t win – remember my motto that “any horse can win any race” – but he’s a lousy price at 5/2 or 3/1.

Runhappy is a similar price, having been bigger before the post position draw, and he’s a real story horse. Firstly, he’s one of the few American horses that runs clean – no Lasix. Second, he’s trained by a 32-year-old local lady with an incredible tattoo of Sunday Silence on her back. Third, she has just six wins in her career as a licensed trainer. Five of those wins have come from Runhappy, this season, from just six starts. (For the trivia buffs, the other winner was Triple Hott).

Runhappy blitzed five furlongs in 57.8 seconds in a workout on this track a fortnight ago, and that is electric! He has a great draw in five with no major pace contention inside him, but he will need to break well, something which hasn’t always happened. Granted a good start, he’ll be very hard to pass. I love this horse (which is normally bad news from a punting standpoint)!

The best backed horse in the race this week, Runhappy aside, has been Masochistic. But I’m struggling to see the case. Sure, he worked a bullet ten days ago at Santa Anita; and sure, he was a good Grade 1 winner three back. But that was over seven furlongs, and he’s been beaten twice at this range since. His career record at six reads 5124, which is less than stellar at this level.

Much more interesting to me at the prices is Wild Dude. He’s got a line of green on the profile grid above, the only horse to have one, and he’s 16/1. He’s a late runner who loves it when the pace collapses in front of him. There’s a fair chance of that setup in here. The Dude’s record at six furlongs reads 113311, that last pair of 1’s coming in Grade 1 races. Trap eight looks fine for his run style, but he will need luck in running. Finishing even later than the Dude that day was Kobe’s Back, who stumbled leaving the stalls, and was fully 16 lengths back at the first call. By the line he had clawed that deficit back to a neck. There are worse long shots than him, with the perceived strong pace in his favour, but I reckon he’ll be bigger than the UK offer of 25/1 on the US tote.

Another at a bigger price is Limousine Liberal, a ‘veteran’ of just four races. After winning his first two in non-stakes company, he was second to Runhappy in the Grade 1 King’s Bishop before again running for silver in the Gallant Bob, a Grade 3. His recent work on the track here has been good, but he should again be aspiring to no greater than minor honours.

Big Macher, who has won four from nine at six furlongs, including in a ‘nothing’ race last time, has taken a bit of support today (Wednesday). Even if he was back to the pick of his form last summer, however, he’d have a bit to find to challenge here off a very light campaign (just three races in 2015, one of them the Dubai Golden Shaheen).

The one with ‘back class’ (i.e. a level of historical ability above his field today) is Salutos Amigos. Between October last year and March of this one, he ran a Beyer figure of 105 or higher five times from six starts. The exception was in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, where he couldn’t live with the scorching fractions (21 1/5th opening quarter, 43 1/5th half mile).

That notably relevant flunk, allied to his recent moderate form, is enough for me to look past him, especially at ungenerous odds of 12/1. Still, it couldn’t count as a surprise if he did the biz.

Main Contenders:
Runhappy

Other Possibles: Private Zone, Wild Dude, Kobe’s Back

Sprint Selection:
A race that often goes to a relatively unconsidered longshot. In fact, it has the highest average win odds of any Breeders’ Cup race. So I fancy the favourite!
Runhappy is a beast to make you weep with joy. His stride is something amazing, and his ability – unimpeded by medication, trained away from the track (extremely rare in US) by a no name trainer – has overcome much already.
Quite apart from the story, he’s a freakishly smart horse, and he is the horse more than any other that I hope wins this weekend.
Watch his races, and enjoy!

King’s Bishop Stakes

Phoenix Stakes

Of course, it’s a much deeper contest, and there are others at prices worth a second glance. Kobe’s Back and particularly Wild Dude are two of them.

1.5 pts win RUNHAPPY 7/2 Boylesports
¼ pt e/w WILD DUDE 16/1 general

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