The Grade 1, $300,000 Santa Anita Sprint Championship is an interesting race on many fronts, not the least of which is due to the return of Omaha Beach, sidelined after winning the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes and Grade 1 Arkansas Derby this spring. The ultra-fast Shancelot ships in from the East Coast off a loss by a pair of noses in the Grade 1 H. Allen Jerkens Stakes following three wins to start his career. Trainer John Sadler saddles a pair of sprinters in Flagstaff and Horse Greedy, the former running in a stakes race for the first time and the latter having earned his best stakes placing when third in the 2018 Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes. California Street brings a 2-for-8 record into the race and runs in a stakes for the first time, while One Flew South, like Omaha Beach, was last seen in the Arkansas Derby in April, but unlike winner Omaha Beach, One Flew South finished last of 11.
The key to this race is the intent by the connections of Omaha Beach to be fully cranked up following nearly six months away and a series of stops and starts on the comeback trail. The ostensible favorite for the Kentucky Derby following two straight wins on the Road to the Derby trail ending with a decided victory in the Arkansas Derby, it was discovered Omaha Beach had an issue which required simple surgery but which would entail having to skip the big dance in Louisville. Then came a virus which kept him from running at Del Mar this past summer, followed by a workout Hall-of-Fame trainer Richard Mandella felt was sub-par, which resulted in a change of plans from running in the Ack Ack Stakes last weekend at Churchill Downs to run in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship.
I have no doubts Omaha Beach is ready to run, but there is no question in my mind this is a PREP RACE for the Breeders' Cup next month. Additionally, Omaha Beach is not a sprinter. He began his career running a mile on grass and has never even run once at this six furlong distance. He earned his first win, in his fifth career start, in a seven-furlong race at Santa Anita, but a maiden race is a far cry from a six furlong Grade 1 sprint. He's also facing older horses for the first time. Although his last three Equibase Speed Figures were 109, 110, and 109, which bear improvement near the end of his 3-year-old campaign, I'm going to take a stand against this talented colt who will likely be the heavy favorite at post time. He should run well in this race but I believe a couple of others have a higher probability to win.
Therefore, my selection to win this year's Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes and a place in the Breeders' Cup Sprint is Flagstaff, one of two from the top barn of John Sadler (the other being Horse Greedy). Flagstaff is a lightly raced 5-year-old who has started in six sprint races in his career, winning three, finishing second twice and third once. Since returning from a layoff that lasted from September 2018 until May 2019, Flagstaff has run three "A" races in a row, with speed figures of 110, 103, and 111. Flagstaff has a versatile running style, so if Shancelot goes to the front from the start as he has done in all four of his career races to date, Flagstaff can sit in second in the early stages as he did in his most recent start before taking over with an eighth of a mile to go and continuing on strongly to the wire. However, it is possible jockey Victor Espinoza will take the race to Shancelot from the opening bell, and I am not concerned about that scenario either, because Flagstaff can lead in the early stages as well and still have something left for the stretch drive. As such, I think Flagstaff will emerge the winner of the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes.
Shancelot is another 3-year-old facing older horses for the first time. He won the first three starts of his career including the Amsterdam Stakes with a stellar 122 figure, then led until the last strides in the H. Allen Jerkens Stakes on August 24, beaten two noses on the wire. Cutting back from seven furlongs to six, Shancelot has a chance to rebound to top form and it must be noted trainer Jorge Navarro shipped him in to Santa Anita for a strong morning workout on September 29. Certainly getting familiar with the surface could be helpful, and although Shancelot regressed a bit to a 112 figure in the Jerkens, that is still the best last-race figure in the field.
The rest of the field, with their best representative figures is California Street (105), Horse Greedy (113) and One Flew South (89).
Top win contender:
Other win contenders: