The Grade 1, $2 million Qatar Racing Breeders’ Cup Sprint has attracted a high-powered nine-horse field. The Sprint will go as Race 11 on Saturday’s 12-race card at Santa Anita Park and for the first time ever it will be run after the Longines Classic as the final Breeders’ Cup race on the program.
QATAR RACING BREEDERS’ CUP SPRINT
Who will prove to be the fastest of the fast? Here is a glance at the contenders for the 2023 Breeders’ Cup Sprint.
1. Nakatomi (15-1 morning-line odds): Won an expensive allowance race on the Breeders’ Cup Saturday undercard last year and since then has won once this year from five trips to the track. Exits a promising runner-up finish in the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes where he lost by a half a length to Hoist the Gold. Cannot be discounted in a sprint for connections like trainer Wesley Ward and jockey Luis Saez, but he lacks a graded stakes win so far in his career and has never faced a field as tough as the horses he’ll face on Saturday.
2. Dr. Schivel (5-1): Dr. Schivel finished second in the 2021 Breeders’ Cup Sprint when he lost what trainer Mark Glatt accurately called “a dirty rotten head bob.” Since then, Dr. Schivel missed 15 months between races from March 2022 to May 2023, but he recently came back strong and appeared to be his old self last time when winning the Grade 2 Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes presented by Estrella Jalisco at this track and distance, and that was the same prep he used en route to his Sprint near-miss in 2021. Has a 4-for-6 career record at Santa Anita and owns four triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures at six furlongs. Home track advantage and ready to get revenge.
3. American Theorem (30-1): He’s a Grade 1 winner, but that victory came more than a year ago in the 2022 Bing Crosby Stakes. Since then, the results have been mostly disappointing, and he clearly does not seem to be doing as well in 2023 as he was in 2022 based on four straight off-the-board finishes dating back exactly one year to last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint. Needs to up his game to make a dent.
4. Hoist the Gold (12-1): Gutted-out a win last time in the Grade 2 Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes at Keeneland over the likes of Nakatomi and Bango in what looked like a real-deal kind of an effort with a career-high 101 Beyer Speed Figure, indicating Hoist the Gold is now better than ever. Hall of Famer John Velazquez was aboard for the first time last time and is back aboard today. Which version of Hoist the Gold will show up for the Sprint, the one that won last time or the version that finished well-beaten twice this summer at Del Mar in the Bing Crosby and the Pat O’Brien Stakes? If you are a believer, his 12-1 odds on the morning line are alluring.
5. Three Technique (20-1): His signature win came this summer in the Grade 2 John A. Nerud Stakes at seven furlongs at Belmont Park. Exits a third-place finish in the one-mile Grade 3 Ack Ack Stakes and all of his best career efforts have come at either one mile or seven furlongs. He’s a nice horse for sure, but six furlongs is not his specialty and he’s facing a murderer’s row of the fastest horses that exist at a distance they excel at the most.
6. The Chosen Vron (5-1): California-bred comes in sporting an eight-race winning streak, including the Grade 1 Bing Crosby Stakes at Del Mar last time when he overcame a tough trip and successfully stepped up to beat open company versus a field that included Dr. Schivel, Hoist the Gold, and American Theorem. He’s 7-for-8 on the main track at Santa Anita, 3-for-3 at six furlongs, he’s got a ton of heart, and he’s got the kind of tactical speed that prevents him from getting cooked in duels for the lead. He’s the California-bred that could, and he’ll be tough to beat against on his home track.
7. Speed Boat Beach (3-1): Finished second by a head behind Dr. Schivel last time in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship Stakes presented by Estrella Jalisco when returning from a long layoff for his first and only outing so far in 2023. They tried him in turf sprints but he has proven twice that he’s better on the dirt for Bob Baffert, who is the winningest trainer in the history of the Breeders’ Cup Sprint with five past triumphs (no wins since 2016). Speed Boat Beach is talented and lightning-fast, but he may lack the bottom to hold off the likes of Gunite and Elite Power and it sure would be nice to see more than just one race in the past performances so far this year.
8. Elite Power (9-5): Defending Sprint winner is back again this year and is the most likely favorite, but his aura of invincibility is gone after he lost his last race to Gunite in the Grade 1 Forego Stakes at Saratoga Race Course to end his eight-race winning streak. Elite Power closed from seventh in an 11-horse field to win last year but there was a better pace set-up in the 2022 Sprint when there was a lot more early speed entered than this year. Elite Power renews his rivalry with Gunite, but this is much more than just a two-horse race and if you side with Elite Power you are getting a proven champion but also accepting low odds in a race where four or five of these runners have legitimate chances to beat him.
9. Gunite (4-1): There are few sprinters faster and better than Gunite and he proved that this summer when he knocked off Elite Power in the Forego Stakes at Saratoga, going wire-to-wire at seven furlongs. He has triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures up and down the past performances when running in sprints and rarely throws in a clunker. From a pace standpoint, he may get a bit of break here because he’ll be up on or close to the lead in a Sprint that could feature a more moderate than usual early tempo with Speed Boat Beach very likely to be up front trying to steal it. If the Breeders’ Cup Sprint was contested at seven furlongs, Gunite would undoubtedly be the horse to beat, but unfortunately for him it’s six furlongs – a distance at which he is proficient but not unbeatable.
THE PICK: The Chosen Vron
LIVE LONGSHOT: Dr. Schivel