Aikenite – The creation of the Dirt Mile in 2007 has affected the field sizes for the Sprint in recent editions, one of the reasons trainer Todd Pletcher elected to go in the $1,500,000 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Sprint with this 4yo colt.
“I think we got a little bit lucky in this year’s Sprint that it’s not quite as big a field as you sometimes see,” Pletcher said. “For his style that could be important; it’s easier to go around eight of them than 12 or 13 other ones. It’s a one-turn mile here, and without the (Dirt) Mile, I think the Sprint would have been a full field.”
Dogwood Stable’s son of Yes It’s True has had only two starts at 6f in his 22-race career, winning one and running second in the other. The field of nine equals the second-smallest field for this race, which had an all-time low of eight runners in 2008.
Aikenite, who galloped Thursday at Churchill Downs, will have Javier Castellano in the irons.
Amazombie – Trainer Bill Spawr kept things in perfect order for his top sprinter as he gave jockey Mike Smith a leg up on Amazombie for his morning exercise Thursday.
“He always runs best when we do this; when Mike takes him around,” Spawr said.
The exercise included an open gallop over the final 3f that was recorded by the clockers at 39 seconds flat “breezing.”
“I don’t want to change anything that works,” Spawr said. “He and Mike are buddies and they work really well together. Mike really appreciates horses.”
Prior to the gallop, Amazombie went through the paddock for a bit of schooling, Spawr said.
A cautious Spawr, who is not a newcomer to the Breeders’ Cup Championships, said, “No hiccups, so far.”
Apriority, Big Drama – When trainer David Fawkes sends defending Sprint champion and 2010 Eclipse Award winner Big Drama out on to the track on Saturday, it will be for the last time.
“This is it for him,” said Fawkes, who won his first Breeders’ Cup when the son of Montbrook went gate-to-wire at 5-1 last year on this same track. “He deserves it. He’s earned his retirement. How much can you ask them to win?”
Big Drama, who comes in to the race with $2,746,060 in lifetime earnings, will return home to Florida with stablemate Apriority and then head home to owner Harold Queen’s farm in Ocala where he was born and raised. No decision on where Big Drama will stand the 2012 season has been reached.
Big Drama, the 5-2 morning-line favorite will break from post 8 and Apriority, the 30-1 longest shot in the field, will be next to him in the 9 hole. Fawkes and his wife Celia will saddle the pair, but he hasn’t decided yet if he will be the one tightening the girth on the champion sprinter for the final time.
“Big Drama gets saddled in the walking ring because he likes to keep moving rather than stand in the stall. Which of us saddles which horse depends on what shoes Celia wears and how high the heels are,” he said with a broad grin.
While they have to bid farewell to Big Drama, the Fawkes’ said they have Apriority, a Donald Dizney homebred, to look forward to next year.
On Thursday, Apriority galloped 1 1/2m and Big Drama jogged 2m.
Euroears – Exercise rider Dana Barnes took Euroears for a 1m gallop Thursday morning in a repetition of his Wednesday routine. The Bob Baffert trainee will blaze from the gate in Saturday’s Sprint leaving from the one post, and Baffert has been talking all week about his plans for Euroears to shoot for the lead with jockey Rafael Bejarano in the saddle.
“I haven’t run him that often, but he’s run good except for the race in New York,” Baffert said of the horse’s most recent start, an eighth-place finish in the Oct. 1 Vosburgh Invitational at Belmont Park.
“He got completely eliminated at the start of that race and he’s the kind of horse that, if he doesn’t get the lead, he’s not going to be effective at all. He’s extremely quick and I’m sure he’s going to have a lot of company up front. If they don’t go to fast hopefully he’ll hold on. He has to break well. That’s the key.”
Force Freeze –The Vosburgh runner-up jogged 1m galloped 1 1/4m Thursday morning, relishing the opportunity and taking Marcos Orneos on quite a ride.
“That’s the first thing the kid said when he got back, ‘He’s ready to run,’ ” trainer Peter Walder said. “When he turned around to gallop, he went like a beast. That was good, I was glad to see him gallop like a monster. It’s the first time he’s galloped since he worked last Saturday. He’s such a docile horse. It’s good to see him have that energy.”
Force Freeze will jog 1m and school in the paddock Friday morning.
“We’ll just try to make it a nice, quiet, relaxing day for him,” Walder said. “He’ll probably go around 9:15 a.m., but I have to send him out with enough time that he can go the wrong way.”
Giant Ryan – The son of Freud enters the Sprint on a six-race winning streak, the longest of any Breeders’ Cup starter this year, but while owner Shivananda Parbhoo and trainer Bisnath Parboo always had high regard for the horse, getting his career moving forward was a difficult task for the team.
“We knew early in his career that he was going to be good; he would always breeze well.” Shivananda Parbhoo said. “In fact, my father (trainer Bisnath Parboo) told me back then, before he had even raced, that he was going to be a Breeders’ Cup horse. But he had problems with his feet; all four of them.
“Last year in New York, before a race, he would breeze really well. And then a few days later, the day of the race, he would come up lame. We couldn’t figure it out. The blacksmith up there tried for five months to figure out. We used all types of glue-on shoes. But nothing worked.
“So we took him down to Florida and I gave him to our assistant, Julio Tapahuasco, to take care of. And with help from the blacksmith down there, he discovered that there was a fungus about a quarter-inch deep on each foot, right around the frog. We had to cut almost to the bloodline to get to it. The whole process took hours and there was a lot of inflammation in each hoof.”
Giant Ryan couldn’t do anything for days following the procedure, and could do little more than walk for two months.
“We had to change the bandages twice a day. We went through so many bandages and at least six full rolls of duct tape. But every day we could see that he was getting better. And once his feet were good, we knew he was good. “
Hamazing Destiny – Though the 5yo is winless in 2011, trainer D. Wayne Lukas said Thursday morning, “He is better than last year. He trains stronger and he is much more focused.”
Last year’s Sprint runner-up at odds of 23-1 is expected to be in the first or second tier of horses early, according to Lukas. That would be a dramatic difference from his 2010 race, where he was far back early and ran down the leaders in the stretch as he passed all but the winner.
Jackson Bend – The Florida-bred colt galloped 1 1/2m under exercise rider Carlos Correa at Churchill Downs Thursday morning.
After the diminutive colt swept the Florida Stallion Series at sprint distances in 2009, a majority interest in Jackson Bend was sold to Robert LaPenta and he was transferred to Nick Zito’s barn.
The son of Hear No Evil stretched out well enough to finish second in the Holy Bull, Fountain of Youth and Wood Memorial before checking in 12th in the 2009 Kentucky Derby. He finished third in the Preakness, but never could find the winner’s circle again.
Jackson Bend was sent home to Ocala and rejoined former trainer Stanley Gold last winter before being shipped back to Zito in June.
“We had to try something different. We got him back and he was doing great, we said, ‘Let’s just try this,’ and it worked,” Zito said.
Jackson Bend won a pair of sprint stakes at Saratoga, including the Forego.