SA Sprint Championship (Grade 2)- $200.000 Purse
SA- For Three Year Olds and Upward
Six Furlongs on the Dirt
September 30, 2023
With the BC Sprint now just a month away, we’re still looking to see who some of the biggest challengers may be to Retaliate within this division. The SA Sprint Championship will send a field of ten to the starting gate, and there aren’t any soft spots anywhere within this field, so get ready for a competitive race. In 2022, the SA Sprint Championship was won by West Coast Party, for Martyparty, but he would not end up running in the BC. That has not affected his career at all, and he’s been productive though possibly a little hard of luck in some races. He was last seen running second in the Vigil Stakes out at WO two weeks ago. Let’s run through the field now to meet these talented ten!
#1- California Sun (Royalty Stables, ridden by R A Vazquez)- This one found a nice home after being claimed for $32.000, and Royalty Stables has been able to take him to the next level. He’s won three of the six races since then and has never failed to hit the board. The Grade 3 Runhappy from May at BEL is his biggest career win to date, but I sense that there is even bigger than that in his future, and that might come right here. Strong second in the Bold Venture (Grade 3) last month from WO, and consistently produces strong SRF’s.
#2- High Time (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by E Maldonado)- After finishing his three-year-old season on good form, High Time has struggled to gain much traction in 2023, going winless thus far. Attempting to stretch him out did not work out (for now, based on works I can see that being revisited), and he would run in the middle of the pack at the Grade 1 Vanderbilt Handicap. He may have gotten something out of that, though, as he bounced back nicely into a second-place run at the $100.000 Rumson at MTH. I like this spot for him after that and find him intriguing.
#3- Gnome Guitar (Nakamura Stables, ridden by M E Smith)- Claimed in May for $80.000, and has made three starts since then. He had plenty of stake experience prior to that race, so it wasn’t a stretch for him to be entered into the Grade 2 True North after that, but he was ineffective there, not beating anyone. After a couple of mediocre, at best open allowance results, he’s entered here while cutting back to a preferred distance. Doesn’t really excite me but look out if he finds that late 2022 form.
#4- Top Of The Crop (Maxmillion Farm, ridden by J Valdivia Jr)- The five-year-old gelding has not raced much this year, making only four starts. He won one of them, coming in an open allowance. He’s been unable to step up into this level with any consistency, but ran nicely in his last race, an optional claimer at SAR, to get this opportunity. It’s been two months since that race, and perhaps that will be a positive here. I’ll be looking elsewhere, however.
#5- Bigmouth Raj (Night Rider Stables, ridden by Al Perez)- A strong claim by the trainer, picking him up for only $9.000, and he has since won four out of seven, including his first two right after that claim. The $150.000 Hudson was the second of those wins, and that would see him moved up another level into graded competition. He stepped up well, and two races ago he won the Grade 2 Triple Bend Stakes here in late May. One thing I find a little odd is that there has only been one race since then, and it concerns me that it was as poor as it was. Has he lost something, or is the trainer just being patient?
#6- Plan To Wheel (Fractious, ridden by M Franco)- Not the best sprinter in this barn, as that certainly is Retaliate, but Plan To Wheel should not be forgotten. The 32-race veteran has run well this year, including a win in the Grade 3 Kona Stakes right here in April. Since then, he’s hit the board in the Triple Bend and the Crosby and was a very close fourth in the Nerud. Probably just didn’t like the slop in his last race, so we can forego any concern about the Forego. Ready to roll here and should be one of the top choices in this field.
#7- On Schedule (Mb Stables, ridden by J R Velazquez)- Did well while running long, and had no issue cutting back on his distance in the Grade 2 True North, winning that race with a 102 SRF. The best was yet to come, right? Well, the opposite has been true, as On Schedule has failed to finish in the money since, missing out Nerud, Crosby, and OBrien, but a closer look at those results may show that he has been a victim of clustered “HRP finishes”. That can only be an excuse for so long, especially when you run in these silks. If this doesn’t go well, it wouldn’t surprise me if his next start was going long again.
#8- Fit To Fight (Spb Racing, ridden by R M Hernandez)- A great claim by the trainer, picking him up for $7.500 in April. From there, Fit To Fight has gone on to win four out of five. The only blemish on that was a midpack finish in the Grade 3 Smile Sprint, but that was a strong race, so nothing to worry about there, as the horse that finished one spot ahead of him went on to win the $300.000 Louisville Thoroughbred earlier this month. For now, his biggest score is the $100.000 Speightstown Sprint from LS, but there may be bigger and better here. Might not win here, though a solid finish seems likely.
#9- Range Rover (Arindel, ridden by L Saez)- Still looking for his first win of 2023, but has been having better results since being moved away from KYD prep races. He wasn’t poor in those, but he didn’t cash a check in any. Since then, he’s done better with his sprints but has not won any of them, either. Last month, that nearly changed in the sloppy Jerkens Memorial, where he was the runner up, beaten by almost a length. He’s actually done very well on off tracks, so Arindel might like that there is a 67% chance of rain here on Saturday, as of press time.
#10- Enigmatic (Tinkey, ridden by J J Hernandez)- A lightly raced horse, but based on how he runs when he is out there, that probably should change! He’s only made eight starts, and has regularly been entered by Tinkey, as the limited number of starts is probably just because was previously in a barn that can be interested in selling horses sometimes. Enigmatic has won six times, with his biggest result being last month in the $100.000 PARX Dash. That may have been on the grass, but he has been productive on the dirt, too. This is the biggest test of his career, but he’s more than earned it.