“He’s a 3-year-old gelding,” Wilkes said. “You never want to look too far ahead in this game, but we hope he’s a fun horse to play with for years to come. Maybe he can win this race (Sprint) when he’s seven.”
Only one of Capt. Candyman Can’s six wins has come at a distance shorter than 7f, and that came in his 5 ½f career debut, but Wilkes isn’t concerned that Saturday’s 6f distance will be too short.
Following a distant fourth place run in the Fountain of Youth, the connections decided to go to Plan B and stick to sprinting, but they are toying with the idea of giving him another chance to route next season.
“The big difference between now and earlier in the year is that he’s learned how to relax,” Wilkes said. “We turned him into a sprinter, and he got good at it. This will be his last start of the year. We’re going to enjoy it, and think about next year when the time comes.”
Cost of Freedom – The Sprint contender stood in the schooling gate and then galloped 1m Thursday morning at Santa Anita as he draws ever closer to his start Saturday in the 6f race.
“We wanted him to be real comfortable in that gate,” said trainer John Sadler. “He’s in a race where you’ve got to come out of there right or you’re in big trouble. There’s lots of speed down inside with him and he’s got to be on his toes.”
The Cee’s Tizzy gelding drew post 2 in the nine-horse field. If he looks to his left in post 1, he’ll see race favorite Zensational, while if he looks to his right he’ll find the second-place finisher in the 2008 Sprint, Fatal Bullet. It’s speed on speed, all with a need to lead, and that’s just how Cost of Freedom plays the game, too.
Tyler Baze has the call on Cost of Freedom, a winner of six of his 12 lifetime starts, all of them in sprints. Sadler will school the horse in the paddock Thursday afternoon with the horses for Race 4.
Crown of Thorns – The Ancient Title runner-up, who’ll be making his third start off a layoff in Saturday’s Sprint, galloped 1 ½ m for trainer Richard Mandella early Thursday morning.
The Hall of Fame conditioner, who won four races on a Breeders’ Cup card at Santa Anita in 2003, has only two starters in this year’s Breeders’ Cup events, both somewhat longshots. Crown of Thorns, a 4yo colt by Repent, is listed at 12-1 in the morning line.
“He’s a nice horse,” Mandella said Thursday morning at his Barn 4 headquarters on the Santa Anita backstretch. “He’s got a really sweet personality. Very kind. You could keep him in your backyard.”
Rafael Bejarano will ride Crown of Thorns for the first time in the 6f race.
Dancing in Silks – The fast California-bred gelding “went through his usual drill” Thursday morning, according to exercise rider Ricky Agari.
Just before 7 a.m., the 4yo who races out of the barn of trainer Carla Gaines, went trackside with Agari up and his conditioner alongside on a pony.
“We take him over and stand in the gate,” Agari said afterwards. “Then we sort of ‘hobby horse’ around the track one time – a little jog, a little gallop, all at a slow pace. Just enough to get him some exercise and keep him loose.”
Agari, who rode at the bush tracks in Canada as a youngster, but whose 140-pound frame wouldn’t take the reducing necessary to ‘make weight’ for a jockey license, has been a professional exercise rider for nearly the past 20 years.
He did a seven-year stint with Hall of Fame trainer Jack Van Berg, another seven-year run with Kathy Walsh and has spent the last five years with Gaines. He’s worked with and watched Dancing in Silks since the horse came to the their barn in the spring of 2008.
“He’s just gotten better and better,” Agari offered. “Since we gave him that break (from January to August this year), he’s just blossomed. He put on weight and he’s doing great.”
Joel Rosario will ride Dancing in Silks out of post 6 in the nine-horse Sprint field.
Fatal Bullet – Fatal Bullet just missed in last year’s Sprint when he set the pace but couldn’t hold on late and finished second to Midnite Lute, but he was the big winner at the end of the year Sovereign Awards in Canada.
The blazingly fast gelded son of Red Bullet was voted both Horse of the Year and Champion Sprinter and he has been a dream to train for Reade Baker.
“Now the dream would be to take him to Dubai (for the Dubai World Cup card),” said the veteran horseman. “I went to Dubai about 15 years ago and wrote an article for The Blood-Horse, but it was different back then and there wasn’t much there.
“Now I hear it’s out of this world. But that’s the great thing about this horse, he takes you where you want to go. Every trainer in the world wants to be here for the Breeders’ Cup, but it’s good to be here with a horse who can win it.”
Baker, who ran Bear Now in the 2007 and 2008 Ladies’ Classic, has saddled only three previous Breeders’ Cup starters, but has been to every one of the previous 25 Breeders’ Cups.
On Thursday, Fatal Bullet jogged the wrong way once around the main track under exercise rider Martine Pare.
Fleeting Spirit – The 4yo filly by Invincible Spirit, who will make her synthetic track racing debut in the Sprint, galloped on the main track and schooled in the gate Thursday morning.
She is coming off a neck loss in the Prix de l’Abbaye de Longchamp, and will have Frankie Dettori aboard for the first time in two years when she goes in Saturday’s race. Dettori last rode her in 2007 when Fleeting Spirit broke her maiden at first asking.
Trainer Jeremy Noseda said he’s happy with the filly’s preparations at Santa Anita and expects her to run well on the synthetic, since she trains on Polytrack in England.
Fleeting Spirit, who won the July Cup at Newmarket this summer, ran in the Turf Sprint at Santa Anita last year when she was fourth behind Desert Code.
Gayego – The 4yo son of Gilded Time galloped Thursday morning and earned high praise from trainer Saeed bin Suroor, who arrived in California Wednesday afternoon.
Gayego rides a string of victories into the Sprint, including a Grade I score in the Ancient Title here on Oct. 11, after returning to this country from Dubai in the spring.
“He’s doing good -- I like him a lot,” said bin Suroor. “It’s hard to pick between all the Godolphin runners because all of them are doing very good, but Gayego I like a lot. I think he has the general speed, condition, he has everything. If he gets in a good position, I think he has a very good chance.”
The 2008 Arkansas Derby winner was purchased by Godolphin at the end of 2008 and finished second in the 2009 Godolphin Mile after winning a Group 3 event at Nad Al Sheba earlier in the season.
Join in the Dance – The Sky Mesa colt has virtually come back to the drawing board in the Sprint after tackling most of the top 3yo colts along the Triple Crown trail this season. He enters this race 0-for-7 with three seconds this season, his last start a distant fourth in the Ohio Derby.
“That’s not really what we normally do (going from 9f back to 6f), but the owners were keen to take a shot, so we’re gonna give it a whirl,” trainer Todd Pletcher said after putting the colt through a lengthy gallop Thursday morning.
“He didn’t run badly in the Blue Grass (fifth after setting the pace), so he’ll handle the surface fine. Maybe there’ll be less speed in there and he can just sit back a little more.”
Join in the Dance was also the early pacesetter in the Kentucky Derby and finished seventh in the field of 19. John Velazquez has the ride for Pletcher’s longest shot of the day at 30-1 on the morning line.
Zensational – Bob Baffert’s speedy son of Unbridled’s Song zipped along through a powerful gallop Thursday morning as his Hall of Fame trainer watched with jockey Victor Espinoza from the apron at Santa Anita.
“I’ll tell you one thing,” Baffert remarked to the rider, “I want you to make sure you have a new set of stirrup leathers on that saddle of yours, because when you’re water-skiing down the backside trying to hold him, the last thing I need is for one of your leathers to break.”
Baffert has been commenting all week long on the 3yo ridgling’s all-out running style, and hasn’t hidden his concern over the likelihood of a furious speed duel between Zensational, longshot Cost of Freedom under Tyler Baze, and Fatal Bullet with Eurico Da Silva aboard.
“We don’t rate,” he said. “My instructions to the letter are ‘let him go as far as he can go and as fast as he can go.’”
“He’s a runner,” Espinoza said. “Bob has him ready to go for this race. I have a lot of confidence in my horse, he’s unbelievable. Anything happens in the race, but so far right now it looks good, and when I’m on top of one of the favorites, then obviously I have more confidence than if I were riding a longshot.”
Zensational will gallop again Friday morning.