Deep field bat­tles at two turns

Daily Racing Form Saturday Stakes Preview - - FRONT PAGE -

By Jay Priv­man

DEL MAR, Calif. – The Breed­ers’ Cup Dirt Mile, like real es­tate, comes down to lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion, lo­ca­tion.

This year’s race will be run at Del Mar, where the race is one lap around the oval. Next year, for ex­am­ple, the race will be at Churchill Downs, where it is around one turn. The dy­nam­ics of the race make a dif­fer­ence, and no horse may be im­pacted by the sce­nario more than Prac­ti­cal Joke, the top-class 3-yearold who is un­beaten in five starts around one turn and win­less in five starts around two.

“I’d be much more con­fi­dent if the race was around one turn,” said Chad Brown, who trains Prac­ti­cal Joke. “He’s un­de­feated.”

In ad­di­tion, Mor Spirit – the morn­ing-line fa­vorite of both

Brad Free and Del Mar’s Rus­sell Hu­dak – ran the best race of his ca­reer in the Met Mile, which also is a one-turn mile.

By con­trast, Ac­cel­er­ate re­turns to the scene of his great­est vic­tory, a run­away in the 1 1/16-mile San Diego in which he left Ar­ro­gate well be­hind.

“I feel good about that,” John Sadler, who trains Ac­cel­er­ate, said of the race be­ing here, where Ac­cel­er­ate has won three times in four starts. “But some East Coast horses could love it. These top horses, it’s hard to say it’s a huge ad­van­tage, but he’s run well there – three wins and a third go­ing a mile and a quar­ter against mon­sters.”

Ac­cel­er­ate, Mor Spirit, and Prac­ti­cal Joke are among the lead­ing con­tenders in a Dirt Mile that is one of the most com­pet­i­tive races of the week­end. A field of 10 is en­tered in the $1 mil­lion race, which goes as race 7 on Fri­day’s 10-race card and is the sec­ond of four Breed­ers’ Cup races Fri­day.

Ac­cel­er­ate is 2 for 2 at a mile here. His lone loss was a third­place fin­ish be­hind Col­lected and Ar­ro­gate when stretched out to 1 1/4 miles in the Pa­cific Clas­sic. That was his last start, and it was by de­sign. Sadler wanted a fresh horse for the Dirt Mile, and he likes where he drew, out­side of speed horses like Sharp Azteca and Mor Spirit.

“My horse should be for­wardly placed,” said Sadler, who has seen im­proved speed from Ac­cel­er­ate since blink­ers were added two starts back.

“They’ve helped quite a bit. He had a ten­dency to drop too far back, and at this track that doesn’t work,” Sadler said.

Prac­ti­cal Joke also was preen­tered in the Sprint, which is on Satur­day, but on Mon­day at en­try time the de­ci­sion was made to go in the Dirt Mile and not even en­ter the Sprint, which would have re­sulted in pay­ment of a sec­ond en­try fee to con­tem­plate run­ning in a six-fur­long race for the first time since his de­but in Au­gust 2016.

“It’s quite a bit of money just to take a look, and we thought the only way we’d even think about run­ning in the Sprint is if he draws the out­side in the Dirt Mile, so we de­cided not to do it, plus six fur­longs isn’t ideal,” Brown said. “Sure enough, he gets the out­side post.”

Even though Prac­ti­cal Joke hasn’t won go­ing two turns, he has run well. He was a close third in the Haskell, sec­ond in the Blue Grass and Fountain of Youth, and fifth of 20 in the Ken­tucky Derby from post 19.

“Hope­fully, he can work out a trip,” Brown said.

Mor Spirit is mak­ing his first start since the Met Mile. He has never raced at Del Mar, and was fresh­ened dur­ing the sum­mer meet when he trained lethar­gi­cally here. He’s a no­to­ri­ously in­dif­fer­ent work horse, but his re­cent drills con­vinced trainer Bob Baf­fert he’s ready to re­turn to ac­tion.

Baf­fert also sends out Cupid, who was a dis­ap­point­ing fourth in the Awe­some Again but won the Brubaker at a flat mile here dur­ing the sum­mer.

Sharp Azteca may be the horse to catch. Af­ter fin­ish­ing a dis­tant sec­ond to Mor Spirit in the Met Mile, he has scored run­away vic­to­ries in the Mon­mouth Cup – sig­nif­i­cantly around two turns – and Kelso in his last two starts.

Bat­tle of Mid­way ran the best race of his ca­reer here two starts back in the Shared Be­lief, which was his first with blink­ers.

“I thought he made a big move for­ward with the blink­ers on,” said his trainer, Jerry Hol­len­dor­fer. “He likes the track, which is an im­por­tant con­sid­er­a­tion.”

Bat­tle of Mid­way, like Prac­ti­cal Joke, is a 3-year-old fac­ing


Ac­cel­er­ate is 2 for 2 in one-mile races at Del Mar and also won the San Diego Hand­i­cap in July.

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