The 2009 Breeders' Cup Sprint
Less than an hour after the 2009 Breeders' Cup Turf Sprint, nine speedsters took center stage on Santa Anita's synthetic surface. Like their grass counterparts one race earlier, they met to decide who would be the quickest Thoroughbred in their group, only they would do so on the main track at six furlongs.
Southern California was well represented in the event, and the region had long been a producer of equines who emerged as victors in the race. Precisionist (1985), Very Subtle (1987), Thirty Slews (1992), Cardmania (1993), Elmhurst (1997), Kona Gold (2000) and Thor's Echo (2006) were among those who added a chapter to the Southland's history of success in the Sprint.
Cost of Freedom, Crown of Thorns, Dancing in Silks, Gayego and Zensational had either spent most or all of their careers on the Southern California circuit, and all of them could lay claim to being a stakes winner. That was not lost on bettors, for the tote board indicated that the race was seen as going to either Zensational or Gayego. The former was set at 9-5 odds to be the post time favorite, while Gayego was not far behind at a little over 2-1. If the public got that right, then the next question was who would fill out the trifecta.
A local horse made the lead as the field began the Sprint, but it was neither of the two favorites. The 18-1 longshot Cost of Freedom guided the field down the backstretch, but Zensational was close by along the rail in third while Fatal Bullet was on Cost of Freedom's outside in second. Dancing in Silks traveled along in fourth, and Gayego brought up the rear in ninth place.
Cost of Freedom kept the lead around the far turn and was still in first as he turned into the stretch. Zensational had been stuck along the rail, unable to find an opening on the inside or even outside of the leader. He did get out of that spot after the quarter pole, but it would not be his day. Meanwhile, Gayego was making a huge run along the inside. He found the gap that Zensational needed, and was a contender for the win as the field approached the sixteenth pole. On the outside of them was Dancing in Silks, who was outrunning his 25-1 odds in third as he moved into third over Fatal Bullet. Joel Rosario urged Dancing in Silks, and on the extreme outside came Crown of Thorns, who found another gear after clearing the sixteenth pole. With just seconds to go, four horses were capable of winning the Sprint. None of them backed off as the wire loomed.
Gayego kept up his bid, getting even with Cost of Freedom. But Dancing in Silks and Crown of Thorns were right there as well, getting their heads in front as the top four reached the wire in a blanket finish in 1:08.14. In what was an exciting final seconds of the Sprint, the photo went to a local horse, but it was not Gayego or Zensational.
The winner was Dancing in Silks, one of only two California-breds in the field (the other being Cost of Freedom). What's more, the Sprint marked his graded stakes debut, and he made good on the opportunity given to him. He had the biggest win of his career, and gave trainer Carla Gaines and jockey Joel Rosario their first Breeders' Cup scores. And notably, he also led what was a Southland brigade to the wire.
A head separated Dancing in Silks, Crown of Thorns, Cost of Freedom and Gayego, who made up the superfecta in that order. Coming in fifth was Zensational, which gave the Southern California contingent a sweep of the top five spots in the Sprint. Following California Flag's win in the Turf Sprint in the preceding race, the result of the Sprint made the day even bigger for the circuit at its flagship track.
The moment only grew for Dancing in Silks. Now the fourth Cal-bred to win a Breeders' Cup on the heels of California Flag's victory, he would go on to be named the state's Champion Sprinter, Older Male and co-Horse of the Year with California Flag at the California Thoroughbred Breeders' Association Awards. That gave him the distinction of being the only horse to win three awards on the night.
The year as a whole had been fantastic for Dancing in Silks. He entered the Sprint on a three-race winning streak, captured a couple of black-type contests during that time, and now stood as a multiple champion in his home state after that huge effort in front of thousands of fans at Santa Anita.
Before he earned a trophy at the Breeders' Cup, Dancing in Silks had already done well for himself as a sprinter. In his prior twelve starts, all of them going less than one mile, he won a pair of stakes and finished out of the top three only twice. Simply put, the gelding had a knack for performing at short distances, and that talent was evident as he reached the top of the mountain on November 7, 2009.