Somewhat overshadowed by exploits of Rachel Alexandra and the Derby winner are the sprinters from this year crop of three year olds. The strength of any crop should be based on more than just the Triple Crown contestants. This year the group of sprinters we have is unusually strong and may even prove to be of greater quality than the routers. Below is a brief highlight of some of the best 3yo sprinters of 2009.
Capt. Candyman Can - He is probably the class leader of this little sophomore subset. I focus more on his class than his speed because his speed figures have actually been a bit slow but he's finished ahead of two horses on this list already. He has also never lost a race at 7f or shorter. He has great tactical speed and is a difficult horse to out finish at sprinting distances. A very good and very classy horse.
Everyday Heroes - He is still something of an unknown quantity. He is undefeated in 4 starts all at 6f. He only got started in February of this year and he's already won a stakes and twice beaten older horses in allowances. No one has seriously challenged him. At Pimlico this past weekend he earned a 106 Beyer for destroying his rivals in the Hirsch Jacobs. It wasn't the toughest field but he beat them easily and outran the stakes quality older horses just two races later. Being by Awesome Again I'm sure the temptation to stretch him out will be too great to resist but he's already so good at sprinting it means he'll either be a Ghostzapper like monster or much better around one turn than two. I hope they keep him short at Saratoga to face Capt. Candyman Can.
Big Drama - If having a nice looking race record was the primary goal then the Preakness was a bit of a disaster for Big Drama but in reality it was a massive race for a horse that is better suited to one turn races. Big Drama does not have overpowering gate speed but he knows how to win and he can run fast races. I think that 7f and one turn 8f races will eventually prove to be his best game but he'll be dangerous in any sprint races. I suspect his trainer might still put him in some route races because he ran well enough in the Preakness to be tempted by lesser Derby's in states like Pennsylvania and West Virginia. His sprinting form may become a obscured but don't forget that he's a very serious horse around one turn.
This Ones for Phil - When This Ones for Phil transferred to the barn of Dick Dutrow he became a new horse. He has bounced around a few one turn races since coming to Dutrow and I think he is definitely better at 6 and 7f than 8f. It looks like the Met Mile might be next so maybe Dutrow knows best. He earned some massive figures at Gulfstream and I think he is capable of showing that kind of form at other tracks as well. His race in the Withers was good it was just too long. Give him 6f and I think he'll flourish. He may even take to synthetics given his decent race on the Turf. Like many of these sprinters Phil is not a speed crazy front runner. It's a bit of an oddity because young fast horses are usually fast on the front end but all the first four horses mentioned can rate which makes them all the more dangerous.
Cash Refund - If a loss to Capt. Candyman Can is the blackest mark on your resume then you're in good shape. Cash Refund was impressive in his debut where he earned a 92 Beyer but he was breathtaking in his next race when earning a gaudy 110. He was a bit outclassed by Capt. Candyman Can in the Matt Winn stakes but he ran a good second and left the impression that with a bit more time and experience he may be as good or better than any sprinter in the nation. He's not a speed fanatic but he does have ample pace. He needs to learn how to ration his speed a bit better and change leads on time. The raw skills are there he just needs to put it all together.
Zensational - Any conversation about fast 3yo's has to include Zensational the Baffert speedster. It may be folly to get too psyched about a horse that has only run well once in 3 career starts and has never faced stakes company. However if you have the BC Sprint in mind it's worth noting that the one time he ran well it was in a 6f race at Santa Anita. He earned a 104 Beyer for that race and it's one of the best speed figures ever earned in a synthetic sprint race. He didn't show nearly as much on dirt or going a mile, he clearly wants to be fit into the synthetic sprinting niche. Baffert is one of the best in the business at conditioning sprinters.