Daily Cup Update: Juvenile Sprint

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7:28 pm EDT

Ceiling Kitty – see European report

Hightail – “Strange things can happen,” said D. Wayne Lukas while talking about sending out a maiden to tackle more successful runners in Friday’s $500,000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint. “Actually, I don’t think he’s your average maiden,” Lukas added.

The trainer said Hightail wasn’t considered for the race early, but, he said, “The [Breeders’ Cup] people called me and told me the race was coming up light, so we decided to come in.”

Hightail galloped 1 1/2m Wednesday.

Merit Man – The undefeated son of With Distinction appears to be all that trainer Robert Hess Jr. asked for when he was looking at 2yo horses in training at the Ocala Breeders Sale in April. He told one of his sale scouts to find him an athlete, not necessarily a horse with a fancy pedigree that he might not be able to afford.

So here’s Merit Man, unbeaten in two starts, a bargain at $75,000 and the 9-5 morning-line favorite in the Juvenile Sprint.

“He is a great athlete,” Hess said. “He is a beautifully balanced horse with a great stride. And I’ve learned since getting him that he has a great mind, too. And that’s a bonus. His mind could let him do some things that maybe his pedigree wouldn’t.”

In Merit Man, Hess will be saddling his third Breeders’ Cup starter, finishing third with River Special in the 1992 Juvenile and fourth in the 2008 Juvenile Fillies with Dave’s Revenge.

His take on the upcoming Friday race: “We’re ready and may the fastest horse win.”

South Floyd – The Rick Pitino co-owned colt galloped 1 1/8m Wednesday at Santa Anita with exercise rider Humberto Gomez aboard.

Jack Sisterson, an assistant trainer to Doug O'Neill largely responsible for acquiring the colt at an OBS sale, guessed that Pitino would find a way to break away for a few minutes from his busy schedule as University of Louisville basketball coach to watch South Floyd in the Juvenile Sprint on television Friday.

"I made it a point to chat with the coach when I learned he liked horses," explained Sisterson, who attended the University of Louisville on a soccer scholarship. "He came down to Del Mar this summer, but now that it's basketball season, it's difficult for him to check. South Floyd is named after the street the practice arena is on."

Sweet Shirley Mae – Ice Wine Stable’s Sweet Shirley Mae galloped approximately 1 1/4m to 1 1/2m under exercise rider Lindsey Molina.

Sweet Shirley Mae will give trainer Wesley Ward a starter in the Juvenile Sprint for a second consecutive year. Last year at Churchill Downs, the Ward-trained Holdin Bullets ran third in the inaugural running of the race.

Molina said that Ward is in Florida this week and would not be here for the Championships.

Super Ninety Nine – Though he has made only one start – a tally in a straight maiden race this month at Santa Anita – the Pulpit colt Super Ninety Nine is one of the favorites for the second edition of the Juvenile Sprint, which will be the first Breeders’ Cup race presented on Friday’s program.

The good win and the fact that he’s only got to beat six rivals in the 6f race are certainly part of why he’s been looked on so kindly. But a further element in the equation falls on the fact that his trainer is the Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, who won last year’s first running of the race with Secret Circle and has a well-deserved reputation as an excellent trainer of both young horses and sprinters.

Along with all but one of his 10 starters, the trainer watched Super Ninety Nine train at Santa Anita Wednesday morning, who was out early with his 7:45 Breeders’ Cup set.

How was the colt doing Baffert was asked? He gave it a thumbs up.