ARCADIA, CA—Although Florida-bred Shards had to draw into the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint off of the pre-entry also eligible list, trainer Kelsey Danner makes no apologies for his qualifications.

Kelsey Danner – Suzanne Sheridan Photo

The $1 million Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint is the fifth race and the first of five Breeders’ Cup races worth $7 million on the 10-race card during “Future Starts Friday” at Santa Anita.

“If you go off of Thoro-Graph or The Sheets numbers, he belongs in the race,” Danner said at the Breeders’ Cup contenders Barn 59 at Santa Anita Wednesday morning.

“In the Indian Summer, he only got beat by a neck and he was on the inside. So, I think all we need is just a little better racing luck and he’ll be right there.”

The $243,000 Indian Summer, run over five-and-a-half furlongs on the Keeneland turf on Oct. 8, was the most recent race for Shards. He was eighth of ten runners and nearly seven lengths back coming out of the turn before rallying to finish just shy of winner Committee of One and runner-up Amidst Waves.

Committee of One and Amidst Wavers are both among the dozen 2-year-olds entered for the Juvenile Turf Sprint.

“[Shards] broke a step tardy [in the Indian Summer] and got a little bit further back than we would have liked,” Danner continued. “But they had blistering fractions that day so we might have been back there anyway. If you looked at the race, at the quarter pole, you think he has no shot whatsoever. And then—almost near the sixteenth pole—he just kicked it in. We were trying to follow [jockey] Johnny [Velazquez] on Amidst Wavers but Johnny kept closing the hole on him. If we would have got open there, it would have been a different story.

“That race was five-and-a-half furlongs and this race is only five furlongs so he won’t have quite as much time to make his run. But we’re looking for him to run a good race.”

Danner said before learning Shards had drawn into the Juvenile Turf Sprint, plans were to run him in New York on the same day so training patterns for the son of Pleasant Acres Stallions’ Bucchero were not altered. However, last minute travel arrangements from Danner’s barn at Turfway Park in Florence, Ky., to Santa Anita had to be made quickly.

“We didn’t have a lot of prep time as far as traveling because we were [number 16 on the also eligible list],” Danner said. “But [after pre-entries were announced Wednesday, Oct. 25] they had several [scratches] so we got in. Shards departed Kentucky on Friday, Oct. 28.

“He was a little tired the first day [at Santa Anita] but he was back to his usual self the next [Sunday] morning.”

Shards has drawn post seven for the Juvenile Turf and is 15-1 on the morning line. Despite the outside odds, Danner is unfazed in her confidence.

“I thought the post position was really good,” Danner said. “Most of the speed is on the inside. We’re not out wide. We’re not going to be buried down on the inside. So, I was really pleased with seven.

“There’s a lot of speed in the race and Shards usually comes from out of it so we’ll looking at the same strategy. There’s a ton of speed. Even the Europeans have speed. I think with any luck, we’re alive. We have a shot.”

Shards races for NBS Stable, Crowns Way Racing and Kevin Marko for whom he has earned $70,750 from one win, a second and two thirds in four starts.

He was a $175,000 purchase by NBS Stables and John Ballantyne out of the Tom McCrocklin consignment at this year’s Ocala Breeders’ Sales March Sale where he worked a quarter-mile in :20.60.

“When we bought him, he had a really nice breeze, so we always thought he was talented because he showed natural talent at the sale,” Danner said. “We thought he would be a nice turf horse because of his pedigree and he moved so well over the [synthetic] track there at OBS.”

In addition to his athletic ability, Danner said his other asset is his comfortable disposition.

“For a horse that runs turf sprints and at the sale, you would not know [his tranquil disposition]. He’s calm and usually doesn’t turn a hair. He is very easy to be around. Except when you brush him. He’ll bite at you in the stall.”

Shards is out of Cynthia’s Fury, by Utopia (Jpn) and was bred in Florida by Craig L. Wheeler. He will be ridden in the Juvenile Turf by Adam Beschizza.

The 3-1 morning line favorite in the Juvenile Turf Sprint is European invader Big Evs (Ire), winner of the Group 1 Flying Childers, sprinting five furlongs on the turf at Doncaster. Michael Appleby, who trained last year’s Juvenile Turf Sprint-winner Mischief Magic (Ire). Tom Marquand will ride Big Evs from post four.

Co-second-choice at 4-1 are Crimson Advocate and No Nay Mets (Ire), who will break from posts one and two respectively and are both trained by George Weaver.

Crimson Advocate is one of six fillies entered including Florida-bred April Vintage, who is No. 15 on the also eligible list. Crimson Advocate won the $100,000 Royal Palm Juvenile Fillies on the Gulfstream Park turf on May 13 and the Group 2 Queen Mary at Royal Ascot on June 21.

John Velazquez will ride the daughter of Nyquist.

No Nay Mets (Ire) won the $100,000 Royal Palm Juvenile on the Gulfstream Park turf on May 13 but was unsuccessful when ninth in the Group 2 Norfolk won by Juvenile Turf Sprint contender Valiant Force at Royal Ascot on June 22. The son of No Nay Never has won two turf sprints since including the $131,000 Rosies at Colonial Downs on Sept. 9.

The remainder of the field for the Juvenile Turf Sprint includes Tiger Belle (Ire) with jockey Cristian Demuro, Givemethebeatboys (Ire) with Shane Foley named to ride, Starlust (GB) has jockey Frankie Dettori, Cherry Blossom (Ire) with Ryan Moore in the saddle, Amidst Wave will be ridden by Flavien Prat, Valiant Force with William Buck in the irons, Slider will carry jockey Hector Berrios and Cristian Torres has the mount on Committee of One.

Return to the Nov. 2 issue of Wire to Wire