Thor’s Echo makes
dash for Sprint

Nov 28, 2006 1:18 AM

Before Thor’s Echo won Saturday’s Grade I DeFrancis Dash, taking an unyielding stand in favor of any one horse to win this year’s Eclipse Award as outstanding sprinter would have been risky, sort of like sending Michael Richards to address a convention of the NAACP.

The race for Sprint honors was so wide open before the DeFrancis, even a horse that finished last by 17 lengths in the season’s most definitive race had the qualifications to be voted champion.

That would be Henny Hughes, even though Thor’s Echo crushed him in the Breeders’ Cup Sprint on Nov. 4,

But since Thor’s Echo won the DeFrancis, he likely will be named Sprint king at the annual Eclipse Awards dinner next Jan. 22, even though it was only his second win of the year. Before he finished last of 14 as the 8-5 favorite in the Sprint, Henny Hughes was the overwhelming favorite based on his overall record. The 3-year-old son of Hennessy was undefeated in three previous races this year, including the Grade I Kings Bishop and the Grade I Vosburgh.

The other probable finalist among the three to be considered for an Eclipse is Bordonaro, who won six of nine starts but was fourth to Thor’s Echo in the Sprint after beating him in the Grade I Ancient Title.

Given an outside chance as a finalist is Siren Lure, who was a non-threatening eighth in the Sprint while breaking from the disadvantageous No. 11 post position, and who compiled a five-for-seven record. The gelded son of Joyeux Dancer is eight for 11 since being claimed for $50,000 by Art Sherman in May of 2005 and is expected to make his next start in the Vernon O. Underwood at Hollywood Park on Dec. 2.

"To me, it’s a rough go," Sherman said. "I don’t know who I would vote for, although before the DeFrancis I thought Henny Hughes probably would get it over Thor’s Echo. Thor’s Echo was consistent, but before Saturday, the Sprint was the only really big race he’d ever run. If you’re going to give it to Thor’s Echo, then you might have to give it Bordonaro."

Bill Spawr wouldn’t argue with that.

"Before the DeFrancis, we probably were the favorite," said Spawr, who trains Bordonaro. "We beat Thor’s Echo twice; he beat us once and that day (Breeders’ Cup), the track was funny. The winners should have asterisks before their names."

Thor’s Echo lost his first five starts of 2006 before pulling a 15-1 upset in the Sprint, riding the golden path along the rail from his No. 1 post to win by four lengths.

The inside clearly held the path to glory on Breeders’ Cup day. Four horses were decisive winners from the 1 post. In addition to Thor’s Echo, Dreaming of Anna ($7.60) won the Juvenile Fillies by 11½ lengths; Street Sense ($32.40) the Juvenile by 10; and Round Pound ($29.8) the Distaff by 41/4.

"It was a horrible track for races of that quality," Sherman said of the Churchill Downs course. "There was such a bias it was unbelievable. I was watching all the races that day and if you were outside, you had no chance. Even though (Classic winner) Invasor had post position No. 11, he saved ground down the backside. The jock just sat there and had a great trip, but if you had to five-wide going for home, you were out there and had to tiptoe through the tulips."

The Homestretch

At press time, Russell Baze was about to break Laffit Pincay Jr.’s career win record of 9,530. The fact that most of Baze’s victories came at tracks that are hardly household names east of San Francisco will forever encase his mark in controversy. Pincay won the vast majority of his races at world-class venues, but has graciously accepted Baze’s imminent accomplishment without rancor. That also goes for Spawr, a staunch Pincay supporter, even when the Panamanian was in the doldrums late in his career and seriously considering leaving Southern California to ride at subsidiary tracks in the Bay Area.

"Russell’s a hard worker and if anybody deserves to break the record, it would be him," Spawr said. "But to me, it’s kind of like doing it in Triple A ball as opposed the Major Leagues. But the record was going to be broken eventually. It might has well be by Russell."

”¡ Hollywood’s Cushion Track has had little effect on favorites, who are winning at just about the national average of 32 percent.

”¡ Let me know the next time a sports announcer refers to a white player as having "athleticism."

”¡ Said announcers set another record in acoustic abrasiveness this year for using the meaningless crutch phrase, "I’ll tell you what." Just tell us, already.

”¡ The difference in USC’s authoritative win over Notre Dame can best be described in horse racing parlance: Class”¦.PS: USC will beat Ohio State.

”¡ I can’t wait for the audience reaction to Mel Gibson’s latest movie, Apoxonhebrews.