The 11th running of the Grade 2, $350,000 Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes brings together a field of six, with the winner earning a starting spot in the $2 million Twinspires Breeders' Cup Sprint on November 3.
The field has some accomplished runners including millionaires Limousine Liberal, winner of the Grade 2 Churchill Downs Stakes in May, and Whitmore, who missed by a neck in the Grade 2 True North Stakes at Belmont last month.
Then there is the consistent Eye Luv Lulu, with 20 first or second place finishes in 44 races, as well as the speedy Shaft of Light, most recently second in the Grade 3 Salvatore Mile Stakes. Favorable Outcome won the Grade 2 Swale Stakes in 2017 but is winless in three races this year. Lewisfield has never finished worse than third in nine career starts and is going for his first graded stakes win.
Shaft of Light has won 10 of 23 races on dirt. The seven furlong distance of the Belmont Sprint Championship is his forte as he sports a six-for-10 record at that distance, with all 10 wins earned when leading from start to finish. As a 7-year-old one would not expect the best races of his career to have come lately but that is exactly the case. Three races back at this distance, Shaft of Light earned a then career best 119 Equibase Speed Figure before bettering it by one point to 120 winning the Russell Road Stakes in April. Stretching his speed a bit further for the Salvatore Mile Stakes in May, Shaft of Light led from the start and almost held that lead to the end when beaten a half-length. With three exceptional five-furlong workouts since that race and cutting back to his best distance, Shaft of Light could break out to an early lead and never look back.
Limousine Liberal, who has earned $1.45 million in his career, is also fond of running seven furlongs as he won the Churchill Downs Stakes in 2017 and 2018 at the distance. In this year's win, Limousine Liberal earned a 116 figure which was the third best of his career, the best being a 120 figure when beaten a nose in the Phoenix Stakes in the fall of 2016 and an effort good enough to be competitive with Shaft of Light if that one runs as expected. Jockey Jose Ortiz, currently second in North America in 2018 earnings ($12.1 million), rode Limousine Liberal to victory in both the 2017 and 2018 Churchill Downs Stakes and gets back aboard after a one race absence, adding more reasons to expect a top effort good enough to win the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes.
Whitmore has earned $1.6 million while winning 10 of 20 races. Although Whitmore has only attempted to run this seven furlong distance once, finishing fourth behind Limousine Liberal in this year's Churchill Downs Stakes, he has run well at six and one-half furlongs, most recently when beaten a neck in the True North Stakes at Belmont. With a running style that usually sees him towards the back of the pack in the early stages, Whitmore would be the best beneficiary if Shaft of Light is tackled early by another horse and in that case he has the potential to pass the field for his 11th career win.
The rest of the Belmont Sprint Championship Stakes field, with their best figures is Eye Luv Lulu (107), Favorable Outcome (114) and Lewisfield (114).
Shaft of Light
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