Ancient Title Stakes loaded with class

Today’s $250,000 Grade 1 Ancient Title Stakes at the Oak Tree at Hollywood Park meet, the final local prep for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, is filled with some of the best sprinters in the country.

I believe four horses — E Z’s Gentleman, Cost of Freedom, Smiling Tiger or Dancing in Silks — are capable of winning the $150,000 top prize and stamping themselves as one of the horses to beat in Louisville.

All four are Grade 1 sprint winners, and Cost of Freedom and Smiling Tiger both have the ability to go gate to wire. The former, who lost a four-horse photo finish in last fall’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint and finished third, also can lay just off the pace.

Dancing in Silks, who won the 2009 Breeders’ Cup Sprint by a nose at boxcar odds of 25-1, will probably be laying third or fourth in the early going of the six-furlong sprint, and E Z’s Gentleman will be right alongside him.

They all have triple-digit Beyer Speed Figures, all four have scored victories over Hollywood Park’s Cushion Track and they all have solid winning percentages.

Here’s how I handicap the race, with horses listed in predicted order of finish:

Cost of Freedom — Quinonez gets another chance to shine in graded stakes
E Z’s Gentleman — Switches to Baffert’s main man, Martin Garcia
Dancing in Silks — Needs to run well to earn trip back to Louisville
Smiling Tiger — Lone 3-year-old in the race threat to wire the field

Good luck today!

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