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updated: 10/30/2014 8:00 PM

Calabrese loves his BC Sprint contender's chances

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  • Fast Anna, shown here with jockey John Velazquez at Saratoga last August, will represent local owner Frank Calabrese in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday.

    Fast Anna, shown here with jockey John Velazquez at Saratoga last August, will represent local owner Frank Calabrese in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday.
    Associated Press/file

  • The Big Best, left, edged Fast Anna in the Ketel One Kings Bishop Stakes in August.

    The Big Best, left, edged Fast Anna in the Ketel One Kings Bishop Stakes in August.
    Associated Press

  • Private Zone, a horse with Chicago and suburban ownership ties, will compete in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday at Santa Anita.

    Private Zone, a horse with Chicago and suburban ownership ties, will compete in the Breeders' Cup Sprint on Saturday at Santa Anita.
    Associated Press/2013

 
By Jim O’Donnell
Special to the Daily Herald

The boy's name is Fast Anna. Maybe that's why he's so fast.

Frank Calabrese, the Arlington Park legend, will find out Saturday. That's when his stargazing 3-year-old will take on the fastest Thoroughbred racing has to offer in the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Sprint at Santa Anita (scheduled post: 6:01 p.m., NBCSN).

According to Calabrese, he has already been offered $12 million for the colt by some interested parties in Dubai, and he declined.

"He's special," said Calabrese, who won the 2006 BC Juvenile Fillies with Dreaming of Anna, Fast Anna's mother. That win came during Calabrese's 11-year run (2000-10) as owners champion at Arlington. "He's smart, athletic and competitive, like his mother, and just like my sister Anna was."

Anna Anderson, Calabrese's younger sister, succumbed to cancer at age 48. When the printing mogul got into thoroughbreds 15 years ago, he made a silent promise that when a special filly came along, she would be named to honor his sister.

That naming lineage elasticized when Dreaming of Anna was bred to Medaglia d'Oro, winner of the Travers (2002) and the Whitney (2003). Though the foal was a boy, Calabrese, predictably, did things his way.

"Why not?" said Dr. Gary Priest, DVM, the master of Woodspring Farm, Dreaming of Anna's pastoral Kentucky home.

"The colt is definitely his mother's son," said trainer Kathy Ritvo, the heart transplant recipient who won the $5 million BC Classic last autumn with Mucho Macho Man. "He's first up and out in the morning. He also doesn't need to be told what to do."

In four career starts -- all this year -- Fast Anna has only hinted at his ceiling. After easy maiden and allowance wins in Florida, the redshirted rookie fought to the finish while recording seconds in the Grade I King's Bishop at Saratoga and the Grade III Gallant Bob at Parx.

"Look, we jumped from a Gulfstream allowance to a Grade I at Saratoga, caught some bad luck and got beaten a neck," Ritvo said. "At Parx, we battled a home-track horse who'd won in 1:07 (for six furlongs) there and is on the superior path that day and we're still fighting at the end."

Saturday's Sprint is wide open. Fast Anna drew Post 12 of 14 and is a tantalizing 12-1 in the morning line. Bob Baffert sends both defending champ Secret Circle (9-2) and unbeaten Indianapolis (12-1).

Another Chicago-connected starter is Private Zone (6-1), whose Good Friends Stable includes riding great Rene Douglas, ex-Blackhawks star Denis Savard, Dr. Hilton Gordon, Rolling Meadows-based restaurateur Dave Flanzbaum and Larry Slavin of Buffalo Grove. Work All Week (10-1), the 2013 Illinois Horse of the Year trained locally by Roger Brueggemann, also goes in the Breeders' Cup Sprint.

The odds mean nothing to Ritvo.

"We couldn't be more ready," he said. :The colt worked 0:57 flat Sunday. Baffert came over and said, 'That's wicked. That's quarter-horse speed. I wish I had that horse.' "

Calabrese, who turns 86 on Tuesday, also is prepping for the future. Priest has a full baby brother to Fast Anna, foaled in May and as yet unnamed, back on the farm.

"The new one's also going to have 'Anna' in his name," the unflappable northwest suburbanite said, "They'll all get used to it … fast."

Before the BC Sprint, Lake Zurich's Mike Campbell, the president of the Illinois Thoroughbred Horsemen's Association, will saddle his first BC starter when he hoists son Jesse Campbell aboard longshot Private Prospect (20-1) in the $2 million Juvenile (post: 4:43 p.m., NBCSN). The colt was a $50,000 claim at AP this summer.

Local connections at Santa Anita begin Friday when Midnight Hawk, owned in part by Blackhawks coaches Joel Quenneville and assistant Mike Kitchen, makes his first start since a second-place finish in the Illinois Derby last April for Baffert in the $100,000 Damascus Stakes.

• Follow Jim O'Donnell on Twitter @jodonnell17.

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