ARCADIA, Calif. -- Cost of Freedom is 8, but advanced age did not prevent him from winning three recent stakes and confirming his status as an elite California sprinter.
"He's not a hard-used 8-year-old," trainer John Sadler said. "It's not like he's had a hundred races; 21 races is not that many."
On Saturday at Santa Anita, Cost of Freedom returns from a seven-week freshening as the favorite in the $200,000 Sunshine Millions Sprint. Eight entered the six-furlong sprint, including an improved Florida shipper that will provide Cost of Freedom his main threat.
Apriority was 0 for 5 and going nowhere on the California synthetics last summer when owner Donald Dizney shipped him to Florida-based trainer David Fawkes. With a change in scenery and a change in surface, Apriority turned around his career.
"The horse definitely stepped forward on the dirt," Fawkes said.
Apriority crushed maiden sprinters at Calder in his second start for Fawkes and first on dirt, winning by four lengths with a 97 Beyer Speed Figure. He followed with a three-length allowance win at Calder and then shipped to Gulfstream to win a one-turn mile with another 97 Beyer.
It made Apriority 3 for 3 on dirt, with possibly the best still to come.
"His numbers are great and getting better," Fawkes said Thursday at Santa Anita, where he and Apriority arrived midweek.
A good-looking son of Grand Slam to be ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Apriority will be racing for the first time on the new dirt track at Santa Anita. If he reproduces his Florida dirt form, Apriority could give Cost of Freedom a legitimate fight.
Cost of Freedom will be racing on dirt for the first time since a 5 1/2-length maiden claiming win at Del Mar in summer 2006. The California switch to synthetics coincided with Cost of Freedom's emergence as one of the top sprinters in the West.
Claimed for $50,000 by owners Gary and Cecil Barber in summer 2008, Cost of Freedom subsequently won seven races and more than $700,000 in 13 starts, including the Grade 1 Ancient Title in 2008. Cost of Freedom, 11 for 21 overall, has been based at Santa Anita since December. Sadler believes the gelding has adjusted to the dirt surface.
"He's had four works over it, all really easy, all with [Joe] Talamo," Sadler said. "He worked him every single time; he's just really good on him."
Cost of Freedom sometimes does not break quickly, and if he missteps from the gate Saturday then either Apriority or Sadler second's entrant, Don Tito, could provide an early challenge. Don Tito finished eighth in the Grade 1 Malibu while compromised by an uncomfortable trip inside.
Don Tito scratched from the Palos Verdes last weekend to go in Sunshine Millions.
"We were kind of spot-shopping," Sadler said. "We think he's going to be good in here."
The trainer added there is "no question" Don Tito is better than his most recent start suggests. He has won 3 of 6.
Other starters in the Sprint include Amazombie, Cayambe, Excessive Passion, Quick Enough, and Dance with Gable. The Sunshine Millions Sprint is race 5 on a 10-race card.