This is the first of a series of posts previewing at the upcoming 2011 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs (Nov. 4th and 5th; TV: ESPN, ESPN2, ABC). Today we'll look at the Juvenile and the Juvenile Fillies, two races that have produced a lot of short-priced winners over the last twenty-seven years.
I'm going to hold off on taking a look at the Juvenile races on the grass until a little later when we'll have a better idea of which foreign horses are making the trip across the Atlantic.
Since the start of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, the juvenile races - both the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies - have been some of the chalkiest events on the entire Breeders' Cup card. The average win price of the winner of the Juvenile Fillies is $16.48, with a median of $6.60. (Breeders' Cup Historical Payouts) Both of those numbers are the lowest for any of the original Breeders' Cup races. (I'm ignoring the new races due to the dramatically smaller sample size.) The Juvenile is not far behind their female counterparts with an average win price of $17.37, and a median of $9.20. The average win price is the 2nd smallest of the original races, and the median is 3rd smallest (behind the Distaff).
Traditionally, the juvenile races on dirt are won by likely horses, or what I'll call the "hot" horse - the horse that has won the big juvenile preps on each coast and captures the majority of the attention from the betting public.
With this year's Breeders' Cup taking place at Churchill Downs for the second year in a row, the Juvenile will once again become the "early Derby hype" race, especially if the winner dominates like Uncle Mo last year or Street Sense in 2006. The location and the race naturally lend itself to speculation of "what will happen" on the first Saturday in May, while the future books drop the price on the winner before the tote is able to process the parimutuel payouts. As most followers of the sport already know, the winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile has come back to win the Kentucky Derby only once - Street Sense in 2007. Furthermore, of the 27 colts to win the Juvenile, only 13 have been able to come back to even start in the Derby, including only one of the last five (Street Sense). Overall, Juvenile winners are 13-1-0-2 in the Kentucky Derby.
If we were to look just at Juvenile winners from the seven Breeders' Cups at Churchill Downs, only three of the winners came back to run in the Derby (1991-Arazi 1998-Answer Lively, 2006-Street Sense), with a record of 3-1-0-1.
While the Juvenile has done a poor job of producing Derby winners, it has done a fairly good job of producing future stars.
Afleet Alex finished 2nd in the 2005 Juvenile at Lone Star and went on to win the Arkansas Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in 2006. He was named Champion Three-Year-Old of 2006.
- Looking At Lucky was a tough luck 2nd in 2009 but went on to be one of the best three-year-olds of 2010, picking up a Preakness win along the way.
Point Given was 2nd to Macho Uno in 2000 but rolled to wins in the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers in 2001 and was named Horse of the Year.
- A little further back, Easy Goer was 2nd in the 1988 Juvenile, while Alysheba finished 3rd in 1986 before winning the Kentucky Derby in the spring of 1987.
The 2011 Juvenile looks like a race that will once again feature a couple of "hot" horses in Creative Cause and Union Rags. Bob Baffert's Drill was another hot horse until he lost to Creative Cause in the Norfolk at Santa Anita. And while losing to Creative Cause is not a horrible result for Drill, the fact that his form seemed to regress slightly after making the change from Polytrack to dirt raises some concerns going forward.
Union Rags made his presence known with dominating victories in the G2-Saratoga Special and the G1-Champagne Stakes. Both of those most recent races saw Union Rags overcome a lot of traffic issues before finding his best late stride and blowing away his rivals. Clearly, the fields he was facing were no match for his talent. If Union Rags is able to stretch that talent around two turns, he'll be awfully tough to beat.
Like Uncle Mo last year, Union Rags will try two-turns for the first time in the Juvenile.
Creative Cause is the West Coast's hot horse after winning the G2-Best Pal, the G1-Norfolk, and finishing 3rd in the G1-Del Mar Futurity. He's won over the Hollywood Cushion Track, the Del Mar Polytrack, and the Santa Anita dirt; that's a nice degree of surface versatility. Additionally, Creative Cause has shown a good amount of early speed in all of his races - sprint and routes - something that's kept him out of trouble most of the time; (he got bumped pretty badly in the Del Mar Futurity and was awarded 2nd when Majestic City was DQ'd to 3rd).
Since it is the "Age of Synthetics", we have to touch on a couple of contenders that will attempt to transfer their winning form from Polytrack to conventional dirt. Dullahan broke his maiden by winning the G1-Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Super Saturday; that was Dullahan's first start on synthetics after losing two races on turf and another two on dirt (both of the dirt races at Churchill Downs). It's possible that Dullahan could find his dirt legs in the Juvenile, but that doesn't seem incredibly likely.
Hansen, the runaway winner of two races at Turfway this fall, has never started on dirt in his brief career, a fact makes Hansen more difficult horse to analyze than Dullahan since he hasn't already failed on dirt. Trainer Michael Maker worked him over the Churchill Downs training track on 10/8, but we've yet to see a morning move on the main track. I'm hoping we get one in the next two weeks.
Majestic City finished 2nd to Dullahan at Keeneland and 2nd to Drill at Del Mar (before being DQ'd to 3rd for side-swiping Creative Cause). Prior to that he won all three of his starts at Hollywood, including the G3-Hollywood Juvenile Championship.
Not only has Majestic City raced exclusively on synthetic, but all of his works dating back to late June are over synthetic tracks.
Take Charge Indy was 2nd in the G3-Arlington-Washington Futurity and 4th in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. He has a single maiden win over the Arlington Park Polytrack to his name.
I won't dig into the pedigree for the Juvenile contenders, except to point you in the direction of a post by TFTribe a while back (Breeders' Cup Juveniles Potential).
The last two Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies races saw a couple of moderately priced horses come out on top - Awesome Feather ($10.40) and She Be Wild ($16.80) - although Awesome Feather was the betting favorite. Prior to that was a run of seven straight sub-$10 fillies to win (Storm Flag Flying, Halfbridled, Sweet Catomine, Folklore, Dreaming of Anna, Indian Blessing, and Stardom Bound). Of the seven Breeders' Cups at Churchill Downs, three of the winners of the Juvenile Fillies were odds-on favorites (1988-Open Mind, 1994-Flanders, 1998-Silverbulletday). Furthermore, 2006 winner, Dreaming of Anna, was the 5/2 favorite. Other than a three year run between 1999 and 2001 when three winners paid $67.00, $96,00 and $25.20, the Juvenile Fillies has been a race dominated by short-priced horses.
If we're look for hot horses heading into the Juvenile Fillies, Grace Hall, My Miss Aurelia, and Weemissfrankie all fit the bill.
A daughter of Empire Maker, Grace Hall is a perfect 3-for-3 in her career with wins in the G1-Spinaway at Saratoga and the Blue Hen at Delaware Park. The Blue Hen was Grace Hall's first try at two turns, a test she easily passed.
Another hot filly on the East Coast is My Miss Aurelia, winner of the G2-Adirondack and the G1-Frizette. She hasn't tried two turns, but the ease by which she won the eight furlong Frizette suggests she'll have little problem taking on another half-furlong.
Weemissfrankie is the top West Coast filly, something she cemented by winning the G1-Oak Leaf in her last start. Her first to races came over the Del Mar Poly, but she sustained her form nicely when switching to the dirt at Santa Anita and stretching out to two turns.
Stopshoppinmaria dominated a group of maidens at Saratoga and finished 2nd but never threatened My Miss Aurelia in the Frizzette. She'll look to turn the tables on the winner at Churchill.
Candrea and Charm The Maker ran a good 2nd and 3rd to Weemissfrankie in the Oak Leaf.
Wesley Ward's Judy The Beauty is an interesting contender due to her somewhat abnormal racing path this summer. Judy The Beauty broke her maiden during the Keeneland spring meet, went to France and won the Prix Caravelle at Chantilly, returned to the U.S. to win a restricted stake over the Poly at Woodbine, and then finished 2nd to Grace Hall in the Spinaway in her first start on dirt. I'm not sure how far this filly wants to run, but she's displayed a good deal of class all year long.