This is the 4th installment in a series of posts previewing the upcoming 2011 Breeders' Cup at Churchill Downs. Part 1 looked at the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies and the chalky nature of those races over the years. Part 2 examined the Turf, and the recent decline in the quality of that race. Part 3 looked at the Classic, and the history that Uncle Mo is trying to overcome in that race. This post takes a look at the both the Juvenile Turf and the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf and Juvenile Fillies Turf are part of the "new" races added to the event over the last five years, but in their relatively short existence they have produced some big priced winners. Since its debut in 2007 at Monmouth Park, the Juvenile Turf has produced one $20+ winner and two $12+ winners in four years ($24.20, $13.60, $6.80, $14.80). The Juvenile Fillies Turf, run for the first time in 2008 at Santa Anita, has produced a $20+ winner in all three years of its existence ($24.20, $21.60, $29.20). On top of that, the exotic bets for both of these races have paid out quite nicely.
|Juvenile Fillies Turf||$14.20||$67.00||$849.50||$8,568.40|
Juvenile Turf Winners
2007 MTH - Nownownow
2008 OSA - Donativum (GB)
2009 OSA - Pounced
2010 CD - Pluck
Juvenile Fillies Turf Winners
2008 OSA - Maram
2009 OSA - Tapitsfly
2010 CD - More Than Real
Field sizes for these two races have also been quite good in the early going. The Juvenile Fillies Turf has averaged 12.7 starters in its three years, and number only exceeded by the Turf Sprint (14.0) and the Mile (12.9). The Juvenile Turf has averaged 12.0 starters per year, which is tied with the Juvenile for the 5th highest behind the Turf Sprint, Mile, Juv. Fillies Turf, and Sprint.
The Juvenile Turf has seen European horses win two of the first four editions of the race - Pounced and Donativum (GB). Both of those winners came at Santa Anita, while the two races at Monmouth and Churchill saw North American-based runners win (Pluck and Nownownow) [As a side note: Gio Ponti ran in that very first Juvenile Turf at Monmouth Park, finishing 8th.]
We'll start with the foreign entries for this race which, I think, are a bit below their counterparts in the fillies race.
Caspar Netscher (GB) won a couple of Group 2 races at six furlongs before finishing 5th in his last race, the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes at Newmarket. He's already raced nine times during his juvenile campaign but it's only been in the last three or four races where he's begun to show that he has enough talent to win at a high class level. Caspar Netscher has been running in sprints in England and he rarely shows much speed from the gate. He'll need to adapt to running around two turns and he's probably going to need some help up front in order to soften up the leaders.
Daddy Long Legs won the G2-Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket on Sept. 24th following a disappointing 4th place finish in the G2-Champagne Stakes at Doncaster. Lightly raced with room for improvement, Daddy Long Legs has raced near the lead in his last two efforts but will probably find himself in more of a mid-pack position at Churchill. Daddy Long Legs has first preference in the Juvenile.
Farraaj (IRE) won a couple of minor event in England before finishing 2nd in the G3-Tattersall Stakes at Newmarket in late September.
Learn (IRE) didn't run all that well as the pacesetter in the G1-Racing Post Trophy at Doncaster, and he'll likely find it harder to get the lead in this race than in Europe given the presence of Finale and State of Play in this field. [Learn probably won't even run in this race as he's being pointed towards a race in France this Sunday.]
On the North American side of the equation, it's hard not to like way Finale has run in his last three starts. He broke his maiden going six panels at Belmont before stretching out to win the ungraded Continental Mile at Monmouth Park by over ten lengths. He backed up that performance by winning the G3-Summer Stakes at Woodbine on Sept 17th and he's in arguably the best form of any contender for this race.
Animal Spirits and Coalport both present a similar profile: they each ran decent in their debuts (both two-turn events) and then came back to run 1-2 in their stakes debut at Keeneland. Animal Spirits displayed a deep closing move in the Bourbon, while Coalport ran in the middle of the pack. At the end, they were separated by just a half-length and there is little to separate them in this race.
Dullahan has raced twice on turf in his career (3rd in the G2-With Anticipation and 2nd against MdSpWts) but his lone lifetime victory came over the Keeneland Polytrack in his last race, the G1-Breeders' Futurity. While turf might not be his best surface, he's probably got a better shot in this race than trying dirt again.
Majestic City is in a somewhat similar situation as Dullahan; he's a winner on synthetics but the connections will likely opt to run on the turf rather than the dirt. It's a tougher call for this colt, however, given the fact that he's never raced over turf (although he's put in a morning work over grass). Horses that run their last race on a dirt or synthetic surface are 0-for-45 in Breeders' Cup races on grass since 2006.
Shkspeare Shaliyah has looked really good in all three of his career races, which includes a victory in the G3-Pilgrim at Belmont on Oct. 2nd. He's shown great versatility in his last two, winning on firm and soft ground at Belmont. He doesn't show a lot of early pace, but his late kick is quite strong.
State of Play took the G2-With Anticipation wire-to-wire in his last start at Saratgoa and is the 2nd of two Graham Motion trainees in this race (Lucky Chappy is the other). This colt will look to continue a pretty good year for his sire, War Front.
Lucky Chappy came to North America from Italy to run in the G3-Bourbon at Kenneland, finishing a decent third to Animal Spirits and Coalport.
I'm going to mention Gung Ho, won of the also eligible for the Juvenile Turf, mainly due to the fact that he's sired by Kitten's Joy, owned by Ken and Sarah Ramsey, and yet doesn't have "Kitten" in his name.
Of the two juvenile turf races, this appears to be the more open event. There is a good collection of North American horses, but none have really separated themselves from the pack. The European runners don't really "wow" you in terms of what they've won, but history tells us that they will still be tough to contend with. Despite that, I think this race is ripe for a North American horse to win.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
While the Juvenile Turf has seen two European winners in its short existence, the female version has yet to see any foreign horses take the top prize. That streak may end this year as the Europeans have sent over a very solid filly in Elusive Kate. A John Gosden-trained filly, Elusive Kate is at the top of the class list of the foreign entries in this race. She's won four straight races, including the Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc weekend and the Group 3 Prix du Calvados at Deauville in mid-August. Her win at Longchamp came over ground rated "firm", suggesting she should take to the harder turf courses in the U.S. Rain is expected in the Louisville area during the Breeders' Cup, but I doubt the ground will end up anywhere near too soft for this filly.
Dear Lavinia: Another French invader, Dear Lavina has yet to notch a group win in five starts, but she picked up wins in several non-group events at Deauville, Craon, and LeBouscat. She raced against Elusive Kate in the Prix Six Perfections at Deauville in late July and finished 3rd, beaten 1 ½ lengths.
Dear Lavinia is owned by Bobby Flay, the same owner of More Than Real, the winner of this race last year.
Homecoming Queen (IRE): One of two Ballydoyle pre-entries in this race, Homecoming Queen has run frequently during her juvenile year (10) but hasn't seen a ton of success (2 wins). Her last three races have been her best but all came over ground rated "soft" or "heavy". She's struggled earlier in the year in races over much firmer ground, which raises some concerns as to whether she'll take to the Churchill Downs turf course on race day.
Homecoming Queen has first preference in the Juvenile Fillies, and even stranger choice given the questions surrounding her footing preference.
Questing (GB): Like Homecoming Queen, this filly has first preference in the Juvenile Fillies, not the Juvenile Fillies Turf. Unlike Homecoming Queen, Questing has run well over firmer surfaces and , being that she's sired by Hard Spun out of a Seeking the Gold mare, she might be right at home running on dirt in the U.S.
Questing won her debut race at Newbury in late-June and just missed scoring her first group win when losing by a head and neck in back-to-back Group 3 efforts.
Up (IRE): The second of the Ballydoyle entries, Up has very little racing experience (just two starts) and even less experience against top class competition (zero starts against group company). She's by Galileo (IRE) out of a Spectrum (IRE) mare (Halland Park Lass (IRE)).
I think it's pretty clear that Elusive Kate is the best of the foreign invaders in this race, and probably by a good margin. Below is the video from her last race in France on Arc weekend in what was something of an oddly run race, at least in the stretch drive when Elusive Kate went way wide towards the grandstand.
While Elusive Kate is the standout European entry, the North American contingent for the Juvenile Fillies Turf also looks quite strong.
Dayatthespa: A good 2nd to Northern Passion in the G3-Natalma at Woodbine in her last start, this filly will try to become the second straight to win this race after running at Woodbine in her final start (More Than Real).
The 3rd place filly in the Natalma, Stephanie's Kitten, won the G1-Alcibiades at Keeneland in her next start.
Northern Passion: This Ontario-bred filly has done little wrong in her young career, winning 2-of-3 starts and taking the G3-Natalma in her last. She tends to race towards the middle to the back of the pack early on, but has displayed a very good turn of foot in the final furlongs (23.33 closing split in the Natalma).
Pure Gossip: Horses making their final Breeders' Cup prep at Belmont won the first two versions of the Juvenile Fillies Turf (Maram and Tapitsfly), with Winter Memories finishing 2nd in last year's race. Pure Gossip was dominant in the G3-Miss Grillio at Belmont in her last start, winning by over six lengths on soft ground. The turf course was really deep and tiring that day, which raises some concerns as to whether she'll be able to duplicate that performance at Churchill. But given the historical success of Belmont fillies in this race, you can't ignore her.
Stopshoppingmaria: I gotta be honest; I think Mike Repole might be trying to be a little too smart for his own good with this filly. Apparently, Pletcher/Repole are considering running this filly on the lawn instead of on the dirt because she's by More Than Ready (the sire of both juvenile turf winners last year). Of course, Stopshoppinmaria has never raced on turf in her life, something that doesn't bode well for success in Breeders' Cup races on grass. Perhaps they just don't want to have anything to do with My Miss Aurelia in the Juvenile Fillies? I don't know.
Rocket Twentyone is another filly that will be trying to win a Breeders' Cup race on the grass without running on that surface in her last start. In fact, she's never raced on turf at all in her career. The same thing goes for Self Preservation.
Somali Lemonade is a perfect two-for-two with a win in the G3-Jessamine at Keeneland in her last start. This Michael Matz trained filly loves to come from well-back of the field in the late stages and looks to have room to improve moving forward.
Stephanie's Kitten has first preference in the Juvenile Fillies, but she's make a nice edition to this race if the connections were to put her back on the grass.
Sweet Cat couldn't hold off Somali Lemonade at Keeneland in her last start, but she's shown enough in her races to suggest she's got some turf talent.