The Juvenile (G1) and Juvenile Fillies (G1) are generally some of the most anticipated races on Breeders’ Cup weekend. After all, these are the potential stars of tomorrow, and a lot of folks hope to glean valuable insights into possible contenders for next year’s Kentucky Derby (G1) and Kentucky Oaks (G1).
Like any other races, though, the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies can wind up being the proverbial curveballs that even the most astute bettors have trouble hitting. That’s been the case in the last two Breeders’ Cups held at Santa Anita, when the Juvenile winners returned $23 and $29.80, while the Juvenile Fillies win payoffs were $66.60 and $125.40.
That’s not to say we’ll see upsets of this kind in less than two weeks, but the contentious nature of these renewals seems rather evident. On paper, there doesn’t appear to be a Shanghai Bobby or a Songbird ready to dominate proceedings.
With the exception of the synthetic track winner Vale of York (2009) and the aforementioned Shanghai Bobby, sticking with the locals has been the way to go in every other Juvenile held at Santa Anita. FrontRunner (G1) one-two Gormley and Klimt qualify in that regard.
Gormley didn’t encounter a whole lot of pressure in winning the FrontRunner wire-to-wire, and we haven’t yet seen how he’d handle getting dirt kicked in his face. Del Mar Futurity (G1) winner Klimt was comfortably second best in the FrontRunner, but most observers would have expected a stronger race out of him as the odds-on choice. In some respects, he looked more like a one-turn specialist rather than one who will excel going longer.
Classic Empire, on the strength of his Breeders’ Futurity (G1) score, could vie for favoritism. With the exception of his unfortunate start in the Hopeful (G1), where he wheeled soon after the break and dumped his jockey, he’s won every other time he’s set foot on the track. Another Kentucky-based colt, Not This Time, has won his last two by huge margins, though the latest was in the mud.
After a cozy, five-length maiden win, Practical Joke was all out to win both the Hopeful (G1) and Champagne (G1), the latter against a game Syndergaard, who had set fractions of :22 3/5, :44 3/5 and 1:08 3/5. Syndergaard clearly ran the better race in the Champagne, but he’s been rather one-dimensional thus far. A hot pace would help Practical Joke, but again history shows it’s tough to win shipping east to west.
The Juvenile Fillies favored the locally-based the first four times it was held at Santa Anita, but three of the past four have been captured by out-of-towners. If anything, Noted and Quoted‘s mild upset of the Chandelier (G1) flattered Union Strike, who broke her maiden by 2 1/4 lengths in the Del Mar Debutante (G1), but skipped the Chandelier.
The remainder of the leading Juvenile Fillies contenders appear rather evenly matched. If I had to characterize one race on Breeders’ Cup Saturday as potentially the biggest head scratcher, this would be it.