Breeders’ Cup Juvenile races: Historical observations, prep trends for Future Stars Friday

October 24th, 2020

As we look ahead to handicapping Breeders’ Cup “Future Stars Friday,” history can give us some interpretive lenses for the juvenile races.

Here are angles to consider regarding the relative success of favorites, top trainers, as well as the most productive preps.

RELATED: Trends worth remembering from Keeneland’s first Breeders’ Cup

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

In keeping with the general rule of thumb that a third of favorites win, 12 have obliged in the 36-year history of the Juvenile (G1). But that overall picture doesn’t reflect the evolving pattern. While favorites were prolific in the first 15 years, they have been less so of late. Game Winner (2018) was the only favorite to score in the last seven years, whereas four double-digit winners struck in same span.

D. Wayne Lukas (Jamie Newell/

D. Wayne Lukas racked up five wins in the early years, but Bob Baffert is closing in on his fellow Hall of Famer with a more evenly-spaced four.

The Champagne (G1) and the Santa Anita stepping stone that’s had a couple of name changes – the Norfolk/FrontRunner/American Pharoah (G1) – have each produced nine Juvenile winners. Curiously, more of the Santa Anita graduates (five) were moving forward from losses in that prep, something to keep in mind for Rombauer this year.

Yet the Champagne form has stood up better on the road, even though it’s a one-turn springboard to a two-turn Juvenile. Seven of the Champagne alumni carried their form elsewhere, a positive for Jackie’s Warrior and also for runner-up Reinvestment Risk. Only two used the Champagne to win in a Breeders’ Cup at Belmont.

In contrast, most of the winners exiting the Santa Anita race competed in a Breeders’ Cup in Southern California (four at the same track and two at old Hollywood Park), leaving only three who shipped to win the Juvenile. One of them was Nyquist at Keeneland in 2015.

The Breeders’ Futurity (G1) is responsible for six winners. Only two Juvenile winners were stepping up from a maiden score, and one from an allowance; notably, all three were based at then-Breeders’ Cup host track Santa Anita.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies

Favorites have won half – 18 of 36 – but as with the Juvenile, that used to be a more potent indicator. The only favorite to win in the last eight years was Songbird (2015), here at Keeneland. Conversely, four of the last seven winners were double-digit odds. Compare that to the first decades, when there had been only five double-digit winners.

Lukas again ranks as leading trainer with six wins. Next comes Richard Mandella with three, and Baffert is in a tie with two winners.

The Frizette (G1) has been the key prep furnishing 12 Juvenile Fillies winners, 10 of whom had to stretch out to two turns for a Breeders’ Cup elsewhere. As with the Champagne, only two got to stay home to win a Breeders’ Cup at Belmont. That’s significant for fans of Dayoutoftheoffice and Vequist.

The reverse is again true for the Santa Anita prep, the Oak Leaf/Chandelier (G1), which has produced seven winners – four when the Breeders’ Cup was at the same track, and three when going on the road (including Songbird). That poses a question for Princess Noor.

The Alcibiades (G1) has been productive with a total of eight winners, all at other tracks for the Breeders’ Cup.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

Eight of the 13 runnings of the Juvenile Turf (G1) have gone to Europeans, including the only two winning favorites. That tally rises to nine if you include Hootenanny (2014), who campaigned in Europe for Wesley Ward. Hootenanny is an outlier as the only Juvenile Turf winner previously untested beyond 6 furlongs, and lacking recency since the Prix Morny (G1) (Aug. 24).

Aidan O’Brien has trained four of the European winners. Note that his one reported hope at this writing, Battleground, is trying to buck the trend by coming off a layoff since July 28. British horsemen Charlie Appleby and John Gosden have each sent out two winners.

Although the Juvenile Turf record is strewn with beaten favorites, it hasn’t paid to get overly creative looking for the winner. Only two went off at double-digit odds.

Winners have employed a variety of paths to this race. Three were coming off placed efforts in the Dewhurst (G1), and Cadillac was just fifth in that Newmarket feature. Of the domestic preps, the Pilgrim (G2) has produced two winners, edging ahead of the one apiece from the Summer (G1) and Bourbon (G2).

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf

The Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1) has the opposite dynamic in that 10 of 12 winners were North American- based. Chad Brown alone has taken five runnings, two of them with the only favorites to prevail. Neither of the two Europeans was from Ballydoyle, so O’Brien is still winless in this race. Bigger prices have been able to strike here compared to the Juvenile Turf, with four winners going off at double-digit odds.

The Miss Grillo has been the most productive stepping stone, a plus for Plum Ali. Five winners have used that Belmont Park prep, and four of them won both for Brown. The Natalma (G1) is next with two winning graduates.

Wherever they prepped, all winners had experience racing a mile (or more). That factoid will be tested by Ward’s duo of Campanelle and Royal Approval as well as by the Brad Cox-trained Emro, all stretching out from sprints.

Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint

Although the Juvenile Turf Sprint (G2) was only elevated to a Breeders’ Cup event in 2018, the first two winners had points in common: both were undefeated, speed-of-the speed American 2-year-olds who’d won at 5 or 5 1/2 furlongs. Bulletin (4-1 in 2018) debuted in the Hollywood Beach for Todd Pletcher, and Ward’s Four Wheel Drive (3-2 favorite in 2019) was 2-for-2 in the Rosie’s at Colonial Downs and the Futurity (G3). If there’s no exact parallel to them this year, Golden Pal and Bodenheimer come close.

The Europeans have been run off their feet in both Breeders’ Cup editions, with just one third-place effort from a total of 12 runners across the two years. That wasn’t necessarily expected. In the predecessor race at Del Mar in 2017, O’Brien and Appleby had the photo-finish exacta as part of an international sweep of the superfecta.  

O’Brien was also responsible for the Euros’ lone third So Perfect, who was rallying on yielding ground at Churchill Downs in 2018. Conditions could be similar at Keeneland, and the Ken Condon-trained Miss Amulet exits the same race as So Perfect – a placing in the Cheveley Park (G1) at Newmarket.

Much more details and analysis of the Europeans will be available in the international scouting report on during Breeders’ Cup week.

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