Kentucky Derby takeaways from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile

November 10th, 2022

The race has been run, the winners celebrated, and the seasonal honors handed out. But what can we take away from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) as we head toward the Kentucky Derby (G1)?

As has been well documented, the leading two-year-old contest in North America has hardly been the greatest pointer towards the First Saturday in May. Street Sense (won the Juvenile in 2006) and Nyquist (2015) remain the only two horses to have won both races, but only four other Juvenile contestants — Spend A Buck (1984), Alysheba (1986), Sea Hero (1992), and Mine That Bird (2008) — have won the Kentucky Derby the following year.

To go a little further, the list of horses on top of those six that ran in the top three of both races isn’t large either. To the above six we can add 10 more: Chief’s Crown (1984), Easy Goer (1988), Blumin Affair (1993), Timber Country (1994), Tejano Run (1994), Cat Thief (1998), Afleet Alex (2004), Good Magic (2017), Hot Rod Charlie (2020), and Essential Quality (2020).

Therefore, there’s every chance that next year’s Derby winner wasn’t among the 10 horses that ran in the 2022 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. However, there isn’t any other two-year-old race with a markedly better record as a Derby guide since the Juvenile was first run in 1984, so it’s still worth studying for Derby pointers.

In terms of racing style, Juvenile winner Forte looks to have most of the attributes one might want to see from a Kentucky Derby candidate. Not only does he have speed and the ability to accelerate, he also relaxes well in running, suggesting the 1 1/4-mile Derby trip looks well within his grasp.

On the flip side, Forte’s pedigree gives pause for thought about his stamina. The best North American progeny by his sire Violence — horses like Dr. Schivel, Volatile, and No Parole — have mostly been best up to a mile, and much of his pedigree page is full of horses with similar aptitude.

However, the two best horses by Violence in South America — Fiel Amigo and Dandy Del Barrio — have both won Grade 1 races at 1 1/4 miles, and Forte’s dam, Queen Caroline, a stakes winner at a mile on turf, is by Blame, who saw out 1 1/4 miles in style when beating Zenyatta in the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).

The eye test is as good a judge as any with Forte at the moment, and he definitely appeals as a colt with the potential to be prominent come Kentucky Derby time.

The cases for Cave Rock and National Treasure, second and third in the Juvenile, are harder to judge as they are trained by Bob Baffert, who is suspended from racing at Churchill Downs, and thus neither has earned points on the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby. As their stablemates Taiba and Messier did this year, it seems they will need to switch stables and earn Derby Road points with a different trainer in order to earn a Derby start.

Though Cave Rock has mostly shown speed as a racehorse, his pedigree suggests there is stamina, as his sire, Arrogate, excelled at 1 1/4 miles and his dam, Georgie’s Angel, is by Bellamy Road, whose progeny have shown similar aptitude. He may not have run to his best in the Juvenile; his margin over National Treasure, a horse he beat by more than five lengths in the American Pharoah (G1) Oct. 8, was just 1 1/2 lengths at Keeneland.

National Treasure has some staying potential as well; he is by Quality Road, whose progeny include the 1 1/4-mile Grade 1 winners Bleecker Street and Dunbar Road, out of a mare by Medaglia d’Oro, a versatile stallion whose progeny can get a Derby trip and further.

Of the others, fourth-place finisher Blazing Sevens ran on nicely; he’s got plenty of stamina in his pedigree but may need the sloppy conditions he got in the Champagne (G1) to excel on the Derby trail. Curly Jack, fifth in the Juvenile, was ridden much more forwardly than in the Iroquois (G3), where he came from well off the speed to win, and could be better suited by a more patient ride. Both are by 2018 Derby runner-up Good Magic.

The 2018 Derby winner Justify was represented by sixth-place finisher Verifying, who was bumped at the start and may not have been at his best. As a half-brother to champion mare Midnight Bisou, he may get better with age and is worth keeping an eye on.

Earlier in the day at Keeneland, another promising two-year-old impressed in his debut. Arabian Knight looked like a very good horse when winning a maiden by seven lengths; however, like Cave Rock and National Treasure, he is from the Baffert stable and ineligible for Derby qualifying points.

Two other potential Derby candidates emerged from the Nashua (G3) the day after the Juvenile; Champions Dream, another by Justify, produced a strong staying performance to outfinish Full Moon Madness (Into Mischief).

Other potential Derby contenders are Loggins, second to Forte in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) but absent from the Juvenile, and maiden winners Echo Again, Extra Anejo, Signator, and Ten Days Later.

The next chance to bet on the Kentucky Derby comes in the Future Wager Pool 2, which opens on Nov. 24. Forte will be well-backed, but it’s likely the favored option from Pool 1 — “all other colts and geldings,” i.e. those not among the named options — will be the best-backed again.