Breeders’ Cup Juvenile: Last Stop on Championship Road?
By Casey Laughter
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) is always loaded with talent, which appears to be an understatement this year as there are four clear, undefeated contenders starting in the 1 1/16-mile race. Classic Empire is an interesting prospect, as the only race he did not win was when he dumped his rider at the break of the Hopeful Stakes (GI), so if a line is drawn through that race, he too, is undefeated.
This year’s renewal of the race could place the deciding factor in the Eclipse Award for champion two-year-old male. The last time a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner did not receive the Eclipse Award was in 2014, when American Pharoah was given the award despite his absence in the Breeders’ Cup. Let’s look at this loaded Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field, giving insight to the potential winner.
Klimt (Quality Road – Inventive, by Dixie Union) – Klimt is looking for his fourth win in six starts. He has won three races, including the Best Pal Stakes (GII) and the Del Mar Futurity (GI) and he most recently was second in the FrontRunner Stakes (GI) after not breaking alertly and being left with too much to do. The winner of the race, Gormley, just kept going. Klimt likely will be closer to the pace in the Breeders’ Cup, as he is on the rail. He will need to break alertly, and will likely be better in his second try around two-turns. He is a main contender.
Syndergaard (Majesticperfection – Magic Belle, by Gold Case) – After a long, hard battle with Practical Joke in the Champagne Stakes (GI), Syndergaard was handed his first defeated in three career starts. The chestnut colt knows how to battle when needed, but prefers to be on the lead and stay there. In all three of his starts, he has gone to the lead easily and parked for the most part. He just lost the head bob in the Champagne. He will be looking to break cleanly, which he normally does, and lead the field into the first turn. He has never had to rate, but with a lot of speed here, he could have his work cut out for him.
Term of Art (Tiznow – Miles of Style, by Storm Cat) — This colt is making his stakes debut for trainer Doug O’Neill, who is no stranger to the limelight. O’Neill trained last year’s Juvenile winner, Nyquist. Term of Art broke his maiden in his last outing, going a mile over the Santa Anita track. The colt looks to replicate 1993, where Brocco won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in his stakes debut. He has the pedigree to do it, but does he have the talent?
Theory (undefeated) (Gemologist – Ge Sleuth, by Officer) – This New York-based colt is coming into the Breeders’ Cup off his win in the Futurity Stakes (GIII) at Belmont, where he won by 3 1/2 lengths over a short field. The colt will be stretching out for the first time. He is by a freshman sire, so we are not sure how far his pedigree will take him yet, but Theory will be an interesting play. He is not a need-the-lead type, as he sat second most the way in the Futurity. He will likely break alertly but not go out with the early speed.
Classic Empire (*undefeated) (Pioneerof the Nile – Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief) – If a line is drawn through the colt dumping his rider at the break in the Hopeful, then Classic Empire is undefeated. His most recent win came in the Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland, going the same distance as what he will be asked in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His first two starts, a maiden win and a win in the Bashford Manor Stakes (GIII) at Churchill, he came from off the pace. In the Breeders’ Futurity, he stalked the early pace, sitting back in third most of the way. The colt has the ability to adapt, which is a very useful tool to have in his arsenal.
Three Rules (undefeated) (Gone Astray – Joy Rules, by Full Mandate) – Three Rules comes into the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile after racing five times, making him the most experienced colt in the field. While all of his races have been against Florida-bred competition, he has simply annihilated the fields he has faces. He also swept the Florida Sire series, which few horses have accomplished. The colt has speed, as he has displayed, but he is not a need-the-lead type, as he can stalk the early pace, as he showed in his past races. He has a natural stride that carries him a long way. His final blowout for the Breeders’ Cup was fast, covering five furlongs in 57.64. The colt is fast and dangerous. He will be an attractive price for his first start in open company.
Gormley (undefeated) (Malibu Moon – Race to Urga, by Bernstein) – Gormley was a surprise winner of the FrontRunner last time out, defeating favored Klimt, who was back in second. Gormley is ridden by Victor Espinoza, who is no stranger to the big stage, and trained by John Shirreffs. Shirreffs is no stranger to the big stage, either, as he trained 2010 Horse of the Year Zenyatta. Gormley is a big, strapping colt who runs with his ears pricked. He likes to break cleanly and go to the lead. This time, he has a lot of company on the front end. He will be an interesting play, as he has never faced a star-studded field such as this. Can he handle the early pace?
Star Empire (Foxwedge (AUS) – Celestial Empire, by Empire Maker) — The Wesley Ward trainee has been thriving at Keeneland, working well as he prepares for the race. His most recent outing was the six-furlong Futurity Stakes (GIII) at Belmont. His pedigree is an interesting one, as his sire was never raced. Star Empire has tried stakes company twice, finished third in the Grade Three Arlington-Washington Futurity and second in the Grade Three Futurity. The colt runs close to the pace, but not on it. He should work out a decent trip, but his talent is still questionable.
Practical Joke (undefeated) (Into Mischief – Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor) –This undefeated son of Into Mischief will be looking to remain undefeated while making his first start around two turns. He won the Champagne Stakes (GI) in a hard fought stretch run against Syndergaard. Practical Joke has a pedigree that suggests he may find difficulties going two turns. While Into Mischief has a few colts how have successfully gone two turns, particularly Goldencents, his pedigree is questionable. Practical Joke is no joke and should be considered a threat in this outing.
Not This Time (Giant’s Causeway – Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi) – Not This Time has been said to be easily one of the most impressive horses on the track in the mornings at Santa Anita, and while he is not undefeated, when he is on, he spreads it on thick. In his maiden-breaking effort in his second start, he annihilated a field at Ellis Park before winning the Iroquois Stakes (GIII) in the mud at Churchill Downs by nearly nine lengths. Not This Time is a half sibling to Liam’s Map, the dominant Breeders’ Cup Mile (GI) winner last year. This colt has a bright future, and should be considered a major threat going forward.
Looking at Lee (Lookin at Lucky – Langara Lass, by Langfuhr) – This Steve Asmussen trainee has finished second in both his graded stakes events and looks like he will relish distance as he gets it. He is a big colt with a lengthy stride. The colt did win the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes in his third start and then finished behind Not This Time and Classic Empire. He will be an attractive price and should get a good pace to run at.
Overall, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile looks to be very deep and has potential to be one of the best races on the Breeders’ Cup schedule. With four undefeated horses, this field will be tough to play. There is a lot of early pace in here. Deciding which horses will be quality speed will be key. Also, the track at Santa Anita often favors early speed, which will come into play when choosing your Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner.