No matter what, the Juvenile is my favorite part of every Breeders’ Cup card. I’m a huge fan of the Kentucky Derby, and this is the best chance we get to see the two year olds that will soon be the three year olds that draw early attention on the long road to that race. The winner of this race almost never wins that race, but there are always horses here that always show up in Louisville in May. For example, 2009’s stunning Derby winner Mine That Bird was an uninspiring 12th in the 12-horse field in the 2008 Juvenile. Above all else, the Juvenile is about massive potential, and that’s just plain exciting.
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Thanks to a controversial change in the rules, the field this year isn’t nearly as crowded as it often is — just nine starters are entered. That change is that the use of Lasix is banned in this race for the first time. Lasix is a drug that is used to control bleeding in a horse’s lungs — a problem that can occur in races because the thin tissues in the lungs are strained by the extreme exertion of racing. The drug works, but the impact is controversial for several reasons — including that it is widely used for most horses in a lot of regions of North America whether they have shown symptoms or not. Horses using Lasix for the first time can experience a boost in performance, and the impact of racing without Lasix after previously using it are hard to predict.
Since other two year old races allow Lasix, most horses here will be off the drug after having previously used it. Trainers and owners who didn’t want to risk that have just skipped this race — something that was made easier to do this year because changes to the qualifying standards for the Kentucky Derby make this race far less important than it used to be in terms of setting up a horse’s future.
Of the nine horses in the field, there are six that stand out as legitimate contenders in my eyes. Here are some 2012 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile predictions with opening line odds:
Power Broker (5/2) - Bob Baffert is poised to have an absolutely massive weekend at the Breeders’ Cup, and this two year old — one of his two in the race — is one of the strongest contenders the super trainer has. His first three races were on the synthetic surface at Del Mar. He was solid but not overwhelming. Then he switched to dirt last time out at Santa Anita, and it was like he was a whole different horse. He didn’t just beat the strong field in the Front Runner Stakes, he absolutely destroyed it. He won by almost seven lengths and could have won by much more if he had needed to. As with all eight of the horses here that have run on Lasix every time out, I am nervous about the impact of coming off of it here. However, I still think this horse is tough to pick against.
Title Contender (6/1) - The other Baffert horse is no slouch, either. He’s only run twice, and never in stakes company, but he won his last race here at Santa Anita. Most impressively, he came out on Oct. 28 and fired an impressive bullet, posting the fastest workout time from among 50 horses who trained at five furlongs. Given that so many Breeders’ Cup horses were in town, that’s impressive. The connections for this horse and Power Broker are the same, so this could be a chance to get a better price on an equally-talented horse.
Shanghai Bobby (2/1) - The biggest challenger to Baffert’s two big runners is the favorite — a Todd Pletcher warrior from New York. He has started four times and crossed the line first each time. He’s unquestionably impressive, and he looks like distance well beyond this race won’t be a factor. However, I am concerned about the challenge of having to cross the country at this age to face horses on their home track. I won’t leave him entirely out of my exotics, but he’s not the horse I like best, and I don’t see a lot of value in this price. One interesting storyline is that jockey Rosie Napravnik, who is having a great year and is in the Top 10 in the country in earnings for jockeys, has a chance to become just the second woman to ever win a Breeders’ Cup race.
Speak Logistics (8/1) - He has followed an untraditional path here — Monmouth and Calder — and hasn’t faced horses of this class. He has been trained in interesting ways, though, and he has posted nice speed figures. He has a chance to be a real player at a nice price.
Capo Bastone (15/1) - Here’s a longshot that is worth a look. He hasn’t won in two stakes tries, but he has shown progress and potential. His closing style fits nicely into this race. He is comfortable here at his home track, and he’s trained well. Nice value.
Fortify (9/2) - I’m actually not that much of a fan of this horse — he has faced Shanghai Bobby twice and has fallen short both times. I just don’t think he’s good enough. What makes him stand out, though, is that he is the only horse in the field that has never used Lasix. Because this is the first year of the ban we don’t know what impact it will have, but it’s very likely that Fortify will enjoy a boost of some sort because of this. I’m not sure it’s enough, but it needs to be considered.
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