Breeders' Cup Preview: Juvenile
by Trevor Whenham - 11/4/2009
The fourth of the seven 'real' Breeders' Cup races we'll preview is also probably my favorite - the winner of the Juvenile automatically becomes the favorite for the next year's Kentucky Derby, and there is nothing I like more than the Derby. Last year's winner, Midshipman, was injured on the way to the Derby and didn't return to action until winning in September. Derby winner Mine That Bird was also in the Juvenile, though he wound up a disastrous 12th of 12. There's often a big field for this one, and this year is no exception with 13 entrants.
Bob Baffert has a very strong stable at this year's Breeders' Cup, and 8/5 favorite Lookin at Lucky in this race could be his best. He has won all four races that he's run, and all of them have been on synthetic surfaces in California, including his last race at Santa Anita. It's not just that he wins, either - he makes it look easy, and he has gotten better as he has gone along. He certainly hasn't met a ceiling for distance yet, so this race is certainly within his capabilities. He likes to sit off the pace before seizing the lead for good at the top of the stretch. He's definitely the one to beat, and he'll be a single pick on more than one person's pick-six ticket.
According to the oddsmakers the toughest competitor for Lookin at Lucky is D'Funnybone at 5/2. Since being taken over by trainer Richard Dutrow earlier this year he has been extremely impressive in two starts in New York, winning by a combined total of more than 15 lengths. This is his debut on a synthetic surface, though, and he has trained on East Coast dirt right up to this race, so there are some real questions about his potential to make the shift - especially at this price. He's too good to be ignored, though.
Noble's Promise, at 8/1, is perhaps the best of the rest. He has won his last three, including the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on the synthetic at Keeneland last time out. I'm a little concerned that his connections can't decide what kind of horse he is - he has run at three tracks in four races, and has even tried the turf already - but he clearly has some game. Big races full of young runners can lead to chaos, so it's attractive that Noble's Promise likes to sit on or near the lead where he can hopefully avoid trouble.
Aikenite, also 8/1, was second behind Noble's Promise in the Breeders' Futurity. He hasn't won a stakes race yet, but he's raw and he has improved in his two stakes tries. In the Breeders' he looked good at the end and looked good chasing Noble's Promise. He needs experience, but it's not hard to imagine that he's good enough to be in the mix in this one.
We normally don't have to worry about European horses in this race, but there are four to contend with here. None of them are getting a whole lot of respect with Radiohead at 15/1 and the other three - Alfred Nobel, Beethoven, and Vale of York - are at 20/1. None of the four have gone around two turns before, and they have all run exclusively on turf, so it is hard to know what to expect from them. It's notable that they have all chosen to come all the way to California for this race, though, so they probably deserve more respect that their price indicates. Radiohead stands out for another reason - his sire Johannesburg won the 2001 Breeders' Cup Juvenile as a Euro invader.
More attractive than the Euros when it comes to longshots is a California-based, Mike Smith-ridden, 20/1-shot Pulsion. He has only run once in a stakes race, and that was a second-place finish to Lookin at Lucky in the Norfolk at Santa Anita at the beginning of October. When you look at the replay of that race, though, you can't help but be impressed. He started outside in the 11 hole, and got stuck at the back of the pack. He sat back there for a lot of the race, and it looked like he wasn't going to be a factor. In a flash, though, the horse made an aggressive move forward, and he did it without being asked to run by Smith. He unleashed a sustained move forward and passed everyone but Lookin at Lucky comfortably. He was easily the second best horse in the field, and that was just his stakes debut so he can be expected to move forward with experience.
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