Outside of the Classic there isn't a race I look forward to at the Breeders' Cup each year than the Juvenile. While the winner only rarely factors into the Kentucky Derby, this is nonetheless the best chance we have had so far to see which two year olds are the best when matched up against each other. It starts the long process of dreaming about the Kentucky Derby. Unfortunately, for handicappers it can be a nightmare. These horses are very young and inexperienced and aren't usually used to running in fields this big. Add in the crowd noise and you have a serious potential for chaos. It's a great puzzle. We should have a full field of 14 this year. Here are some of the highlights (and lowlights):
Brody's Cause (4/1): He has only run three times, but the last race - his second win - was both his longest and at the same Keeneland track he will run on in the Breeders' Cup. It was a muddy surface then, so a dry track this time could take away some of his advantage. He has trained well and has solid connections, though, and is a legitimate, though not overpowering, favorite in a deep field. With this horse as the favorite, though, it is very clear that this is a wide-open race.
Greenpointcrusader (5/1): He's a son of the great Bernardini. That's a point in his favor in my eyes. After breaking his maiden at Saratoga in his second try, he came out last time and dominated the Champagne - the race that has produced three of the eight winners of the Juvenile at nearby Churchill Downs. He has run longer each time out and has looked better each time, too. He's on the rise, and at the right price will be tough to get past.
Nyquist (6/1): Last time out he was the winner of the FrontRunner Stakes - the biggest of the West Coast preps won last year by none other than American Pharoah. This horse has yet to lose in four outings. The problem, though, is that he did not make winning look easy last time out, and that was at the longest distance he has seen. His sire, Uncle Mo, won this race in 2010, though, so success is in his blood. Still, I lean towards seeing his winning streak come to an end.
Exaggerator (8/1): Trainer Keith Desormeaux, and brother and jockey Kent, won this race last year with Texas Red, so we have to consider them here. This horse was favored in the Breeders' Futurity here at Keeneland last time out but was second to Brody's Cause. This son of Curlin is a closer who is learning how to use that sprint ability. If the pace is crazy early here - all but a certainty in this race most years - then he could be well positioned to pick up the pieces.
Riker (10/1): The first thing that stands out here is that he won the Grey Stakes last time out - a race that was won by shocking Derby winner Mine That Bird in 2008. Riker has only run on synthetic tracks in his four races - all wins - though, so the shift to dirt is a big concern. He does have a bullet work on dirt last time out, though, so that makes him more interesting than he could have been.
Ralis (12/1): Tough horse to judge. Two back he was absolutely dominant in the Hopeful at Saratoga. Last time, though, he looked lethargic and was a mess in the Champagne. Was the problem that that race was longer or that the track was sloppy? I can't decide. He's a stablemate of Nyquist, though they have been on opposite sides of the country for races since June.
Cocked and Loaded (12/1): A strange summer for this one. After a nice win in the Tremont at Belmont he bombed as favorite in the Sanford at Saratoga then had a second disastrous outing on the synthetic at Arlington. It was very concerning. But then he stretched out at Churchill Downs last time and looked like a pro. Since then he's been working well at Keeneland. At this type of price he'd be very attractive.
Swipe (15/1): This horse is Nyquist's bridesmaid - he has finished second behind him in each of his last three outings. The result was closest last time out, but that race was also glacially slow. So, it's pretty clear that this horse isn't as good as Nyquist, and I don't think Nyquist is near the best here. Pretty easy to rule out this second horse from the Desormeaux barn.
Conquest Big E (15/1): Interesting horse here if you like long shots. He has only run twice, and only in maiden races. He won last time out, though - at this distance and on this track. Trainer Mark Casse has been red hot this fall at Keeneland, and the horse has trained very well. Two horses in the last 12 years - Action This Day and New Year's Day - have jumped from maiden special weight to a win here, so it is possible.
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Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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