I love the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. It doesn't get the attention of the Juvenile, and for good reason - the winner of the Juvenile automatically becomes the very early favorite for next year's Kentucky Derby, so everyone cares about that. The thing is, though, that the Juvenile is crazy because young colts are crazy. They are immature and largely unpredictable. Young fillies, on the other hand, are smarter, calmer and, as a result, often times more predictable. You also often see a much better race with the fillies than the colts because they are less inclined to do stupid things that disrupt how the race sets up. We also get to see some really spectacular horses come out of this race - Songbird last year, Beholder in 2012, Stardom Bound, Dreaming of Anna, Silverbulletday, Countess Diana - it goes on and on.
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This year's race is a tough one, with four horses that seem neck-and-neck in the top tier, and a few others that could be a piece of things. Here's a look at how the field shapes up:
Noted and Quoted (9/2 morning line): Bob Baffert has won this race twice, and he is back with two fillies, including this one that is likely to be the post time favorite. She absolutely crushed a field to break her maiden in August. She moved into stakes company next time out but was never comfortable and didn't kick, finishing fourth. That was at seven furlongs. She stretched out to the same mile and a sixteenth distance she faces here on Oct. 1, and she beat a strong field at Santa Anita. As you would expect from Baffert, she has worked fast and impressively since. She is a deserving favorite.
Union Strike (6/1) : This is the horse that beat Noted and Quoted when both were making their stakes debut. That was only at seven furlongs and was back on Sept. 3, and she has not run since. I wish she had both gained experience and tried longer before this spot. More significantly, though, she has changed stables since that last outing, so we have to speculate about how well Craig Dollase will fit with her. I also have not been crazy about what she has shown in her workouts over the last month at Santa Anita. Of the most likely winners, she is the easiest one to pass on in my eyes.
American Gal (6/1): This second Bob Baffert filly won impressively last time out. The thing, though, is that win was just last Sunday, so she's coming back less than two weeks after her last race. It's an odd move, but Baffert doesn't do things by accident, so the fact she is entered here is a good indicator that she has something to offer. That was only her second race. She broke her maiden in August in her first try and then won at Santa Anita over six furlongs last time out. The fact she has to stretch out so much is another reason for concern. Also a concern is that she is taking a major jump in class. She has the highest legitimate Beyer rating in the field, though, so there are things to like. Playing the 'other' Baffert horse often isn't a bad idea, though.
With Honors (10/1): She was second to Noted and Quoted last time out in her graded stakes debut. Her first two starts were on the turf and she was duel entered in the Juvenile Fillies Turf, but the connections somewhat surprisingly chose this spot. She's worked well and is obviously capable at this point in her career of improving.
Valadorna (5/1): Before looking at her performance, this horse has two things going for her. She's trained by Mark Casse, and I'm bullish on him right now. And she's a daughter of Curlin, and I'm a sucker for offspring of the legend. She broke her maiden on her second try last time, but it was at this distance, and she has worked like a beast since.
Yellow Agate (8/1): China Horse Club, a group of Chinese investors who are buying anything on four legs lately, including just purchasing a piece of California Chrome, owns this one. That's more interesting than useful. She won the Frizette last time out, so she has game. She wasn't particularly fast in that one but was faster in her maiden move and has the look of a horse that can improve. A factor.
Sweet Loretta (6/1): This is an interesting one. Todd Pletcher has, somehow, never won this race. This filly of his, which is a daughter of the red-hot stud Tapit, is unbeaten in three outings. Two of those were in stakes. What stands out, though, is that she has run only seven furlongs, and she hasn't run since Sept. 3. Pletcher consciously chose to train her up to this race instead of getting her a longer race. That approach was lousy for him heading into the Derby, but maybe it will be better here.
Jamyson 'n Ginger (8/1): This is another interesting one - and by that I mean that she gives me a headache. Her 103 Beyer last time out is by far the best in the field - American Gal and Yellow Agate are second best at 84. That was in a maiden race at Belmont, though, and she had posted a Beyer of just 67 the time before. Surely the track conditions played heavily in the result. You have to look at her if it rains hard, but it's Southern California, so I'm not betting on that. Otherwise, I think you have to toss her out - or at least toss out that last effort.
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