The Breeders' Cup Juvenile will likely decide the divisional championship and pits the East Coast's overwhelming star, Shanghai Bobby, against local hero Power Broker and several exciting 2yos from the West Coast ranks.
Six of the seven past Juvenile winners received the Eclipse Award as champion, but a big upset could remove the sense of inevitability and keep the ball in the court of the unbeaten Shanghai Bobby, an impressive winner of New York's two most prestigious races for 2yos, the Champagne and Hopeful Stakes. That happened at Santa Anita in 2009 when 30-1 longshot Vale of York prevailed over eventual champion Lookin At Lucky.
The Juvenile also plays a key role in determining the early Kentucky Derby favorite.
Shanghai Bobby invades from Belmont Park for leading trainer Todd Pletcher and will keep Rosie Napravnik in the saddle. He likes to race close to the pace with his speed and his BRIS numbers, including a pair of 103 Speed ratings, are the best in the Juvenile field.
This will be the first Juvenile contested without Lasix and the number of entrants is down to nine after seven straight years with at least 10 runners. Compounding the matter is the fact that owners/trainers have continued to race their horses with Lasix despite they change in routine they possibly faced in the future; eight of the nine contestants will be making their first start without the medication.
Most bettors will rely on a dose of faith that Lasix turns out to be a non-factor.
Fortify is the only participant to race without Lasix, making three starts so far for Kiaran McLaughlin, and could attract support based on that fact alone. But Fortify will have to significantly step up his game to challenge after a pair of non-threatening placings in the Hopeful and Champagne.
Power Broker should compete for favoritism off his dynamic victory in the local prep race, the September 29 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita. That was the for the first dirt start for the well-bred son of Pulpit, who recorded respectable efforts while never winning on Polytrack and turf at Del Mar, and Power Broker is a threat to keep moving forward in the hands of Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, a two-time Juvenile winner ('08 and '02). The chestnut colt possesses excellent tactical speed as well as leading Southern California jockey Rafael Bejarano.
Baffert could also be well-represented by Title Contender, a good-looking maiden winner going two turns at Santa Anita in his first dirt start September 20. He figures to show speed for sure and received a commendable 100 BRIS Speed rating last time. Title Contender is highly-regarded by many observers.
Capo Bastone isn't considered a serious win threat -- he is a closer on a Santa Anita track that has played speed-friendly all meet -- but the possibility of hot pace provides at least a puncher's chance to the fast-charging colt. Dynamic Sky, a Canadian-based colt who exits a runner-up in the Grade 1 Breeders' Futurity on Keeneland's Polytrack, is another late runner in the speed-laden Juvenile field.
Speak Logistics, who exits a front-running stakes win in Florida, and California-bred stakes victor Monument will both be facing a steep class hike. He's Had Enough would be a huge surprise.
The numbers edge goes to California, with five runners compared to only two from New York, and locally-based horses have proven vastly superior at Santa Anita in the past, recording four wins and five seconds in the five previous Juveniles over the track ('86, '93, '03, '08 & '09). The lone exception, the aforementioned Vale of York, was an international shipper.
Shanghai Bobby and Power Broker remain the horses to beat in the Juvenile, and favoritism could swing either way between these extremely talented 2yos, but it's interesting to note that favorites have only won two of the last 13 runnings of the race.
Anticipation runs deep for what promises to be an excellent edition of the Juvenile.
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