When the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is contested at Santa Anita, anything goes. Two last out maiden winners have captured the Juvenile this century – both at Santa Anita. In the six years that the Southern California track has played host, two Champagne Stakes winners, two Frontrunner (previously known as Norfolk S.) and a Gran Criterium Stakes winner, plus the two last out maidens, have stood in the Juvenile Stakes winner’s circle.
The winner of the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will not only gallop off into the sunset with a pretty wreath of flowers, he will almost certainly be named Champion 2YO Colt and installed as the favorite for the 2017 Kentucky Derby. Never mind that only two colts in the history of the Juvenile actually won the Derby and less than half of the colts that race in the Breeders’ Cup make it to the Triple Crown Trail. But I digress.
Let’s review this year’s Juvenile field. Here’s a chart summing up important points.
#1 KLIMT (Quality Road – Inventive, by Dixie Union) This guy was 4 for 5 going into the FrontRunner Stakes. Up to that point, Baffert had the best 2YO colt in training on the West Coast. Klimt broke a little slow in the FrontRunner and found himself vying for last place in the early stages, someplace he’d never been before. Meanwhile, Gormley was winging it up front, about a length in front without serious pressure. Bejarano swung Klimt into action around the turn, but had about 6 lengths to make up. Not a place to on a speed favoring track with an easy-moving pace setter. Klimt tried hard and closed some ground, but wasn’t going to get to Gormley. Klimt’s final quarter was run in 32.09, the exact final quarter as Gormley.
Klimt had his key pre-race breeze on Oct. 25, traveling 6F in 1:11.80 in company with Big Gray Rocket, who had finished fourth in the Champagne Stakes. The pretty gray Rocket started off a length in front. Around the turn Klimt moved to his stablemate and urged slightly to draw even. Big Gray Rocket gave a good fight and the two finished on even terms. Nice work by both colts, but would have liked to have seen Klimt not have to work as hard to stay with his speedy workmate.
If he breaks well, Klimt will either contest the lead from the rail or sit directly behind the pace setter in the Juvenile. He has a miler/middle distance pedigree, and a long stride. He’s on his home turf and will be tough to beat. Read Klimt’s pedigree profile. Contender.
#2 SYNDERGAARD (Majesticperfection – Magic Belle, by Gold Case) is a short nose away from a perfect 3-3 record. He’s led every step of the way in all three starts. His last start in the one-mile Champagne Stakes ended with a thrilling stretch battle the undefeated Practical Joke. Syndergaard blazed through fractions of 22.74, 44.63 and 1:08.75 before being collared by Practical Joke in the straight. Despite being softened by his early pace, Syndergaard fought hard on the rail, his nose in front just before and just after the wire. Syndergaard ran his last quarter in 25.89. The final time of 1:34.68 was a blink off of the stakes record of 1.34.20 recorded in 1983 by Devil’s Bag and narrowly missing the 1:34.40 set by Seattle Slew in 1976.
Syndergaard had a slow canter at Santa Anita on Nov. 3. He moved easily without antics or pulling. The colt expressed interest when someone breezed by, but didn’t act up. He appears to have a good mind, and I wouldn’t be surprised if Pletcher takes a page from his mentor, D Wayne and switches tactics last minute tor rate the colt behind the speed. Pletcher has done this before with varying success.
Pedigree: Syndergaard has a sprinter/miler pedigree 1 1/16 miles may be at or beyond his scope. He breaks next to Klimt and will fly to grab the rail. If he throws down fast fractions in the Juvenile, Syndergaard will be flatter than leftover champagne. Pass.
#3 TERM OF ART (Tiznow – Miles of Style, by Storm Cat) won his maiden by a nose last time out at a mile in a very professional fashion. He was in rush hour traffic three wide the entire way, had to alter course slightly in mid-stretch and got the nose bob in the middle of a blanket finish. His final quarter was a slow 26.31, but his final 1/8 was 13.04, the fastest final fraction of all BC Juvie entrants who last raced at a mile. Yes, comparing times between tracks is apples and oranges, but this guy could be starting to improve at the right time. His last two gallops looked more like breezes, especially his last work on Oct. 31 Not worried about the maiden angle. Term of Art has 3 races under his girth and two last-out maidens have won the Juvenile since 2000 – both at Santa Anita. Action This Day raced twice, winning his maiden at 1 1/16 miles by a nose and New Year’s Day won the Juvenile after capturing a mile maiden race. I’d feel better if Term of Art had “Day” someplace in his name, but he isn’t facing a tough crowd here.
Pedigree: Classy Classy Classy! Term of Art’s dam is an unraced full sister to G1SW turf miler MR SIDNEY & to multiple SP SAVE BIG MONEY. His second dam is multiple G1SW TOMISUES DELIGHT, who is a full sister to HOY MINESHAFT. His third and fourth dams are graded stakes winners and blue hens. Could be an interesting long shot to hit the board if you’re feeling flush. Otherwise, watch for this guy on the Triple Crown trail.
#4 THEORY (Gemologist – Gem Sleuth, by Officer) won the 6F Belmont Futurity by 3 ½ lengths in his last start, getting his final quarter in 24.34. He’s raced twice, both times in sprints and is now stretching out for Todd Pletcher. The trainer has a 2-17 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. His only victories were with the stand-out favorites Uncle Mo (2010 CD) and Shanghai Bobby (2012 SA). Theory breezed a bullet 4F 49.40 with the 3YO allowance winner Ready Dancer on Oct. 29 at Belmont. The pair finished up well and Theory showed athleticism cutting the corner.
Pedigree: Theory has a miler’s pedigree. His dam is SP and there is minor blacktype in 2nd generation. 3rd dam is multiple G1SW TALLAHTO (Oak Tree Inv. Vanity, Santa Barbara, etc.,). Tallahto is the second dam of Artie Schiller. As mentioned before Pletcher doesn’t have the best record at Santa Anita. Theory’s SF are solid low 90’s, but this looks like a tough assignment for him. Pass.
#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (Pioneerof the Nile – Sambuca Classica, by Cat Thief) enters the Juvenile with three races under his girth, varying in distance from 4 ½ furlongs to 1 1/6 miles. He could be consitered undefeated if we draw a line through the Hopeful Stakes. Classic Empire took a sharp right turn coming out of the gate and was declared a non-starter. Mark Casse equipped the colt with a set of shiny new blinkers for the Keeneland Breeders’ Futurity. The colt broke from post 11, sat 2 – 3 wide just of of the pace for much of the race. He took command at the top of the stretch and won by 3 lengths under a hand ride. His final quarter was 32.26, not the fastest of times, but he was under a hand ride. Classic Empire stretched his legs with a moderate gallop at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. He moved fluidly, not tugging or acting up, and when another horse joined Classic Empire on the outside briefly, he ignored the interloper and continued his steady gallop.
Pedigree: Classic Empire is bred along the same lines as American Pharoah. Both by Pioneerof The Nile out of a daughter of a Storm Cat stallion. The colt’s half brother Anytime Magic captured a set of state-bred juvie stakes in his first two starts. His half sister Uptown Twirl placed in a state-bred juvie stakes and as a 3YO, captured the Surfside Stakes and Pleasanton Oaks, both sprints. Classic Empire has the pedigree and conformation to handle classic distances, yet was precocious enough to capture his debut in May at 4 ½ furlongs. I really, really like this colt. In fact, I like him so much, I don’t want him to win the BC Juvenile, simply because so few winners of this race make it to the Kentucky Derby trail and only two have stuck around to win the classic. Win Contender.
#6 THREE RULES (Gone Astray – Joy Rules, by Full Mandate) has been galloping under the radar, dominating the Florida state-bred races while the other colts have been fighting for graded stakes status. A lot of people have dismissed this colt. He hasn’t beaten anything; his times are slow. When you’re 10+ lengths in front of everybody else, how fast do you need to run? Remember Awesome Feather? Wait, his times are slow? Three Rules set a new stake record in the Dr. Fager, 6F in 1:09.49. The track record is 1:08.12 set by Big Drama as a 4YO. The In Reality Stakes at 1 1/6 miles was the distance test for Three Rules. He answered with a resounding ten length victory, the widest winning margin of his career. Oh, and he got his final quarter in 31.84 the second fastest final quarter among the Juvenile contenders who prepped in a 1 1/6 mile contest. Three Rules was gate schooled at Santa Anita on Nov. 2. Then jogged with the pony. The colt looked good, nice body weight, moving along proudly with his neck arched. The lead pony had some issues, but Three rules was calm and more professional.
Pedigree: Three Rules has a sprinter/miler pedigree, yet he may handle 9F with maturity. His sire Gone Astray is a multiple G2 – G3 SW at 8F – 9F. Three Rules’ dam is a half-sister to multiple SP sprinter ROY’S RUCKUS. The 3rd dam DARK IMP is a SW sprinter. Three Rules isn’t a one-dimensional sprinter. He sat behind horses in his second start and appears professional enough to handle whatever is tossed at him. Include him in your bets. I will.
#7 GORMLEY (Malibu Moon – Race to Urga, by Bernstein) is now 2 for 2. He outclassed maidens by 4 ¼ lengths in a slow 1:17.79 and 27 days later, scored a front-running victory in the Front Runner, upsetting Klimt. Gormley earned the fastest clocking for 1 1/16 miles, 1:43.57, of the juvie contenders who have raced at this distance. Gromley breezed 6F in 1:16.40 with a stablemate on Oct. 26. He’s a big, athletic colt with high knee action. Gormley sat a couple of lengths behind his workmate, but was relaxed, with ears flopping. Nearing the other horse, Gormley was suddenly all business, ears back, lengthening his stride while under a light hold. But once Gormley passed his workmate, the very pretty, curly ears went back up and he was looking around. This is a sign of a mature, intelligent colt, who, despite having raced only twice, knows his job.
Pedigree: Gormley has a miler/middle distance pedigree & may go longer with maturity. His distaff line is filled with turf oriented stakes class. Gormley is the first foal out of a stakes winning turf mare. His second dam is an Irish SW. He has a strong turf pedigree and descends from 1986 Champion Grass Mare Estrapade. Trainer John Shirreffs isn’t noted for condition precocious youngsters, so this colt is one to keep an eye on. Gormley won both races on the lead, but doesn’t appear to be a speed freak. Contender.
#8 STAR EMPIRE (GB) (Foxwedge (AUS) – Celestial Empire, by Empire Maker) won his first two starts, over dirt and Tapeta. Tossed into stakes competition, he’s finished third in the AW Futurity and chased Theory in the Belmont Futurity. Per Trakus, Star Empire wasn’t getting any closer to his rival, his final quarter for six panels was 24.77. Star Empire galloped three times at Santa Anita. He has high knee action. In his Nov. 1 gallop Star Empire had trouble around both turns, cocking his head and moving sideways. Most likely because he was wearing blinkers and had trouble seeing where he was going. In the straight, the colt evened out and moved well under a light hold.
Pedigree: Star Empire has the pedigree to handle middle/classic distances and there’s a ton of turf affinity in his background. His dam’s half-sister bore a multiple SP turf miler. There’s no other blacktype in the first 2 generations of his distaff line. Star Empire’s second dam is a half-sister to the G2 SW turf router Academy Award. Ashland Stakes heroine Well Chosen, the Two-time Sword Dancer Inv.(G1) champ Telling and Travers Stakes winner Golden Ticket are descended from Star Empire’s third dam. Star Empire should love the extra distance of the Juvenile. He has a later-maturing pedigree and at this point, appears a cut below the best.
#9 PRACTICAL JOKE (Into Mischief – Halo Humor, by Distorted Humor) is undefeated in three starts. He prefers to sit off the pace and make one run. The Chad Brown trainee captured the Hopeful and Champagne Stakes, by a neck and a nose. He’s game and his speed figures have improved. Practical Joke ducked in at the start of the Champagne Stakes, which in the long run, was a good thing for him. It enabled the colt to sit behind very fast fractions set by Syndergaard. He still had trouble putting away that rival in the stretch and won with a nose bob, getting his final quarter in 25.39. Practical Joke’s final breeze for the Juvenile took place at Belmont, on Oct. 29, where he traveled 5F 1:01.40 in company with the well-bred maiden Devine Union. Bruno de Julio couldn’t have stated it any better in his commentary of the breeze “ Practical Joke was strangled as rider did best imitation of bobble head doll on turn. Workmate Devine Union was under a loose rein late to finish heads up, but Joke has a ton left at the wire. Wasn’t as impressed with gallop out.” That about sums it up.
Pedigree: Practical Joke has a sprinter/miler pedigree. His dam is a SP sprinter and half-sister to Louisiana Futurity winner CUBERA No other blacktype in 3 generations. Read his pedigree profile. Practical Joke may find 1 1/6 miles at the top of his distance range, however, he is aided by his running style and talent. This colt is aided by a quick pace and if he gets that, he’ll do his best running late. That is, if he doesn’t have to go too wide on the turns. This is a talented colt who likes to win and historically, the Champagne champ does well in the Breeders’ Cup. Practical Joke may depend on a good trip, but you won’t be laughing if you fail to add him to the contender pile.
#10 NOT THIS TIME (Giant’s Causeway – Miss Macy Sue, by Trippi) is the wow horse of the field. After losing his debt by 10 lengths sprinting, he came back to beat foes by the same amount at a mile. For an encore, Not This Time scored an 8 ¾ victory in the Iroquois. He clocked the fastest final quarter of the BC Juvie contenders, with a 30.51 – over a muddy track. Not This Time has won from on and off the pace and his speed figures have jumped in each start. Dale Romans worked the colt at Santa Anita on Oct. 29, going 5F 1:01.60. He has a good leg extension and a long reach. He galloped the distance under a loose rein without being asked. Not This Time is a muscular colt
Pedigree: Not This time has a miler’/middle distance pedigree. He’s half to BC Dirt Mile hero LIAM’S MAP & to SW sprinter TAYLOR S. Their dam Miss Macy Sue was in the money 19 of 25 starts as a dirt sprinter. She captured mostly listed stakes, and her lone graded stakes victory was the Winning Colors (G3). This is a hard-knocking mare and she was multiple graded stakes placed, including a third place in the 2007 BC Filly & Mare Sprint. Not This Time is a serious win contender.
#11 LOOKIN AT LEE (Lookin At Lucky – Langara Lass, by Langfuhr) Had a nice start to his career. After a toss out debut, the son of Lookin at Lucky successfully sat mid-pack/pressing when capturing his maiden and Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes. The colt had a different rider in his trio of starts. Then Ricardo Santana Jr. climbs on. Lookin At Lee is wrangled to the back of the pack and forced to take the scenic route both times, resulting in runner-up finishes. In the Keeneland Breeders’ Futurity, the colt was 14 lengths off the pace in the early stages. He clocked his final quarter in 31.81, just a tick faster than Classic Empire. Lookin At Lee has been logging gallops at Santa Anita/ After his visit to the gate on November 3, the colt was a handful, doing his best Lipizzaner impression while jogging next to the pony. The Chestnut lead pony was not amused. Finally let loose, Lookin at Lee literally sprang into action, galloping along under a tight hold. Rider had a ton of horse and Lee’s misbehavior isn’t concerning, he’s just feeling good.
Pedigree: Lookin At Lee He has a miler/middle-distance pedigree. He’s half to SW turf miler BATTLEFIELD ANGEL & their dam is a multiple SW sprinter. Langara Lass is full sister to G3SW miler (8F – 9F) MADEIRA PARK & half to SW milers AMBLESIDE PARK & OVERACT. Lookin At Lee’s early races show that he has enough early speed to sit closer to the pace. If forced to sit far back early, Lookin At Lee will have no shot of winning this, unless he sprouts wings. He does have a shot of hitting the board. It would take a perfect trip to win.
11 of the last 16 winners won their prep for the Breeders’ Cup. Two placed and three finished third. None finished worse than third. Nine Juvenile heroes raced between 3-4 times. Three started only twice and three started 5+ times. Colts that haven’t had their prep race within a month are at a disadvantage.
A case could be made for just about every colt in here. Most of the BC Juvie winners at SA don’t wire the field. Syndergaard will be winging it up front. Klimt to his inside may go too or just settle directly behind the pace setters. Star Empire and Gormley may press the pace. Three Rules is an interesting one. He has the speed to keep up, but could take back and sit third or fourth. The rest will pile in behind while Practical Joke and Lookin At Lee watch the action from the back of the pack.
#6 THREE RULES (8-1)
#10 NOT THIS TIME (7-2)
#5 CLASSIC EMPIRE (4-1)
#1 KLIMT (6-1)
#11 LOOKIN AT LEE (20-1)
#7 GORMLEY (5-1)
#9 PRACTICAL JOKE (6-1)