The Santa Anita Juvenile Championship Stakes was formerly known as the Hollywood Juvenile Championship Stakes. First carded in 1938, the Grade 3 event for two-year-olds was contested at six furlongs. 1959 Kentucky Derby winner Tommy Lee and Triple Crown hero Affirmed captured the race. Other notable winners include Champion 2yo filly Althea, Terlingua, the dam of legendary sire Storm Cat, multiple G1 winner, and son of Storm Cat, Hennessy, and Squirtle Squirt, who continued on to become a Champion Sprinter. Kentucky Derby and Preakness runner-up Desert Wine, Graded Stakes winners and sires Dixie Union, Yes Its True and Swiss Yodeler also include this race on their list of accomplishments.
The Hollywood/Santa Anita Juvenile has lost some luster, including the race’s Grade 3 designation and it has been shortened to 5 ½ furlongs. The winners and runners-up of the last six editions of the affair haven’t reached the status of previously mentioned winners, but we are ever hopeful that another year will unveil a star.
The 2016 Santa Anita Juvenile Championship Stakes attracted a small field of six colts. All except Rebel War have won their debut. California Diamond is the only last-out winner who didn’t have the lead from the outset of their race. Trainer Doug O’Neil will attempt to take down the exacta with Green With Eddie and Secret House. O’Neil has hogged the Juvenile Championship Trophy – he earned it in 2008, 2009, 2014 and last year, completed the exacta with two sons of Square Eddie, Found Money and Mrazek.
GREEN WITH EDDIE (Square Eddie – Marquis Diamond, by Yonaguska) has the more precocious pedigree of this year’s O’Neil charges. The son of Square Eddie is a full brother to the restricted stakes sprinter More Complexity. Their dam Marquis Diamond won or placed in half of her eight starts, and she’s a half-sister to a stakes placed runner. The second dam is also stakes placed. With the bloodlines of the precocious sprinters Yonaguska and Belong to Me in his first two generations, Green With Eddie is built to be a quick sprinter.
On the other hoof, SECRET HOUSE (Tiznow – Mega Dream, by Medaglia d’Oro) is bred to win classic races. At first glance, it would appear that this good looking son of two-time BC Classic Champ Tiznow is surprisingly precocious. Secret House’s dam didn’t earn her first victory until March of her three-year-old season. She developed into a stakes-winning turf sprinter.
Medaglia d’Oro gets the occasional early winner, but most of them (Songbird, Rachel Alexandra, Plum Pretty) are fillies. Yet, Secret House’s distaff line holds the key to this colt’s raw talent. His dam is a half-sister to Giant Jack (Harlan’s Holiday), winner of the Springboard Mile as a two-year-old. Secret House’s third dam Premium Win, a daughter of Lyphard, was a stakes-placed juvenile in France. Her son Valiant Nature captured the 1993 Hollywood Futurity (G1). That one’s full brother Tight Spot was 1991 Champion Turf Male. Farther back in the pedigree are the 1962 Champion 2YO Colt Never Bend and 1964 Champion Filly Mira Femme. Sadly, their daughter Classic Perfection didn’t live up to her breeding on the race track, but she did bear six blacktype earners, five of them won or placed in stakes as two-year-olds.
But back to the future. Secret House could win on class alone, but sprinting isn’t his forte. As the distances lengthen, this colt will be in his element. Secret House has a strong turf pedigree, so we could see him on the lawn if his Kentucky Derby dreams fail to materialize.
Jerry Hollendorfer tries his chances with SILVER ASSAULT (Maclean’s Music – Spooky Minister, by Deputy Minister). The pretty gray colt completed 5 furlongs in :57.31, just missing the track record of :56.37. His first crop sire, Maclean’s Music, is off to an excellent start at stud, with four winners from eight starters. Silver Assault is a half-brother to Grade 3 placed miler Holy Candy (Candy Ride). Their unraced dam is a half-sister to the juvenile stakes placed Broadway Moon. Silver Assault’s second dam Lunar Spook was a tough multiple graded stakes veteran who won from 6 ½ furlongs to 1 1/16 miles. The highlight of her career was capturing the 1993 Ashland Stakes (G1). Surprisingly, Hollendorfer hasn’t won the Juvenile Championship since 1988. Maybe he’s due to earn another one.
The short field means that there likely won’t be huge odds on the current 12-1 longshot REBEL WAR (In Summation – Dixie Gator Gal, by Dixie Union). Keep an eye on this one. He met up with Right Hand Man in their debut. While Right Hand Man had it all his own way winging it on the lead, Rebel War broke last and had to make up ground through the entire race. That isn’t easy to do in a 5-furlong sprint over a speed-favoring track. Rebel War kept going and closed to finish fourth. Rebel War is the first foal out of an unraced full sister to a stakes placed runner. Going back a generation, we find the classy G1 stakes mare Mandy’s Gold. Rebel War has breezed well since his debut, but trainer Bobby Grayson’s record of 0-19 with second-time starters is disconcerting.
RIGHT HAND MAN (Street Boss – Storm Queen, by Stormy Atlantic) drag raced through the opening half in his debut, nailing the first quarter in :21.73 and the half in :45 while staying a safe 1 ½ lengths in front. That pretty much fried his opponents and Right Hand Man maintained that lead at the wire. His late fractions show a different story. He slowed down in the stretch, getting his final 1/8 in 12.76. Right Hand Man has little blacktype in his distaff line. His two half-siblings each earned a maiden victory but had seven starts between them. Right Hand Man’s second dam Dixieland Gold was a G2 winning sprinter annnd…that’s all we have for three generations. Right Hand Man has posted two strong pre-race breezes, and we have to respect the reliable trainer Jeff Bonde.
CALIFORNIA DIAMOND (Harbor the Gold – Carrie’s a Jewel, by Slewdledo) pressed the blazing pace of :21.61 and :44.87. Despite the fractions, the leader, 17-1 longshot Rim Ditch wasn’t slowing down much. Jockey Edwin Maldonado whaled on California Diamond through the stretch. The colt didn’t like it much, briefly swishing his tail, but he grudgingly closed the gap and won by 2 ½ lengths. California Diamon got his final 1/8 mile in 12.82 under duress. California Diamond’s sire was an underperforming half-brother to 1996 2YO Champ Boston Harbor. His dam Carrie’s a Jewel placed in a minor stakes race and owns the only blacktype in two generations of the distaff family. Trainer John Brocklebank is 0-8 with the last out maiden to stakes angle.
It’s rumored that a stable hand caught Doug O’Neil posing in a mirror in preparation for capturing the Santa Anita Juvenile Championship for the third straight year. Maybe I lack imagination, but I’ll go with another chalky O’Neil exacta. As much as I like Secret House, his best is yet to come, so his stablemate gets the nod for the victory. Besides, I like the name and think that Square Eddie is an underrated sire.
#2 GREEN WITH EDDIIE (3-1)
#3 SECRET HOUSE (3-1)
#4 SILVER ASSAULT (5-2)
#1 REBEL WAR (12-1)