The “Road to the Kentucky Derby” takes us to Santa Anita Park Saturday where a full field of 14 young Thoroughbreds have been entered in the 30th running of the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1). However, early Friday morning it was reported that Cleburne, winner of the Iroquois Stakes (G3), was scratched because of bucked shins. Post time for the race is 5:43 p.m. Eastern time.
Under the new tiered-point system implemented by Churchill Downs last year, the winner of the Juvenile will receive 10 points while the second-place finisher will receive 4 points, the third-place finisher will receive 2 points and 1 point will be awarded to the fourth-place finisher.
Trainer Todd Pletcher will send Havana to the starting gate as the lukewarm 5-2 morning-line favorite. He’s undefeated in two starts including a narrow win by a neck in the Foxwoods Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont Park on October 5.
Havana is a talented colt and his time of 1:35.81 in the Champagne was pretty good. But he just barely was able to hold off a late charge by the fast closing Honor Code and I think that a similar scenario could also play out in the Juvenile Stakes which is a sixteenth of a mile farther than the Champagne.
In addition to Havana, the other early speed colts include Dance With Fate (8-1), Diamond Bachelor (12-1) and Strong Mandate (6-1). If any of those horses figured in the exotics, I would not be surprised. But, of those three, I think that Strong Mandate could develop into a pretty good middle-distance horse.
Other young colts I like best in this race are Tap It Rich (6-1), Bond Holder (8-1), New Year’s Day (8-1).
Trained by Hall of Fame Trainer Bob Baffert, Tap It Rich is stepping up in class and he comes into the Juvenile off of a 4¼-length victory in his maiden debut at Santa Anita on October 12. At the start, Tap It Rich hopped and was last out of the gate, but jockey Mike Smith and Tap It Rich made a Zenyatta-like move on the first turn and the pair steadily made up ground on the frontrunners to pull away with ease in the stretch. Tap It Rich appeared to have plenty left at the end of the race and a repeat of that performance could make him very competitive in the Juvenile.
Tapit, the sire of Tap It Rich, cruised to a 7¾-length victory in his maiden debut at Delaware Park in a time of 1:38.20. He followed that victory with a stretch out to 8½-furlongs and an easy 4¾-length win in the Laurel Futurity (G3) at Laurel Park. Tapit followed that performance with a sixth-place finish in the Florida Derby (G1) and a win in the Wood Memorial Stakes (G1) en route to a ninth-place finish in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
If Tap It Rich handles the stretch out to 8½-furlongs as easy has his sire Tapit did in the Laurel Futurity, then he could be tough to beat in the Juvenile.
Tap It Rich is bred on the nick of the Bold Ruler Ancestral herd over the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd and that is the same nick of his sire, Tapit, and grandsire, Pulpit – Mr. Prospector is the damsire of Tap It Rich and Pulpit. When you have three generations – Tap It Rich, Tapit and Pulpit – bred on the same nick that is a powerful Ancestral Herd influence.
I look for Tap It Rich to run a good race.
Since his off-the-board finish in his maiden debut last July, Bond Holder has finished in the money and improved with every race to compile a 1-1-2 record in five starts. Bond Holder showed real promise when he rallied for a second-place finish to New Year’s Day in a mile maiden race at Del Mar on August 31. Bond Holder finished just 1¾-lengths shy of victory and the time of 1:36.93 was decent.
In his last race, Bond Holder was my long shot pick and he looked good corralling Dance With Fate in the final strides of the stretch to win the 8½-furlong FrontRunner Stakes (G1) by 2¼-lengths. I thought Bond Holder would like the stretch out in distance in the FrontRunner and I look for him to run another good race in the Juvenile.
Mineshaft, the sire of Bond Holder, was an outstanding route racer who won races such as New Orleans Handicap (G2), Ben Ali Stakes (G3), Pimlico Special Handicap (G1), Suburban Handicap (G1), Woodward Stakes (G1) and the Jockey Club Gold Club Stakes (G1).
Conquistador Cielo, the damsire of Bond Holder, was a Belmont Stakes (G1) winner and the 1982 Eclipse Champion Three-Year-Old Colt and Horse of the Year.
Also trained by Baffert, New Year’s Day is another entry who’s stepping up in class and he comes into the Juvenile off a 1¾-length victory going a mile in a maiden race at Del Mar in August. New Year’s Day looked good in that race and he beat Bond Holder who later went on to win the FrontRunner Stakes (G1).
New Year’s Day is bred on the nick of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd over the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd and that is the same nick that produced Street Sense, winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1). Street Cry, the sire of New Year’s Day, is also the sire of Street Sense. Dixieland Band, the second damsire of New Year’s Day, is the damsire of Street Sense.
New Year’s Day has not raced in over two months. However, since his last race he’s fired three straight bullet work outs coming into the Juvenile and he could be ready run another good race.
Hall of Fame Trainer D. Wayne Lukas has said that all along he’s been pointing Strong Mandate to the Juvenile Stakes. He comes into the Juvenile off of a disappointing seventh-place finish in the Champagne Stakes (G1). However, I think that jockey Jose Ortiz did not allow Strong Mandate, who likes to be on or close to the lead, to run his race.
Prior to the Champagne, Strong Mandate posted two impressive wins at Saratoga where he broke his maiden by 4½-lengths on August 17 and followed that performance with a powerful stretch run over a sloppy track in the 7-furlong Hopeful Stakes (G1) to win by a commanding 9¾-lengths.
Aside from his off-the-board finish in his maiden debut, Strong Mandate has been dominant in his last two sprint races and his breeding indicates that he will get better as the races get longer.
Tiznow, the sire of Strong Mandate, did not race as a 2-year-old. And it took him three tries as a 3-year-old before he finally broke his maiden in impressive style with an 8½-length romp running 8½-furlongs in a maiden special weight at Hollywood Park.
Unlike Strong Mandate, Tiznow was not successful in sprint racing but he was an outstanding router who won 10-furlong Super Derby (G1) by six lengths and the Santa Anita Handicap (G1) by five lengths.
The most notable 10-furlong wins of Tiznow came in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) where he defeated the European champion Giant’s Causeway by a neck. In 2001, Tiznow defended his title of champion in Breeders’ Cup Classic when he defeated the European invader and formidable winner of the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe, Sakhee, by a nose.
Deputy Minister, the damsire of Strong Mandate, is a proven broodmare sire of the Belmont Stakes (G1) winners Sarava (2002), Jazil (2006) and Rags to Riches (2007). In addition, Deputy Minister also is the sire of the Classic Champion Thoroughbreds Awesome Again and Touch Gold. And he’s the grandsire of Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Oxbow.
Since the Champagne, jockey Joel Rosario has picked up the mount on Strong Mandate, and, if Strong Mandate returns to the previous form of his win in the Hopeful Stakes (G1), I look for him to run a good race.
Since 1984, sire-line descendants of the Mr. Prospector, Northern Dancer and Bold Ruler, Nasrullah Ancestral Herds have won the most Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Races.
Sire-line descendants of the Bold Ruler, Nasrullah Ancestral Herd have won eight races: Capote (1986), Is It True (1988), Arazi (1991), Boston Harbor (1996), Vindication (2002), War Pass (2007), Uncle Mo (2010) and Hansen (2011). Competitors in this year’s Juvenile who are descendants of the Bold Ruler Ancestral Herd include: Tap It Rich, Bond Holder and Rum Point.
Sire-line descendants of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd have won seven Juveniles: Tasso (1985), Rhythm (1989), Timber Country (1994), Unbridled’s Song (1995), Anees (1999), Street Sense (2006) and Midshipman (2008). Descendants of the Mr. Prospector Ancestral Herd in this year’s race include: New Year’s Day, Smarty’s Echo, Dance With Fate, Mexikoma, Conquest Titan and Havana.
Sire-line descendants of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd have won five Juveniles: Chief’s Crown (1984), Johannesburg (2001), Wilko (2004), Vale of York (2009) and Shanghai Bobby (2012). Competitors in this year’s Juvenile who are descendants of the Northern Dancer Ancestral Herd include: We Miss Artie and Diamond Bachelor.
Medal Count is a sire-line descendant of the Royal Charger Ancestral Herd. That line has produced three Juvenile winners: Brocco (1993), Answer Lively (1998) and Action This Day (2003).
Strong Mandate is a sire-line descendant of the Man O War Ancestral Herd and there have been no descendants from that herd who have won the Juvenile. However, Strong Mandate’s sire Tiznow was a two-time winner of the Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1).