by Jeremy Plonk
October 21, 2019
The gap between what we know and what we don’t know will be expanded on Future Stars Friday at the Breeders’ Cup. For all the familiarity we have in Saturday divisions like the Classic, Distaff and Sprint, racing’s newcomers give us more air of uncertainty. Hype blurs credentials when it comes to limited past performances. Our job as horseplayers is to cut through the hype. I’ll take a look in this week’s blog at the expected hype horse in each of the Friday divisions of 2-year-olds, and try to determine which runners are, and are not, worthy of the hype.
Juvenile Turf Sprint
Kimari lost all chance at the start of her prep at Keeneland, then snatched defeat from the jaws of victory with a stirring rally to advance to 3-for-4 lifetime. Her only loss was by a head at Royal Ascot. She outworked star elder turf sprinter Bound for Nowhere on Sunday at Keeneland for trainer Wesley Ward and looks to have come out of the Indian Summer Stakes better than she went into it. And, she’s beaten the boys twice already in her brief career. Fillies ran second, third and fourth in the inaugural Juvenile Turf Sprint. Hype Meter: Worthy.
Juvenile Fillies Turf
Albigna will be a fancied European in this race following her Group 1 Prix Marcel Boussac victory at Longchamp. We simply haven’t gotten these runners in the Breeders’ Cup at age 2, but fans will recognize its stellar honor roll of winners with subsequent championship raiders like Six Perfections, Found and Wuheida. Albigna’s Olympic Equestrian trainer, Jessica Harrington, will make her first Breeders’ Cup appearance at the age of 72. The Niarchos Family owns, and their Breeders’ Cup success has been vast with 6 wins in the Mile and another in the Turf. Chad Brown doesn’t look to have the monsters in this division that he’s had in recent years, which is what the Euros likely need to reemerge. Hype Meter: Worthy.
The day after Bast won the Grade 1 Chandelier at 1-5 odds for Bob Baffert and seemingly cemented favoritism in this division, all anyone could talk about was Sept. 28 Santa Anita debut sprint winner Donna Veloce. Smashed to 3-5 favoritism, she rolled by 9-1/4 lengths for trainer Simon Callaghan. The $800,000 juvenile purchase in March delivered on promise. Now she’ll be asked to make the major class and distance rise to Grade 1 company at 1-1/16 miles. Only twice has the Juvenile Fillies been won by fillies making their third career start (Indian Blessing ’07, Caledonia Road ’17), much less a second-timer never winning. Trainer Simon Callaghan is 10: 0-0-1 in the BC and has disappointed twice in this division the past 2 years with favorites who finished off the board (Moonshine Memories ’17 and Bellafina ’18). Hype Meter: Not Worthy.
Vitalogy was the beaten favorite in Keeneland’s Grade 3 Bourbon Stakes and will be a wiseguy horse for trip handicappers and exotics players upon his return. Regardless what his price is in the Juvenile Turf morning line, I fully expect this to be the horse everyone feels cute about. From a rotten 14-post at Keeneland, he dropped back to last, trailed a modest-to-slow pace and rallied greenly to finish second by a neck before galloping out best. Trakus clocked him in a 23.58 fourth quarter and 5.97 final sixteenth, both best in the field. But the BRIS last pace figures, which I adamantly apply and follow, only resulted in a 91 on very firm opening weekend turf, which is good, but doesn’t back up the visual. And further note Vitalogy also found trouble in the Summer Stakes at Woodbine prior, leading to his Bourbon favoritism despite a lead-in defeat. Trouble horses tend to find the trouble due to a lack of gears at their own fault. Plus, the Bourbon hasn’t been a rousing success as a Juvenile Turf prep. Hype Meter: Not Worthy.
While it’s quite possible that Bob Baffert’s Eight Rings goes favored in the Juvenile, the hype behind Dennis’ Moment has been palpable since his Ellis Park demolition on July 27. When you break your maiden by 19 lengths, a Tiznow colt for a Louisville native trainer (Dale Romans) is bound to be colored rosy. With such emphasis placed by these connections on the Kentucky Derby, you wonder about the next few steps, which mirror the 2016 campaign of Not This Time. He, too, won his second start at Ellis (by 10 lengths) after a troubled debut at Churchill. The Albaugh Family Stables runner Not This Time was sent by Romans to the 2016 Iroquois at Churchill and proved easily best late in that Grade 3, opting to pre-empt Keeneland’s Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity worth more than triple the purse money. Fast forward three years and Dennis’ Moment travels the exact same path. He’ll go from Churchill to Santa Anita, where Not This Time finished second as the 5-2 favorite in his appearance. Not This Time was injured after the Juvenile and didn’t get out of November before being retired. If Dennis’ Moment fits the hype, then the end goal is the first Saturday in May, not the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and a Not This Time encore. My gut feeling here is that he’ll have to be a superstar to win the Juvenile. Baffert has a much stronger foe this time than Klimt in ’16; and note that the Breeders’ Futurity winner (Classic Empire) upended Not This Time in his BC bid … and that prep has another very sharp 2019 contender in Maxfield, maybe equally talented to the shorter-priced Dennis’ Moment. Hype Meter: Not Worthy.