Dennis' Moment breaking his maiden at Ellis Park - © Coady Photography

Dennis’ Moment breaking his maiden at Ellis Park – Photo by Coady Photography

The summer race meets at Saratoga and Del Mar have been underway for a few weeks now, and we’ve already seen some eye-catching performances from promising 2-year-olds.

But arguably the most impressive juvenile winner so far in 2019 made his debut at Ellis Park, proving the old adage that a good horse can come from anywhere. Considering the number of high-class graded stakes winners that have emerged from Ellis Park in recent years, it’s clear the Kentucky racetrack is just as effective as its more heralded counterparts at producing big-time racehorses.

So which colts are shaping up as the early favorites for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita? Here’s how I rank my Top 5.

  1. Dennis’ Moment

Trained by Dale Romans, Dennis’ Moment was nothing less than brilliant when he broke his maiden at Ellis Park on July 27. Favored at 9-10, this stoutly bred son of Tiznow carved out fractions of :22.92 and :45.84 before he drew clear with astonishing authority to win the seven-furlong sprint by 19 1/4 lengths. His final time of 1:21.95 (which included a terrific final furlong in :12.14) missed the track record by just 0.58 seconds and earned a 97 Beyer speed figure. The sky appears to be the limit for this talented colt, who has emerged as a much-hyped early favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

  1. Eight Rings

Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert unveiled a potential star Aug. 4, when he sent out Eight Rings to win his debut at Del Mar in eye-catching fashion. After he dueled for the lead through an opening quarter in :21.83, Eight Rings took command and powered away down the lane to win by 6 1/4 lengths, with the runner-up 9 1/4 lengths clear of the rest. By charging the final three-sixteenths in :18.27, Eight Rings stopped the clock for 5 1/2 furlongs in 1:03.68 and received a 94 Beyer. A son of Empire Maker out of the graded stakes-winning Pure Prize mare Purely Hot, Eight Rings is bred to stretch out in distance and looks like an exciting prospect.

  1. Unnamed Colt by Curlin out of Achieving, by Bernardini

Trained by Bob Baffert, this unnamed son of Curlin has turned in four recent workouts at Los Alamitos, including a half-mile in :49 1/5 Aug. 2. Purchased for $3.65 million as a 2-year-old, this bay colt was nominated to the Sept. 2 Del Mar Futurity (G1), but is probably a little too far behind schedule to make the race. A maiden run around the same time seems like a more likely target.

  1. Unnamed Colt by American Pharoah out of Spice Island, by Tabasco Cat

A half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby (G1) runner-up Ice Box, this unnamed son of America Pharoah has been training steadily at Saratoga and already has ten workouts under his belt. The majority of those works have come on dirt, though considering how American Pharoah’s progeny have been thriving on turf, it’s interesting to note this Florida-bred colt (who sold for $1.65 million earlier this year) worked five furlongs on grass in 1:02.48 July 21.

  1. Chance It

Chance It finished second in his debut at Gulfstream Park, but the son of Khozan has done nothing wrong since then. After he dominated his second start at Gulfstream by 9 1/4 lengths to earn a 92 Beyer, he proved his big-figure win was no fluke with another victory in the FTBOA Florida Sire Dr. Fager Stakes by 3 1/4 lengths with an identical Beyer. Only time will tell if Chance It can translate his promising form at Gulfstream to other racetracks, but from a speed-figure perspective, he fits in with the best at this point.