The first grade 1 races for 2-year-olds of 2019 are in the books, which means the prospective field for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita is slowly coming together.
As we noted last week, Basin was an eye-catching winner of the Hopeful Stakes (G1), while Nucky sent off mixed signals with his victory in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). They rank as the most accomplished youngsters so far, but that doesn’t mean they’re shoo-ins to vie for victory in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. There are multitudes of promising maiden winners across the country who could step up and change the picture during the next two months.
Who do you view as the top contenders for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile? Here is my Top 5.
His maiden win at Ellis Park remains the fastest effort from a juvenile so far this year, at least in terms of Beyer speed figures. Since his impressive romp July 27, Dennis’ Moment has been training up a storm. He most recently rocketed five furlongs in a bullet :58 4/5 September 7. He’ll be heavily favored in Saturday’s $200,000 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs, a “Win and You’re In” qualifier to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, and I’m expecting another impressive performance.
Although he lost his rider early in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), Eight Rings still made a positive impression racing on his own. He could have lost focus and galloped along however he pleased, but instead he took aim at the pack 15-20 lengths ahead and caught the majority of his rivals by the time the finish line approached. Eight Rings showed encouraging mental maturity under adverse circumstances, and I’m excited to see what this fast debut winner can achieve down the road.
Despite racing greenly at the top of the stretch, Basin was tons the best in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) at Saratoga, where he powered clear to score by 6 1/2 lengths. With a couple of solid Beyer speed figures under his belt (86 and 85), Basin is among the faster members of this crop and rates as the division leader by accomplishments. He is bred to stretch out over a mile or farther and could start as the favorite in the Champagne Stakes (G1) next month if trainer Steve Asmussen elects to keep him in New York.
After he rallied to finish second behind Eight Rings in his debut, this John Shirreffs-trained colt stretched out to a mile at Del Mar and blew away his rivals by 14 1/2 lengths, for a 83 Beyer. This dominant performance wasn’t surprising, because Express Train is a stoutly bred son of Belmont Stakes (G1) winner Union Rags, out of a mare by Horse of the Year Mineshaft. There is plenty of stamina in Express Train’s pedigree, and he should only get better with maturity.
A half-brother to stakes winners Cyclogenisis, Mighty Caroline and Renee’s Queen, this son of American Pharoah was impressive on debut at Del Mar, where he rallied to defeat a high-quality field of well-bred youngsters sprinting 5 1/2 furlongs. Trained by George Papaprodromou, American Theorem is yet another promising juvenile based in California, which gives him a home-court advantage for the Breeders’ Cup.
Honorable mentions go to the Saratoga maiden winners Tap It to Win and Gouverneur Morris, plus Shirreffs’ Honor A. P., who unleashed a big rally to finish second in his debut at Del Mar.