The Brock Talk

Monday, October 10, 2011

Breeders' Cup Juvenile A Big Step On Derby Road

It may be difficult to determine when or where the road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands (gr. 1) actually begins. Some might say it as early as the first Sunday of May (the day after the Derby). Others might say it starts with the first grade 1 races for 2-year-olds at the summer resorts tracks of Del Mar in Southern California and Saratoga in upstate New York. Others still says the road does not even begin until the potential contenders turn 3-years-old.

I’m of the school that we are in full swing here in early October. Making it even more exciting now, to perhaps understate the obvious, are the next steps to the Derby - the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. 1) and $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.

There are eight grade 1, open stakes on dirt for 2-year-olds in 2011. Five of them are run prior to the Breeders’ Cup. They are the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk on the West coast; the Hopeful and Champagne in the East and Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.

Champagne winner Union Rags will likely be the favorite for the Juvenile coming off of his impressive win in New York this past weekend. His final time of 1:35.55 was the third fastest since the Champagne was shortened to one mile from 1-1/16 miles in 2005, but that was not the story of Union Rags Saturday.

The big, good looking son of Dixie Union was the favorite at 6-to-5, undefeated in two starts including a seven and-a-quarter-length victory in the grade 2 Saratoga Special in his last race. Before the race there were if Union Rags could become the next Uncle Mo, the Champion 2-Year-Old colt that won last year’s Champagne. But after the race trainer Michael Matz, who also trained Barbaro, was telling Daily Racing Form's David Grening there were similarities between Union Rags and the undefeated 2006 Derby winner. Matz, also making it clear Union Rags had far to go to be compared to Barbaro, admitted that Union Rags reminded him of Barbaro with his ability to accelerate quickly.

That talent was very much evident in the Champagne when Union Rags and jockey Javier Castellano were bumped hard out of the gate, found themselves boxed-in down the backstretch and even squeezed back going into the far turn. Castellano rallied him again around the turn, but kept behind horses out of the turn a far down the stretch. In what looked almost like a replay of I Want Revenge in the 2009 Wood Memorial, when a slight hole opened with less than a eighth of a mile to the finish, Union Rags shot to the lead and almost instantly left the rest of the field behind.

Second choice Alpha made a nice late run to get second in only his second race, but he was not making up any ground on Union Rags.

Champagne Stakes

Further west, Creative Cause took the Norfolk over Drill in a revenge match after the later won the Del Mar Futurity in a rally while Creative Cause was getting interference from Majestic City from the inside. Eventually Creative Cause was placed second, and Majestic City third. But the son of Giant’s Causeway would have none of that in the Norfolk, winning by 3-1/4 lengths over Drill in second and Ruler of Dubai in third.

Norfolk Stakes

It was Majestic City who had been running interference on Creative Cause in the Del Mar Futurity, and it was Majestic City getting passed in the late stages of the Breeders’ Futurity by eventual winner Dullahan. Dullahan, a half-brother to 2010 Kentucky Derby winner Minethatbird, may be headed to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf coming off of Keeneland’s Polytrack and a third in the grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes on the grass at Saratoga.

Dixiana Breeders' Futurity

1 comment:

Susie Blackmon said...

Thank you Brock. Always enjoy your posts because you make me feel so smart after I read them! Appreciate the videos too.