Santa Anita Park 11/5/2016
Post Time: 2:43 PM PST
Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
Analysis by Michael Patricks
Day two of the Breeders Cup from Santa Anita Park features nine consecutive Grade I races, highlighted by the presence of California Chrome in the 33rd running of the $6,000,000 Breeders’ Cup Classic. With nine races up for grabs and over $21,000,000 in purse money to be decided, this promises to be an all-time weekend for the ages. Since California Chrome will be a prohibitive favorite in the Classic and likely winner of the race, let’s shift our analysis to the stars of tomorrow competing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, in what promises to be a very competitive affair.
1-Klimt 6/1 ML- Bob Baffert’s lone bullet in this race draws the inside slot in his second start going two turns. The wagering public has had a tough time with this guy in his last two starts, going away from him in the Del Mar Futurity where he rang the bell at 5/2 and then jumping on his back at 1/5 last time in the Front Runner, finishing a belated second behind soft fractions to front-running Gormley. With the lifetime effort in the Del Mar Futurity and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Saturday his primary goal, it’s not too surprising that this guy ran a bit of an ordinary number last time out when finishing second. The Front Runner appeared to be the sandwich race between the Del Mar Futurity and this spot, so it’s possible that Baffert did not have the screws fully tightened on this guy. Gormley got a nice easy lead last time with a half mile in 47 uncontested seconds, and this guy found himself about four lengths off the free-running leader with an uphill battle to climb. The pace promises to be bruising here on Saturday and this guy could certainly be salivating as he approaches the 3/8ths pole with the leaders in his sights. The value in his corner is tremendous and I would not try and talk you off the ledge at the odds; must include.
2-Syndergaard 6/1 ML- His break from the gate is reminiscent to the departure of the baseball leaving his namesake’s hand. This guy had never been headed at any call in his three lifetime efforts until he got nipped right on the line in the Champagne by Practical Joke, running hooked throughout the long Belmont stretch at 9/5. After his impressive maiden-breaker from the rail at Saratoga, this guy came back to annihilate three state-bred foes in the slop, running up the score by 10 in what amounted to a simulated game for him. Love that in his first start in a Grade I they were better than six lengths clear of third and ran the mile in a sizzling 1:34.3. The negatives: he leaves New York as a two year-old for the very first time and shipping for any horse can always be an issue. Syndergaard hasn’t worked over the track, draws inside the other speed in the race, has one way of going and has to be given his head in this spot or he will likely over race and could be tough to handle, never having stalked horses before. Pletcher will likely have him ready to go, but Theory, Three Rules, Gormley, and Star Empire all figure to be prominent early. Of those, expect Three Rules to be all over him like a cheap suit into the first turn and for it to be very difficult for this guy to relax in the early innings. When I look into my crystal ball, I see this guy starting to feel the burn approaching the 5/16ths, and taking a peak into the bull pen approaching the quarter-mile pole; will work around this perilous prospect.
3-Term of Art 30/1 ML- Son of Tiznow arrives in this affair by far the most woebegone runner on paper. He got his nose down on the wire at 5/2 in his maiden-breaker just four weeks ago, prevailing in a driving four-horse finish to just get the cap and gown by the narrowest of margins. Now he’s being asked to take on the best two-year-olds in the country who all have multiple wins on their resume, which is like being shipped straight from high school into grad school. His morning line odds will more than likely double by post time and for good reason. The upshot to this guy is marginal at best; he does figure to drop anchor and try and come with one big run, and as mentioned, there is no shortage of speed in this race to set up a strong stretch kick. Inescapably though, he is spotting experience, class, and ability to just about every horse in this race and it’s more than likely he is looking at getting his clock comprehensively cleaned here on Saturday; would be the stunner of all stunners.
4-Theory 12/1 ML- Second of the Todd Pletcher entrants, this guy enters the starting gate undefeated from his two lifetime starts and has been an open length winner at odds-on in each race. Doesn’t take a brain surgeon to say the sky is the limit for him and in his third lifetime start on Saturday he could be sitting on his lifetime best performance. To unfurl that type of effort he will have to: negotiate two turns for the first time, take his race track with him in shipping from the east coast to the west, and gravitate to a surface he has never stepped foot over before this week, and find a way to settle in behind cover and deliver his best effort from just off the pace. Most the time when a Todd Pletcher trainee is entered to run, you’re looking at 2 or 3/1, not 12/1, so that is certainly quite appetizing. Theory projects to move forward on Saturday but the question is: how much will he improve? Inasmuch as he belongs in this field, it’s difficult to find a smoking gun to point to that will signify just how and why he is the one to deny in this spot. Based on handicapping theory alone, and the absence of direct evidence to signify the “how and why”, I’m forced to select others since they inspired a tad more confidence; caveat emptor in tossing him out of a hat as I do prefer him over his stable mate, but I’m inclined to shop elsewhere for top honors and will be using him underneath, if at all.
5-Classic Empire 4/1 ML- Second choice on the morning line, this guy brings his hard hat rain or shine and knows how to impose his will on the competition. Admittedly a handful according to his trainer Mark Casse, Classic Empire brings versatility with him in having won over various racetracks. Since he can stalk and pounce and has no problem taking his show on the road, this guy merits deep consideration. It appears the blinkers made him a little more focused last time and that should keep him close to the pace today, which could arguably help or hinder his chances depending on the splits. Mark Casse continues to stamp himself as a main player on the biggest stages of racing, and after Tepin comprehensively answered the bell last year, it would be no surprise to see Casse take home the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Saturday. He will have to take to a surface he’s never worked or raced over before, and yet he’s had little problem adjusting to that scenario in the past. Get the feeling that if this guy stays healthy he should carve out himself a nice racing career. If he can avoid getting caught up in the crossfire early, he should have a great shot at being on center stage deep in the stretch; must use in verticals—respect.
6-Three Rules 8/1 ML- Undefeated Florida-bred comes into this 5-for-5 and has owned the Florida-bred competition on the local circuit, winning by over 22 lengths combined in his last three races. While it’s impossible to say how talented he is based on the fields he has been facing (one next out winner from his five company lines), what does appear clear is that he has one way of going and that is to the front, for as long and as hard as he can. That prospect appears dicey for sure in this spot. He and Syndergaard should get to know each other quite well early and neither of them figures to give an inch up front. That could lead to kamikaze-like fractions where the two of them as an embattled duo end up as sitting prey in the final quarter mile of the race. Since he appears one-dimensional at this point and because Syndergaard figures to be lying in wait, he’s a definitely a play against for this author. Given this is his graded stakes debut and first time leaving the sunshine state, it feels like just too much of a tall order to see him coming up with the good in a Grade I, and I’m not the type to blow sunshine…well, you know. Push will come to shove and I’ll be surprised if he doesn’t get the dots blown right off his dice on Saturday.
7-Gormley 5/1 ML- Walked to the lead in the Front Runner and took care of business after setting relaxing fractions under Victor Espinoza, scoring a three length victory behind steady urging through the lane. On paper, it appears that Gormley needs to be forwardly placed, but he doesn’t wear blinkers and it’s noteworthy that his trainer John Shirreffs has put steady maintenance drills into this guy, perhaps signaling that they will try and stalk in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. It’s my belief Espinoza will keep Gormley off the early pace setters, and in the clear to the outside where he can spy and assess the pace situation and how to time his move. Some will feel that this one needs to be on the lead in order to have success, yet my view is that Gormley simply utilized his inside draw to his benefit and shouldn’t be faulted for that when assessing how he projects on Saturday. His Beyer Speed Figure jumped 29 points from start one to start two and you’re getting a fresh horse from renowned connections who know how to have them ready when it matters most; believe he will be in the right spot and will take some a big effort to sleigh him; logical contender.
8-Star Empire (GB) 30/1 ML- The stars appeared to shine quite bright for this foreign-bred individual who dominated his debut just as most Wesley Ward entrants are prone to doing, and then followed that up with a game victory in his second lifetime start. Star Empire was quite jejune in his graded stakes debut, finishing third and beaten seven-plus lengths to a runaway winner. Last time out, ‘Empire was well handled by Theory, who as mentioned is a wild card type in this lot and has his work cut out for him on Saturday. ‘Empire figures to be prominent early while exiting sprint races, but he’s going to feel the heat of the pressure cooker that this race is approaching the half-mile pole. Expect him to be one of the first to check out of the battle, and if you can get a head-to-head wager with one of the closers signed on in this field, I would certainly advise you backing whoever his competition is. You can thank me when they shrug this one off approaching the 3/8ths; he’s in very deep water today.
9-Practical Joke 6/1 ML- Benefited from sensational fractions set in front of him to narrowly prevail in the Champagne, just getting his nose down and hanging a tough defeat on the free running Syndergaard. What made his race so impressive was that he had a very difficult dispatch from the gate, ducking in from the inside spot, and immediately spotting the field several lengths. As it turned out, the 6 furlongs in 1:08.3 took its toll, and he was eventually able to reel in his softened up competition. It appears that the fractions will be quite lively yet again today and Chad Brown must feel good about how this race is shaking out on paper. This guy appears to be one of those horses who makes you get down and scrub on him pretty good, he never wins by a lot, so riding him is a lot like riding a bicycle in that the harder you pedal the faster he’ll go. His style puts him into the fray for sure, but the fact he doesn’t want to emphatically run by horses makes him a play against for me in this spot. Given that he’s shipping west to tackle the best there is, the impression I’m left with is that another horse’s brilliance on Saturday is likely to supersede his customary way of going on Saturday; leaving him out.
10-Not This Time 7/2 ML- Morning line favorite has trained up to this from the Iroquois at Churchill Downs on September 17th, after decimating his competition at 9/5 by better than eight lengths. Trainer Dale Romans has been sky high on this one from the very beginning and the talented bestowed upon him his truly frightening. Romans has been quoted as saying this guy is “the real deal” and it would be quite imprudent to cavalierly dismiss him out of a hat in an attempt to stubbornly beat the favorite. You don’t typically see horses hop at the start in the mud from the widest gate, then go wide on both turns and prevail by almost double digit lengths. Not This Time was 5/1 on the morning line that day and was well supported to be the 9/5 favorite, so his performance came as no surprise to his trainer, or the wagering public with boots on the ground at Churchill. Further, it’s encouraging that Romans wanted to put one work into this guy over the track to give him a feel in advance of what it’ll be like when the gates open on Saturday. A wide trip from this post could be in the forecast, but when they’re this good, being in the clear and on the outside isn’t the worst case scenario. This guy is one tough hombre and he will get the final call over a stubborn Gormley.
11-Lookin at Lee 20/1 ML- He and the rest of the field were pasted by Not This Time in the Iroquois, but to his credit he did pick up the pieces and run along for a credible second place finish. Last time, ‘Lee drew furthest out yet again and had no choice but to drop anchor and make one run, finishing the last quarter mile nicely for another second place finish. The blinkers go on today in an effort to try and put him in the race a bit earlier and avoid falling too far back on a surface that notoriously lends itself to front runners. Simplifying this, have to say for the record that winning the Ellis Park Juvenile is certainly not winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and if ‘Lee can beat me from the 12-hole against this cast, I will happily tip my hat to him. This guy would be a must-use underneath if you’re playing this race vertically, especially given that he’s a trier and will likely clean up on some tired ones. But forecasting anything better than a bronze medal for him would be a bit of a reach in my mind; looking elsewhere.