McLean Digs Into Breeders’ Cup: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf

(Current, on the outside, gets up to win the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland / Photo by Holly M. Smith)

We will begin to take a look at the Breeders’ Cup races, with a snapshot at each of the “Championship Races” that will make up the 2-day racing extravagancy at Churchill Downs — beginning this coming Friday.

The fourth of the Stakes in the magnificent sequence will be the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf — the third BC race on a day dedicated to promoting “Tomorrow’s Stars.” All the Breeders’ Cup races on Friday will be for the 2YO divisions — both fillies and colts; both grass and dirt.

This event will be contested at 1 mile on the turf, and post time is estimated to be 5:22 p.m. ET. A field of 10 is expected. Here’s our snap shot.

  1. Top Pick: Anthony Van Dyck (14) — This 2YO son of Galileo appears on paper — and video — to be the best of a very strong contingency of European runners in this contest, and throughout the two days of racing. Trained by the highly-respected Aidan O’Brien, Anthony Van Dyck has raced six times in his career to date, with 3 wins, a second and a third. In the last out, he was third, beaten by 4 lengths, in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket on Oct. 13. “AVD” (short for the name), actually, took the lead in that Stakes event with about 2 furlongs to go, but could not hold on going 7 furlongs. On Friday, he will stretch out to the 1 mile distance for the first time. Which does bring up the endurance question. But the Irish bred certainly has stamina and distance in the pedigree. In addition to being by one of the best stallions in the world today, this colt is out of a mare who has already produced 2 turf winners from 2 starters and 2 Stakes winners. Rich blood. And, this one has experience for a yielding, soft, and giving ground. On Aug. 26, he won the Group 2 Galileo Irish Futurity going 7/8ths by nearly 5 lengths. But…He is coming into this one off two straight losses, and he drew the #14 PP. That is a difficult position for any horse, but a 2YO? Racing in NA for the first time? In the Breeders’ Cup? May be too much to overcome.
  2. Interesting Factoid — Anthony Van Dyck has never raced an event yet carrying less than 127 pounds, and he has done that only once. The three races before the last, when he was toting 127, the colt carried a total of 129. The first two races of his young career, he carried 131. Now, it is fact that the Euros do normally and regularly carry more weight than do the horses racing in the States. But on Friday, this horse will get fitted out with 122 pound allotment. And, going over a bit of ground, that is a huge differential and advantage. Certainly, it is worth noting.
  3. Other Europeans to Watch — Line of Duty (5) is another son of Galileo (who happens to be by Sadler’s Wells), and given his post position order, he may be the one to beat. In the first four races, he has never finished worse than second, and in the last out he won a Group 3 event at Chantilly in France. And…drum roll please…it was going 11/8 miles over a very soft ground. Endurance is there in this one. For sure. Hasn’t faced as tough of company as “ADV,” but has credentials.
  4. America’s Best Shot — Current (12) — This son of Curlin is out of a Storm Cat mare. We have discussed that sire line’s lack of success in producing winners in the Breeders’ Cup races held at Churchill Downs. But those woeful statistics are through the sire lines, and not the dam side. And, the dam of this one — Crosswinds — has already produced two Stakes winners from the first four starters. In addition, this one looked hopelessly beaten in the G3 Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland in his last out. Was near the back of the pack early on and was still 6th and more than 5 lengths back in the deep stretch against some nice ones. But somehow, some way rider Jose Ortiz rousted this one enough to amazingly get the nose down at just the right time on the wire. Trainer Todd Pletcher has been rocket fuel hot of late, and this one may have a legit chance in the deep stretch with a good run.
  5. Live Long Shot: Uncle Benny (2) — This son of Declaration of War has never been farther than 6 furlongs in his young life and career. He has run only once, to date, over the grass. And, he has never, ever, ever faced the likes of these. But…this one is talented, and trained by Jason Servis — who has become the newest lion tamer in the business. In his first out on the dirt at Monmouth Park in late August, Ben ran on the lead, gate-to-wire and win easily. In his first try on the turf in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont in early October, he feel to last in the early stages. By many. And, the race was only 6 furlongs. Yet, somehow, he got to rolling late and found a way to win. Amazing run. Now, he stretches out. What to think? I think I use him.
  6. How Do I Play It — I use the two best Euros — ADV and Line of Duty over/under two of the U.S.’s best in Current and Uncle Benny. I will key ADV (14) and Line of Duty (5) over/under the following numbers: 12-6-4-9. I will key the 14-5 over (only) the 11-13-7-8-10.

“Last time, she stumbled real bad. She broke clean today and she had a huge chance to win the race and she did,” said Ortiz, who has won the Test back-to-back years after piloting American Gal to victory last year. “I tried to keep her clean, have a clean trip in the turn. I went a little bit wider than I wanted to, but I didn’t want to get in trouble because she had a good shot. I just rode her like the best horse and I’m glad everything worked out.

Jose Ortiz, Rider of the winner
  • Gene McLean

    Gene McLean

    Gene McLean began his professional career in 1977 as a sportswriter and columnist for the Lexington Herald-Leader in Lexington, Ky., and was recognized as one of the state’s best writers, winning the prestigious “Sportswriter of the Year” honor in 1985. Now the President and Publisher of The Pressbox, McLean sets ...

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