(Bob Baffert trains Game Winner / Photo by Gene McLean)
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 fifth 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 11/16 miles on the dirt, and post time is estimated to be 6:05 p.m. ET. A full field of 14 is expected. Here’s our snap shot.
- Top Pick: Game Winner (9) — This 2YO son of Candy Ride didn’t even start out the season as the best juvenile colt in the barn of Bob Baffert. Or, shall we write, the most highly touted and acclaimed. That title belonged to Roadster. He was the one that was supposed to draw the headlines. He was the one that was supposed to be favored in this very race on Friday. And, he was the one that was supposed to be compared to the incomparable Justify and American Pharoah. Well, that’s what happens in this silly game. The unexpected. Instead of Roadster, we are here on the brink of the Breeders’ Cup talking, chatting and writing about Game Winner. And, well we should. In three races so far this year, he has won by nearly 6 lengths running 6 furlongs at Del Mar, to break the maiden; he has won by nearly 2 lengths in the G1 Del Mar Futurity, easily whipping his running mate Roadster at 7 furlongs; and he has won by nearly 5 lengths in the G1 American Pharoah going 11/16 miles at Santa Anita. The good thing about this “game” 2YO, too, is that he does not have to have the lead. He can stalk. He can rate. And, he can close a deal. Without a doubt, the race is full of interesting competitors — many with solid credentials. But to win it, it certainly appears you may have to go through, around, over or under Game Winner.
- Interesting Factoid — Game Winner is out of the A.P. Indy mare Indyan Giving. She was unraced, but so far she has produced two 2YOs. Both of them have been winners as juveniles. But there may be a dink in the armor of this pedigree, too. The A.P. Indy sire line has not done well in Breeders’ Cup races at Churchill Downs. In fact, for this great sire, the numbers have been woefully weak. Now, the question remains, does that statistic hold any water — since we have seen a lot of it by virtue of the rains — if it comes from the dam side? I don’t know, honestly. But it may. And, the numbers are so compelling from the sire line that it gives one pause.
- One to Watch: Standard Deviation (8) —This 2YO son of Curlin is also out of an A.P. Indy mare — imagine that. And, the same question will exist for this one, as well. Is it a vulnerability? We shall find out soon. But while Game Winner is likely to be one of the favorites and will offer a rather conservative price line, this one should be a long shot candidate and offer real rewards — if he can run well on Friday. And, I think he will. The last race was a great finish, considering the factors that he was facing. He broke from the extreme outside in that event — the 13 hole — and was near the back of the pack through the first turn and heading into the backstretch. Honestly, there is no way that the connections wanted to be that far off the lead — especially over a Keeneland track that played so strongly to front-end runners throughout the meet. In other words? He had no chance. But, he still ran on. And, he ran well. And, he got third despite the position and the extreme track bias. If he gets a better trip, I think this one could be closer to the wire at the finish that his well documented and respected stablemate — Complexity.
- Best Longshot: Code of Honor (11) — Obviously, this is a matter of opinion and debate, but I love Code of Honor in this spot on Friday. The son of Noble Mission is trained by HOFer Shug McGaughey for one of the best owners in the game today — W.S. Farish. Although the barn normally takes its’ time with youngsters, this one won on debut at Saratoga back in August, running just 6 furlongs. Went that trip wire to wire. So, off that performance, he found himself in the G1 Champagne — going a mile at Belmont on Oct. 6. At the start of that one, he stumbled severely — nearly going to his knees. Still, all in all, he ran beautifully. Closed to be second, and the only one making up ground on the easy winner Complexity. With a better break and more experience now, this one could be a contender.