What we learned from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Del Mar ...

The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) is in the books, and KYD148 Points were awarded ... Here is a look at the outcome, and where the focus will shift next!
The Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) is in the books, and KYD148 Points were awarded ... Here is a look at the outcome, and where the focus will shift next!

Last year, it was Brad Cox's Essential Quality in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland that came storming down the lane with a resounding victory. The bounce that the gray colt by Tapit received was strong, as he went into the 1st Kentucky Derby Future Wager Pool in late November. Now, after a year that saw him 4th at Churchill Downs, win the Belmont and Travers Stakes, and then place 3rd in the BC Classic (G1), he is retiring to stud at Darley. Cox-Godolphin-Luis Saez formed a strong team, and gave us a number of thrills along the way. 

Turning our attention to the new crop of colts that will be competing all-season-long on the "Road to the Kentucky Derby," we learned a few things from that Friday at Del Mar. First and foremost, Bob Baffert continues to train at a high-level, even if some believe his image is tarnished by a series of medication violations. We still are waiting for the Kentucky Horseracing Commission (KHC) to rule on the Medina Spirit disqualification. In the meantime, Churchill Downs Inc. (CDI) banned the Southern California-based trainer for 2 years (through 2023), and that means any Derby Points that the conditioner accrues are automatically forfeited. 

Of course, Baffert's Trio from last Friday, still had the opportunity to notch a victory and score that purse money ... Corniche #12, Pinehurst #9, and Barossa #8. Out of these, it was Speedway Stables' Corniche #12 by Quality Road, that garnered the most attention on the tote at almost even money. The second choice was Todd Pletcher's fine-looking Commandperformance #10 from Repole and St. Elias Stables, as he hovered around 3/1. With Chad Brown's Jack Christopher (a much-anticipated favorite) as the only scratch, the 11-horse field looked like it would provide the short-priced Baffert colt with all he could handle.

In the end, it was HOF jockey Mike Smith, aboard Speedway's ace running for purse money and pride, that wired the field when the Juvenile (G1) bell sounded. The pairing was in control all the way, setting some stiff fractions by the halfway point (.23:03, .46:15). Crossing the line, in front of a crowd of 20,000+, Smith declared victory by nearly 2-lengths. But technically, it was a Pyrrhic victory ... Since the CDI "Baffert Ban" is in full-effect, there were going to be no KYD148 Points awarded to the winner and his connections. The "Points" that were awarded went to Mark Casse's Pappacap #4 (8pts. - 15/1), Dale Romans' Giant Game #7 (4pts. - 21/1), and finally, Commandperformance #10 (2pts. - 3/1). 

If Corniche's #12 owners want to start bagging KYD Points, then they must move their talented (and expensive - he cost $1.5 million) colt to another barn. Right now, they have told the turfwriting community that they have no intention of doing so. Sticking with the HOF trainer is their plan, and they do not intend to deviate from that at this time. That makes many speculate, especially after Baffert's success in the New York judicial system, that he will pursue legal action once the Medina Spirit ruling is handed down. A wait and see approach ... that appears to be the only option.

As for the rest of the Juvenile (G1) field, I am particularly interested in the trajectory of Pletcher's Commandperformance #10. The colt looks well-bred by Union Rags, should be able to get the "Classic" distance, and has already some nice efforts under his saddle. A layoff is coming his way, as Pletcher moves him to his base in South Florida; he will point presumably to the Holy Bull (G3), and eventually the Florida Derby (G1). This colt is one to watch, and an early pick that I will be seriously considering for the Derby Trail.

Stay tuned for all of Horseracing.net/us coverage when our weekly "Contenders" piece regularly drops at the end of November. Join us on the "Trail" because you will not want to miss out!


Addendum ... As for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1), it was Steve Asmussen's extremely talented Echo Zulu, who ran away with the prize. She was given top marks, and should be on everyone's watchlist for the "Road to the Kentucky Oaks." Her HOF trainer will look to bring her back in the Spring, and when that happens (Louisiana Series?), then we will be watching.

Breeders Cup 2021