While many of the championship races at the Breeders’ Cup are staged on the Saturday of the meet, there will be added interest in the juvenile races that are run on a Friday. One of the standout early races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby comes in the form of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, as vital points are up for grabs.
However, in recent years, according to TwinSpires, it hasn’t been as significant when finding the winners of Triple Crown races, with the latest horse to win both coming in 2016, as Nyquist landed the juvenile before winning the Kentucky Derby as a three-year-old. Regardless, a talented field of horses aged two will compete in the race this year, and some of the leading contenders to take the top prize can be found below.
1. Cave Rock
The most impressive two-year-old to this point has been Cave Rock. The colt sired by Arrogate, comes into the Juvenile with a perfect unbeaten record, having won on three previous starts.
He is trained by Bob Baffert, who holds the joint record number of wins in this race with five. However, given he is trained by Baffert, a run in the Kentucky Derby next year at Churchill Downs still looks incredibly unlikely.
Regardless, his performances on the track have been nothing short of sensational to this point. His latest win came over 1 1/16 miles at Saratoga, as he landed the prestigious G1 American Pharoah with a speed rating of 102.
On the basis of that form, he is a deserving favorite at the top of the betting at this stage. As well as impressing on the starts that he has already made, there is every chance that he will continue to progress over the coming months. Many make him the one to beat in the Juvenile at this point.
According to the betting, Cave Rock’s most likely rival in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile this year looks set to be Forte. Todd Pletcher has won this race on two previous occasions, but his latest victory came back in 2012 with Shanghai Bobby. However, Forte is looking like one of the most talented two-year-olds that Pletcher has trained for many a year, and he has been dazzling since being stepped up from six furlongs following defeat in the G3 Sanford.
His first stakes win came in the G1 Hopeful over seven furlongs, as he held off both Gulfport and Blazing Sevens to claim victory with a speed rating of 97. He continued to impress when stepped up again, as he landed the G1 Breeders’ Futurity over the Breeders’ Cup course and distance in stunning fashion, reaching a speed figure of 105, as he held off Loggins and Red Route One. He is a very interesting second choice in betting at present.
The G1 Breeders’ Futurity could be the key form line to follow with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in mind. That could see a second chance being taken on Loggins, who was just outlasted by Forte on his first start over this distance in the big Grade 1 at Keeneland. However, he is likely to come on from that effort, and his performance at least showed that there are no doubts surrounding his ability to stay the distance over the Juvenile course.
The Brad Cox runner will come into the race in November boasting some of the most impressive figures, as he broke his maiden at Churchill Downs with a rating of 108, before hitting a rating of 105 when second behind Forte. His credentials in Grade 1 company also look extremely sound, given that he was sired by former Breeders’ Cup Classic winner, Ghostzapper.
4. Damon’s Mound
Damon’s Mound is another very prominent selection in the betting for the Juvenile at Keeneland later this year. This two-year-old is trained by Michelle Lovell, who will be looking to win this prestigious race for the first time. He was sired by Girvin, who won both the Haskell Invitational and Louisiana Derby in 2017, proving that the distance for this race shouldn’t be too much of an issue.
However, the two-year-old will likely need to improve based on his previous outing, as he finished back in sixth in the G3 Iroquois Stakes at the end of September. That was an extremely disappointing effort by this contender, as he was heavily expected to enjoy the step up in trip after storming to victory in the G2 Saratoga Special in the middle of August with a speed rating of 92. But, things didn’t exactly go to plan on his previous start, and he is another that is likely to come on following disappointment on his previous outing.
5. Tyler’s Tribe
If there is a runner that could appear out of nowhere in the Juvenile this year, then it could come in the form of Tyler’s Tribe. This runner for Timothy Martin has looked extremely commanding across his five starts, and is easily recording speed figures in the mid 90s. The runner was sired by Sharp Azteca, who was the winner of the G1 Cigar Mile in 2017 and finfished second in the Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile. Tyler’s Tribe quickly caught the imagination on debut, as he won by nearly 17 lengths. That dominance continued in the Iowa Stallion Futurity, as he landed a stakes price by a distance of 12 and a half lengths from C R Insta Gator.
That progression has continued on each of his previous two appearances, as he landed the Prairie Meadows Freshman Stakes in August, and the Iowa Cradie Stakes in early October. However, there are a few factors against him when it comes to the Juvenile. One of the most concerning is the fact that he is yet to run over a distance greater than six furlongs, while all his career victories have been recorded at Prairie Meadows. Still, it will be fascinating to see him tested out in Grade 1 company against some of the very best two-year-olds in the United States.