By Anthony Stabile
$2 million; 1 1/16 miles; 2YO
In my opinion, some of the biggest surprises and upsets have come in this race, starting in 1988 when Is It True upset the great Easy Goer. Who can forget Arazi’s amazing performance in the 1991 renewal at Churchill? One of the more underrated horses of our time, Unbridled’s Song, out-dueled Hennessy to win the 1995 running in just his third start at Belmont where six years later Johannesburg shipped in from across the pond and halted Officer’s winning streak. Street Sense took the first step in breaking the Juvenile/Kentucky Derby jinx by winning it in 2006.
I don’t know if the next Kentucky Derby winner is in here but a few of them certainly have a license to be if they keep putting on performances like they have thus far in their brilliant, young careers. We’ll start with the hometown hope, American Pharoah, the likely favorite.
After debuting with blinkers against the impressive Om as the 7-5 favorite when he was a tiring fifth, Bob Baffert took the blinkers off and placed him ambitiously in the G1 Del Mar Futurity. American Pharoah rewarded Baffert’s confidence with a gate-to-wire thrashing of eight others by almost five lengths. He stretched out to this distance in the G1 Front Runner and won just as handily by over three lengths.
Todd Pletcher sends out a pair of colts that are two for two back east in Daredevil and Carpe Diem. Daredevil caught a muddy track in his debut, went immediately to the front and blazed six furlongs in a sharp 1:09 4/5. Last out in the G1 Champagne, Daredevil switched tactics and sat just off the early pace before coasting home by a measured two and a half lengths over a sloppy track, once again at Belmont.
Carpe Diem scorched right others in his Saratoga debut going five and a half furlongs on the front end then shipped to Keeneland, stretched out to this trip and two turns AND switched tactics by rating off the pace to dust a field of ten by six and a half lengths in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity.
Upstart won the first two starts of his career, nine days apart, at Saratoga against New York breds, one maiden race and one stakes, before finishing second in the Champagne despite a wide trip in his last for Rick Violette.
Baffert will also send out One Lucky Dane in the Juvenile. Third to Om in his debut, One Lucky Dane was second at a mile next out before rolling home by almost 10 lengths going a mile over this strip, his first try on conventional dirt.
The Great War is scheduled to make his main track debut and first start past six and a half furlongs for Aidan O’ Brien and Coolmore having won three of his seven starts on turf in Europe. It’s worth noting that all of his races have been run on straightaway courses so he’ll have to negotiate turns for the first time as well as the dirt.
Steve Asmussen’s Lucky Player gutted out a neck victory in the G3 Iroquois at Churchill last out after just missing by the same margin when second in a minor stakes at Prairie Meadows that was won by Private Prospect, a Michael Campbell trainee that was claimed in his debut. He won the first three starts of his career before missing by a head in the G3 Arlington-Washington Futurity over the Arlington Polytrack last out.
Souper Colossal has won all three of his starts for Eddie Plesa and they’ve all come at Monmouth Park. A four and a half furlong maiden win was followed by tallies in the off-the-turf Tyro and one mile Sapling last out. This will be his first start in two months. Mr. Z broke his maiden in his debut for D. Wayne Lukas but is winless in four starts since. To his credit, he has finished second in the G3 Sanford, G2 Saratoga Special and Breeders’ Futurity.
Peter Miller trains the maiden Calculator, second in the Front Runner last out in his first dirt start in four career efforts. Texas Red was third in the Front Runner for Keith Desormeaux and broke his maiden two back in his first try around two turns at Del Mar.
O’Brien’s War Envoy and Danny Boy, trained by Dale Romans, are both cross entered (first preference) in the Juvenile Turf and are scheduled to run in that spot. That would open up spots for both Combat Diver, a maiden winner in his dirt debut for Gary Contessa last out and Canadian shipper Blue Dancer, a three time winner, including two stakes from four starts for Greg Tracy north of the border.