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Five Questions to be Answered in the 2018 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Courtesy of Emily Gullikson of America's Best Racing

 

The $2 million, Grade 1 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is run at 1 1/16 miles on the main track at Churchill Downs. This is the highlight event on Future Stars Friday and will play a large role in determining the 2018 champion 2-year-old male.

Like many of the races this weekend this race is filled with quality and the winner will need to be in top form, have the right trip, handle the track, and, especially in this case, get the distance. As always, the questions came from Twitter and are much appreciated.

 

1. “Do you believe Complexity has the ability to rate?” – @Barbaro1420 (Joshua)

Just to clarify, when I think about rating a horse it could be “rating on the lead” – where a horse rations their front-running speed while controlling the front end, or “rating off the pace” – when a horse relaxes off of horses and off the lead. The latter definition is what I believe Joshua is asking, specific to this race. Rating behind horses in a full field of 14 is different than chasing behind a lone runoff in a field of five. In this case, I do not think he will be effective rating in here. Complexity has natural speed, and has been effective winning on the front end in both starts. In addition, this will be his first start around two turns and it’s unlikely they will mix it up and change tactics. All that said, the next question is does he need to rate? And to that I would say “no.” Again his natural speed is a real asset. At this point he is quicker than or as quick as his rivals. Taking away that pace edge could be detrimental to his chances. Physically he could have some distance and stamina limitations that could make him vulnerable if he’s going head to head with a true classic-distance type in the lane and he’s better off getting clear and trying to carry his speed.

 

2. “Did Standard Deviation run his brains out last race, or was it just a solid conditioner?” – @CarsoniPH (Scott C.)

Standard Deviation exits the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity back on Oct. 6 at Keeneland. He was making his second career start and coming in fresh off a 49-day rest after breaking his maiden back in August at Saratoga. There are a couple of factors when considering whether a horse “ran his brains out” or ran a “top” effort and time plays a major role in recovering from those type of efforts. In this case, I did not see anything from him visually watching the race or from a numbers perspective that would consider his effort in the Breeders’ Futurity one that he would need time to recover from. In fact, yes it seems to have been a solid conditioning race, especially for this horse. He had to take back just a bit after taking some contact and getting forced out slightly into the first turn. Pace played a major role as the race slowed in the middle stages helping the winner Knicks Go to go on to win. Standard Deviation ran well all things considered and gives the impression on one that will get better from racing and has stamina for this type of event. Speed figures are on the softer side and he needs to improve from that standpoint. Another horse that ran a sneaky good in there, Derby Date, will also run this race. He was used early into a solid opening quarter and was caught wide losing ground in the process. He made a similar middle move and lacked some kick late, but given the trip and ground loss seems fair to be a little forgiving of the finish. He draws inside for this race, which should help to save ground, and has some tactical speed and physically looks like a two-turn, routing-type horse.

 

3. “Am I crazy for liking Mind Control?” – Raider Mike

Mind Control was scratched the morning of the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity and was listed as the morning-line favorite. He looked to be the controlling speed of the race and the winner Knicks Go got the trip he likely would have had on the front end. From a gambling perspective to take the horse listed at 20-1 who a few weeks ago would have been listed as less than 5-2 is far from “crazy.” Mind Control has also never finished out of the exacta and is a Grade 1 winner, taking the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga this summer. The biggest question I have with him is the same as last out: the distance. Speed figure-wise he needs to move forward compared with a handful of others in here.

 

4. “How does Shug end up with a good one named Code of Honor? Not enough time has passed since Honor Code” - @derphorse

Honestly, I do not know what goes into naming a horse and this one does not seem to be any relation to one of my favorite horses Honor Code. The name Code of Honor definitely stood out to me when he made his debut, for the reason you pointed out. One would think he would have to have some talent and ability to have a name so similar without relation. The other thing that stood out to me on debut with this horse was John Velazquez named to ride. Not often are Shug McGaughey’s horses ready to go on debut and he does not often call Johnny V. to ride a first-time starter juvenile. He won nicely on debut and after some time returned in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes at Belmont. He ran a solid race considering the stumble at the start and making two moves during the race, something reserved for the talented ones and not something every horse can do. Going back to the rider, Eric Cancel was aboard that day and Velazquez will be back aboard in here. He takes off Mind Control after being aboard for the Grade 1 Hopeful win.

 

5. “Who will win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile?” – @Mikepike5Rao (Michael R.)

Probably tipped my hand in the last question with Code of Honor. I like everything I have seen from this horse; he has speed, class, top connections, has a favorable running style and looks right for this distance. One horse that has yet to be mentioned is the morning-line favorite (at 8-5) and undefeated Game Winner. Baffert had an unbelievable run with debuting 2-year-olds; he was one of the 11 or 13 first time starters to win on debut at the Del Mar meet. Since then he had perfect trips in both the Del Mar Futurity and the American Pharoah Stakes. From that standpoint, he has yet to be really tested and will get that in here.

A full field of nice juveniles will square off here in just one of the many exciting races on the card.

Good Luck!

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