What Wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies?
Level: Intermediate
By Dana Byerly, Hello Race Fans Co-founder

Originally published on October 21, 2015
2014 Juvenile Fillies winner Take Charge Brandi, an outlier in many respects (Eclipse Sportswire)

Updated for 2016

As we’ve mentioned before in our post on handicapping first-time starters, handicapping juvenile races can be quite daunting. Although as the year progresses running styles, strengths and weakness start to emerge, making it a bit easier to suss out a race. But quick form reversals, sudden improvements or unintended “learning new tricks” come with the territory in juvenile races.

Given that the Breeders’ Cup has a 31 year history and makes charts for every race available at their Stats site, we decided to see if we could learn anything that could supplement the more traditional handicapping angles. So, instead of focusing on running style, pedigree or trainer angles we looked at factors related to how each winner came into the race to see what, if any, patterns emerged.

To do this we compiled some basic data about each winner using the charts, available at the Breeders’ Cup Stats site and information from each winner’s profile at Equibase. Here are the data points we collected for winners of the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies:

Year of the race
Prior Race Track – the track at which the final prep took place
Prior Race – the race that was the final prep
Finish Position – where the Juvenile or Juvenile Fillies winner finished in their final prep
Winner – winner’s name
Sire – winner’s sire
Dam – winner’s dam
Damsire – sire of winner’s dam
$1 Odds – odds as listed in the chart
$2 Payout
Favorite – was the winner favored (y/n)
# Starters – number of horses that started in the race
# Prior Starts – the number of times the winner had raced prior to the Breeders’ Cup
Graded Stakes Start – had the winner made a start in a graded stakes prior to the Breeders’ Cup (y/n)
Graded Stakes Win – had the winner won at least one graded stakes prior to the Breeders’ Cup (y/n)
Undefeated – did the winner come into the race undefeated (y/n)

Data available via Google Spreadsheets: Juvenile | Juvenile Fillies

Since the Breeders’ Cup has only only been run since 1984 it was fairly easy to compile information for every running, and while it’s a small sample size, it’s also a complete sample. Using the collected information here’s what we discovered…

Finish position in prior race matters

The most pronounced angle we discovered was finish position in prior race for both the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies. Regardless of whether the race was a Grade 1, an allowance or even a maiden special weight, no winner of the Juvenile has finished worse than 4th in his prior race. A notable 21 winners (66%) won their race prior to the Juvenile.

bcjuv-finpos-last-2016

bcjuv-finpos-year-2016

The “no worse than 4th” angle held true for the Juvenile Fillies until 2013 when winner Ria Antonia came out of a 5th place finish in the Frizette. The 2014 winner Take Charge Brandi finished 8th in the Alcibiades. There were also 21 last out winners (66%) for the Juvenile Fillles.

bcjuvf-finpos-year-2016

Is a graded win or even a graded race needed?

While there have been winners that did not win or even run in a graded race in both the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies, it’s certainly a benefit, more so for the Juvenile Fillies.

In the Juvenile a notable 84.4% of winners, all but five, had made at least one graded stakes start while 56.3% of all winners had won at least one graded stakes race.

As for the Juvenile Fillies only one winner did not make a prior graded start, 2010 winner and eventual Eclipse champion Awesome Feather, who had made several non-graded state-bred stakes starts and came into the race undefeated. Juvenile Fillies winners also had a slightly higher incidence of a prior graded win at 65.6%.

bcj-both-graded-pie-hole

Races and tracks that produced the most winners

It’s shouldn’t come as a surprise that Belmont and Santa Anita, and their graded preps, produce the most winners.

bcjuv-prior-races-2016

Santa Anita has produced nine Juvenile winners and Belmont has produced eight. All of the Belmont winners came out of the Champagne while Santa Anita had an allowance and a maiden special weight winner in addition to the seven FrontRunner (previously known as the Norfolk) winners.

Of the top three races that produced Juvenile winners, here’s how the finish position breaks out…

bcjuv-finpos-top3-2016

Winners from a maiden special weight = Action This Day (2003), New Years Day (2013)
Winner from an allowance = Brocco (1993)

Four winners of the Juvenile have come from international races – Arazi (1991), Johannesburg (2001), Wilco (2004), Vale of York (2009)

As for the Juvenile Fillies, Belmont had much more of an edge producing 11 winners (10 Frizette winners and one Matron winner). Keeneland produced six winners and Santa Anita produced six winners. One of the more striking observations is that every winner from Santa Anita won the Oak Leaf/Chandelier.

bcjuvf-prior-races-2016

Of the top three races that produced Juvenile Fillies winners, here’s how the finish position breaks out…

bcjuvf-finpos-top3-2016

There have been no winners to come out of a maiden special weight. Beholder (2012) and Oustandingly (1984) were the two winners to come out of allowance races. Both had a 2nd place finish in a graded stakes prior to their allowance prep.

A few other observations: Del Mar has produced a few winners (two in the Juvenile and one in the Juvenile Fillies) but no winner in either race has come directly from Saratoga. Unlike the Juvenile, the Juvenile Fillies has not had any winners come directly from international races.

Number of prior starts, favored and undefeated

While number of prior starts didn’t yield any strong patterns, there were still some interesting observations. For the Juvenile prior starts ranged from 2-10 with an average of 4.3. For the Juvenile Fillies prior starts ranged from 2-7 with an average of 4.18.

Here’s how # of prior starts related to $2 win payout…

bcjuv-priorstarts-v-win-2016

The majority of the payouts under $10 were scattered fairly evenly from 2-7 prior starts. The four payouts over $30 were predominantly on the low end ranging from 2-5 prior starts with the exception of the 2004 winner Wilko who had made 10 prior starts and paid $58.60 for a $2 win ticket.

What this view does not account for is how training styles have changes in the 31 year period. For example, the average number of starts for the Juvenile from 1984-1999 was 4.87 with only two starters making two prior starts (Brocco in 1993 and Unbridled’s Song in 1995). Between 2000-2015 the average number of starts was down to 3.81 with four winners making only two prior starts (2003, 2010, 2011, 2013).

bcjuvf-priorstarts-v-win-2016

While there are low paying winners with prior starts ranging from from 2-7, the highest payout of $125.40 for a $2 win ticket (Take Charge Brandi in 2014) was on the high end of prior starts with 5. Two of the five payouts over $30 were right in the average range at 4 prior starts.

It’s also interesting to note that only one Juvenile Fillies winner had made only two prior starts as compared to six Juvenile winners. 2007 Juvenile Fillies winner Indian Blessing only made two prior starts, but she had other positives — a win in the Frizette and going off as the favorite.

And how did favorites do? It’s generally accepted that favorites win 35% of the time, and that’s roughly the percent of favorites that have won the Juvenile (34.3%). Favorites in the Juvenile Fillies favorites fared higher than average winning 56.2% of the time.

Santa Anita Years

Given that the event is back at Santa Anita this year we took a look at how many winners had a start over the host track. There have been eight runnings at Santa Anita (1986, 1993, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2012, 2013, 2014).

All but three winners of the Juvenile hosted at Santa Anita (62.5%) made their prior start at Santa Anita. Winners Vale of York (2009), Shanghai Bobby (2012) and New Year’s Day (2013) did not make any prior starts at Santa Anita .

The angle is not as pronounced for the Juvenile Fillies, four Santa Anita winners (50%) had made their prior start at the host track with the other four not making any prior Santa Anita starts.

We’ve added a column in the 2016 scorecards to note which contenders have made a start at Santa Anita.

Wrap up and Implications for 2016

We took a pretty straight forward look at the data, and certainly any statisticians or data scientists among you could probably come up with additional insights.

How can you use this information? As with all handicapping, it’s up to you decide how usable the information is and how much weight you want to assign to it relative to other angles. It’s also good to keep in mind that nothing is written in stone, 2014 winner Take Charge Brandi is a great example of an outlier, coming in on a 8th place finish with no graded wins.

The 2015 winners were true to form with regard to these angles, how will the 2016 winners compare? Below are the scorecards for the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies fields.

2016 Juvenile Contenders Scorecard

Surprisingly no contenders ticked all the boxes. Classic Empire, Gormley, Klimt and Practical Joke came the closest meeting six out of seven of the criteria. FrontRunner winner Gormley has only raced twice while Klimt finished 2nd in the FrontRunner. Champagne winner Practical Joke and Breeders’ Futurity winner Classic Empire have not raced at Santa Anita.

There are a few other items of note. Unlike last year, none of the contenders only ticked two boxes, and not only did none of the contenders finish worse than 4th, none of them finished worse the 2nd with 7 of the 11 (63.6%) winning their prior start.

Winners of the top three preps

Classic Empire = winner of the Breeders’ Futurity – 2016 Winner
Practical Joke = winner of the Champagne
Gormley = winner of the FrontRunner

2016 Juvenile Fillies Contenders Scorecard

Only Chandelier winner Noted and Quoted met all the positive criteria while only Valadorna met only two criteria. No one finished worse than 4th and 8 of 12 contenders (66.6%) won last out.

Yellow Agate = winner of the Frizette
Noted and Quoted = winner of the Chandelier

Champagne Room, who finished 4th in the Chandelier last out, is the 2016 winner.

2015 Juvenile Contenders Scorecard

We’ve highlighted those that meet all the positive criteria as well as those who meet two or less of the positive criteria. Here are some additional observations…

Brody’s Cause = winner of the Breeders’ Futurity
Greenpointcrusader = winner of the Champagne
Nyquist = winner of the FrontRunner – 2015 Winner

Ralis, who ticks several positive boxes, finished 5th in the Champagne. He would be the first Juvenile winner to finish worse than 4th in his prior race.

Waterloo Bridge (IRE) is making his first U.S. start and has made six career starts.

#8 Tale of S’avall is scratched

2015 Juvenile Fillies Contenders Scorecard

We’ve highlighted those that meet all the positive criteria as well as those who meet two or less of the positive criteria. Here are some additional observations…

Nickname = winner of the Frizette
Songbird = winner of the Chandelier – 2015 Winner

Rachel’s Valentina and Tap to It all made their last starts at Saratoga and only have two prior races.

As always, good luck, have fun and cash plenty of tickets. Also, go grab this data!

View Juvenile Data
View Juvenile Fillies Data

Elsewhere of Interest
Last 5 posts by Dana Byerly

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