Three Great Moments: Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
By J.J. Hysell, Hello Race Fan's Contributor
While Kentucky Derby hype lingers over many 2-year-old stakes races in the fall, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is its own entity: an unpredictable clash of burgeoning young stars, each growing at a different pace early in a racing career, positioning for leadership along the Eclipse Award tier. The combination of hope and cautious optimism makes this one of the most exciting and anticipated World Championship events.
The unique aspect of the Juvenile is that many of its contenders are facing several new challenges. For some, the challenge is the longer distance; for others, a new surface or a full field. These variables have produced some memorable — as well as profitable — results. For example, in 2007, Irish-bred Vale of York and jockey Ahmed Ajtebi rocked the tote board at Santa Anita with a win over the synthetic at 30-1. The field included runner-up Lookin at Lucky, Eskendereya and Noble’s Promise, all future Grade 1 winners. Sometimes, the favorite answers the fans’ call. In 2010, beneath the twin spires at Churchill, esteemed, invincible Uncle Mo dispatched his rivals with ease and sealed up the 2-year-old championship.
So many Juvenile performances are memorable, but there are a few that stand out. Here, we reflect on a trio of memorable Juveniles: the legendary late runner, the gutsy gray and the Florida-bred by Fappiano.
In chronological order….
They didn’t want him at the auctions. Attempts were made to sell him privately — no takers.
Tasso, the oft-rejected son of freshman sire Fappiano trained by Neil Drysdale, turned up his nose — literally — at his detractors when he nosed out the speedy Storm Cat at Aqueduct in one of the most visually appealing editions of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The one who did believe in the Florida-bred — owner/breeder Gerald Robins — put up a supplemental fee to enter the race. Robins and Drysdale’s faith was rewarded. Tasso, with Laffit Pincay Jr. aboard, mounted a five-wide rally in the stretch and caught Storm Cat and Chris McCarron at the wire.
Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup
Tasso, the third betting choice in a field of 13, won one of the three Juvenile races that were contested at a mile (1984, 1985, 1987). The current distance is1 1/16 miles.
The well-traveled Tasso raced seven times as a 2-year-old, including wins in the Del Mar Futurity and the Keeneland Breeders’ Futurity. He was honored as 2-year-old champion but couldn’t maintain his momentum into his 3-year-old season as a hoof injury kept him out of the Kentucky Derby. While training for the Wood Memorial, he sustained cuts when he stepped on a steel pipe that fell onto the Aqueduct track.
Storm Cat emerged from the 1985 Juvenile with a chip in his knee and would race just twice more before entering stud, where he would make a name for himself as one of the most influential sires in history.
Like sending a child to the best boarding school, Allen Paulson sent prospect Arazi, bought as a weanling for $350,000, to world-renowned trainer Francois Boutin in France. The son of Blushing Groom, out of the Northern Dancer mare Danseur Fabuleux, quickly became a sensation in Europe. After finishing second in his debut, he reeled off six straight wins, including three Group 1 stakes. That drew the interest of Sheikh Mohammed bin Rasheed, Vice President of the UAE and ruler of Dubai, who bought 50 percent of Arazi before the colt’s arrival in America for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 2, 1991.
Despite what the tote board said, the odds were against Arazi and jockey Patrick Valenzuela. Trying dirt for the first time, he drew the outside post in a 14-horse field and was tackling the mighty, undefeated California-bred Bertrando. It was no surprise when Bertrando, under Alex Solis, took his customary role as front-runner and set a solid pace, while Arazi had just one horse beat as the pack navigated the first turn. What appeared to be an average horse race suddenly resembled a scripted Hollywood scene. Arazi, on the far outside, swiftly passed the field and charged down the lane with magnificent strides. The chestnut colt continued to outdistance his foes, who toiled in his wake. He won by five lengths that seemed like five miles.
“Here indeed is a superstar,” anointed race caller Tom Durkin.
Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup
That would, however, stand as Arazi’s shining moment. The Eclipse Award-winner for 2-year-old male and Cartier Horse of the Year in Europe underwent surgery for bone spurs on both knees after the Juvenile. He disappointed as the heavy favorite in the Kentucky Derby, fading in the stretch and finishing eighth. He bid farewell to racing in the 1992 Breeders’ Cup Mile with a lackluster 11th place showing.
Arazi continued to globe-trot during his stud career, as he stood in England, Japan, Switzerland and Australia, where he was recently pensioned. Arazi’s most successful runner is multiple-stakes-winner and Bob Baffert trainee Congaree, who banked over $3 million in his career.
In the annals of racing, Arazi owns the patent on impressive ground-gobbling moves â€“ so much so that his name has become part of an adjective. In August 2012, Calder race caller Bobby Neuman described 52-1 shot Royal Geisha’s close from last to first as “an Arazi-like move.”
2000 Macho Uno
His nagging habit almost cost him.
Macho Uno’s proclivity for veering out — which persisted throughout his career — nearly denied him a narrow victory in the 2000 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs.
Against a stellar field that included Street Cry, Point Given and City Zip, Macho Uno, the fourth betting choice at 6-1, capitalized on a shrewd tactical ride by Jerry Bailey. Bailey kept the gray son of Holy Bull mid-pack until the late stages of the race, when he shifted the colt outside for what should have been a clear run to the finish.
Instead, a looming shadow approached swiftly from the outside. It was a hulking Point Given, 17 hands tall and moving like a torpedo, bearing down on him in the final strides before the wire. Bailey switched to the left-handed whip to straighten his distracted charge, but Macho Uno reacted by swerving just before the finish line.
He held on by a nose over Point Given. Street Cry, at one point eight-wide, was third.
Video courtesy of the Breeders’ Cup
Bailey said Macho Uno had also balked in his race prior to the Juvenile, the Grey Breeders’ Cup Stakes win at Woodbine.
After being crowned the 2-year-old champion, Macho Uno returned in July for an allowance race at Saratoga. This time, his severe shifting in late stretch cost him the race as Wicked Will nailed him by a nose. He was equipped with blinkers for his next start, the Pennsylvania Derby, and he won by a length and a half with jockey Gary Stevens aboard, the jockey of Point Given in the Juvenile.
Macho Uno, out of the Blushing Groom mare Primal Force, went on to win $1,851,803 and was 6 of 14 for his career. His most notable runners include millionaires Macho Again and Mucho Macho Man.
Point Given would go on to win seven of his remaining eight races â€“ his only loss a fifth-place finish as the favorite in the Kentucky Derby.
Street Cry and City Zip emerged as top sires. Street Cry’s most successful progeny include 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and 2007 Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and the legendary Zenyatta, winner of the 2008 Breeders’ Cup Ladies Classic and 2009 Classic. City Zip’s talented runners include Get Serious, Unzip Me and this year’s Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup winner Dayatthespa.
In 2006, Street Sense displayed his affinity for Churchill with a 10-length romp under Calvin Borel. The Louisville-based colt, trained by Carl Nafzger, became the first â€“ and only â€“ Juvenile winner to win the Kentucky Derby.
The epitome of a precocious juvenile, Favorite Trick notched his eighth straight win in the 1997 Juvenile at Hollywood Park. Pat Day guided the Pat Byrne trainee to an easy 5 ½-length win that secured the 2-year-old championship for the son of Phone Trick. His amazing campaign earned him Horse of the Year honors as well — the first 2-year-old to claim that distinction since Secretariat in 1972.
No trainer has dominated the Juvenile like D. Wayne Lukas, who has won five of the late-season tests, including three straight from 1986-88. Lukas’ stronghold has subsided, however, as his last win was in 1996 with Boston Harbor.
Certainly there are plenty of other great and potentially overlooked renditions, let us know which ones you like in the comments!
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