Is A Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Runner Ready to Wear the Roses?

The Rare Feat Has Better Odds in 2012 

Back in October when the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was approaching I was amazed when I took a closer look at how often the Juvenile was used as a set up for the Kentucky Derby prep season the following spring. Upon learning how many eventual Kentucky Derby Champions were even entered in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is when I was left wondering – Breeders’ Cup Juvenile: Unlikely Road to Kentucky Derby Glory? The reason I asked myself that question is because I wasn’t expecting there to be only 5. Yes, in 26 years only 5 Kentucky Derby champions ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That may not be much of a surprise to many but to me it was lower than I expected.

Juvenile Entry and Kentucky Derby Winner (Juvenile Finish)

  • Mine That Bird, 2008-09 (12)
  • Street Sense, 2006-07 (1)
  • Sea Hero, 1992-93 (7)
  • Alysheba, 1986-87 (3)
  • Spend a Buck, 1984-85 (3)

The reason this topic has resurfaced is because the 27th edition of the double is presenting a strong case for another member joining the club. In fact, there isn’t a year in recent memory that had this many Juvenile runners scheduled to enter the starting gate at the Kentucky Derby. As it currently stands, there will be 8 Derby entries that competed in the 2011 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs. To give a little bit of an idea of why that number stands out lets rewind to see how it compares to the past few years. In last year’s Derby, Stay Thirsty was the only horse that made it back to Louisville after also racing there in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. The 2010 Kentucky Derby only had two BC Juvenile runners while there were just 3 in 2009.

So the numbers are there for 2012. Improving the odds is that the top 5 finishers in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will all be returning to Churchill Downs for the 138th Kentucky Derby. It is incredible to see the top 5 two-year-olds return for another round and it will be even more interesting to see how they respond. Sure the other 12 horses in the field will have their say in the outcome but it’s impressive to see these five hold form and stay on course towards the ultimate prize.

Probable Kentucky Derby Starters – In order of finish at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile

  •  1st Hansen
  • 2nd Union Rags
  • 3rd Creative Cause
  • 4th Dullahan
  • 5th Take Charge Indy
  • 11th Alpha
  • 12th Daddy Nose Best
  • 13th Prospective

Of course Street Sense still stands alone. Of the five he is the only horse that was talented enough to win them both. So while Hansen holds the burden of trying to become the next horse to accomplish the unbelievable double, the other 7 are only worried about becoming the next and the first since 2009. Of the three Juvenile starters was a horse by the name of Mine That Bird, an unknown that finished dead last. But as the story goes, he wasn’t ready for the main stage just yet at age 2. Instead he waited until the first Saturday in May before he would make heads turn after paying $103.20 to win.

To Hansen’s credit if he stays on track he will become the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner to enter the Kentucky Derby since Street Sense in 2007. Now that doesn’t mean that I’m drawing comparisons between them but it does mean that droughts do end. What it also means is that any credit he gets is also well deserved. Churchill Downs can be an intimidating crowd to perform in front of and a very hard track to get comfortable on if you haven’t been there before. It’s a nice feather in your cap and one that will likely grab the attention of many in the betting public.

Now back to October when it became evident that the Juvenile was a very unlikely stop for eventual Kentucky Derby winners. Maybe because I was looking for a challenge or maybe it was because I thought that the Juvenile field had so much talent. Either way I declared that 2012 would be the next time a Juvenile runner would go on to win on the first Saturday in May. With just 12 days left I still have a window to back track on that prediction. Maybe it’s because I’m again looking for a challenge or maybe it’s just because I think that 1 of the 8 is just too talented not to win. Doesn’t matter I’m sticking to it, 2012 will be the 6th time that a Juvenile runner will go on to win the Kentucky Derby. I’m not going so far as to say that Hansen will follow in Street Sense’s footsteps but its bound to happen at some point. Therefore, if the next time is 2012 then I guess I won’t be surprised.

Overall this is a remarkable aspect about this year’s Kentucky Derby field and a beautiful thing for so many owners and trainers. To see the talent they knew they had in their barn make it through the growing pains of a young racing career and return again for the championship race for the age group is exciting stuff. More than that, it’s a credit to all of them. Making the return to Louisville, KY for the chance at wearing the roses has been a long road but well worth the ride so far.

Good Luck to all 8 of our Juvenile and Derby runners at becoming the next to join the club.

Written by: Little Brink

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