New Year's Day made himself an early favorite for the Triple Crown when he won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (Photos courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire).
Making the Grade, which will run through the 2014 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners of the big races, usually from the previous weekend, who could impact the next Triple Crown. We’ll be taking a close look at impressive winners and evaluating their chances to win classic races based upon ability, running style, connections (owner, trainer, jockey) and pedigree.
This week we take a closer look at New Year’s Day, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at Santa Anita Park.
In the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile post-race press conference, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert talked about the added bonus of winning the $2 million race — the allure of having a top candidate for the 2014 Triple Crown races in the barn. It’s true that Street Sense in 2006-’07 was the only horse to complete the Juvenile-Kentucky Derby double, although Timber Country won the Juvenile and the Preakness Stakes in 1994-’95, but let’s take a look at why 2013 Juvenile victor New Year’s Day has the makings of a classic winner.
New Year's Day
Sire (Father): Street Cry
Dam (Mother): Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union
Owners: Gary and Mary West
Breeder: Clearsky Farms (Ky.)
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Ability: After finishing third of nine in his career debut on Aug. 17 at Del Mar, New Year’s Day followed with a 1 ¾-length win two weeks later, also at Del Mar. Rather than point the bay colt to a stakes race as a prep for the Breeders’ Cup, Baffert kept him on the sidelines leading up to the big dance. Asking a 2-year-old to makes his stakes debut in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is a tall order, but Baffert’s confidence was rewarded when New Year’s Day caught Grade 1 winner Havana in the stretch and edged away to win by 1 ¼ lengths and take home the $1.1 million winner’s share. He also achieved a new career-best Equibase Speed Figure with a 100, a 13-point jump from his first win.
New Year’s Day’s owners, Gary and Mary West, purchased him for $425,000 out of the prestigious first book of the 2012 Keeneland September yearling sale. This clearly was an eye-catching colt physically as well as on the catalog page and, while not one of the top-priced yearlings at the sale, he brought a nice price at auction.
Running style: New Year’s Day rallied from eighth in the Juvenile, which featured a very swift early pace. He also closed from far back in his third-place finish in his career debut, which also featured blistering early fractions. In his second race, however, New Year’s Day was second after a half-mile and took a clear lead with a quarter-mile to run in the one-mile race.
New Year’s Day is not a colt I’d expect to be challenging for the lead in most races, but he does possess just enough speed to keep other horses honest. He looks fairly versatile and ratable, which should help him as he progresses along the Triple Crown trail and faces new obstacles.
NEW YEAR'S DAY AFTER WINNING THE BREEDERS' CUP JUVENILE
Connections: Owners Gary and Mary West raced a number of very nice 3-year-olds in 2013, including Robert B. Lewis Stakes winner Flashback and Indiana Derby winner Power Broker, the latter a Grade 1 winner at two and runner-up in the 2013 Haskell Invitational Stakes. The Wests have had three starters in the Kentucky Derby, all unplaced.
Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert has a track record of success in the U.S. classics with nine career victories. Baffert won the Kentucky Derby three times with Silver Charm in 1997, Real Quiet in 1998 and War Emblem in 2002. All three went on to win the Preakness as well. Baffert’s other classic wins came with Point Given in the 2001 Preakness and Belmont Stakes and Lookin At Lucky in the 2010 Preakness.
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Pedigree: The only colt so far to complete the Juvenile-Kentucky Derby double was Street Sense, by Street Cry. New Year’s Day shares the same sire (father) as Street Sense, a proven Derby sire with other standouts to his credit such as 2009 Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Zenyatta and 2009 Melbourne Cup winner Shocking. Street Cry’s best horses excel at longer distances and that bodes well for New Year’s Day’s chances to succeed as he stretches out on the Triple Crown trail.
New Year’s Day’s dam (mother), Justwhistledixie, strung together a 5-race winning streak as a 3-year-old, including four stakes victories. She finished off that stretch with back-to-back wins in the Grade 2 Davona Dale Stakes at a mile and the Grade 2 Bonnie Miss Stakes at 1 1/8 miles. Justwhistledixie, by Dixie Union, was a high-class filly who also finished second in the Grade 1 Acorn Stakes. A half-sister to Grade 2-winning sprinter Chace City, she was plenty fast and able to carry her speed around two turns. Coincidentally, Justwhistledixie also was a $425,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale.
New Year’s Day is Justwhistledixie’s first foal to hit the racetrack.
New Year’s Day’s female family is anchored by his third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Ahpo Hel, who produced five stakes winners and was responsible for several other high-class runners, including multiple Grade 2 winner and 2008 Florida Derby runner-up Smooth Air.
New Year’s Day boasts an abundance of class from his pedigree. Combine that with a top trainer, plenty of natural ability and a versatile running style that should allow him to adjust on the fly and you have a solid contender for the 2014 classics.