There certainly is a lot of early speed entered in the $2 million Grade 1 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs, and all that speed could be a key factor in determining the outcome of the race.
The prestigious 1 1/16-mile race figures to determine the champion 2-year-old male of 2018, as well as the early favorite for the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve, and with 14 horses in the field, the pace would probably be heated even if there weren’t an abundance of proven speed horses in the field.
As far as the front-runners go, the brilliant Grade 1 Champagne Stakes winner #6 Complexity might be the fastest of the bunch for trainer Chad Brown, who won last year’s Juvenile with Good Magic. But while Complexity looked great winning the Champagne by three lengths with sharp speed figures, he also had things pretty much his own way while racing alone on the lead over a very fast track. He seems unlikely to encounter a similar trip in the Juvenile, where he could face significant early pace pressure from the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity winner #10 Knicks Go, the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes winner #7 Mind Control, the Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes runner-up #4 Tight Ten, the Florida Sire In Reality Stakes winner #5 Well Defined, and even the longshot Iowa Cradle Stakes winner #13 Topper T.
In contrast, the unbeaten California shipper #9 Game Winner could be poised to receive a perfect trip. Conditioned by the two-time Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Game Winner has won his first three starts by a combined 11 ¾ lengths, and while he has enough early speed to stay in touch with the leaders early on, he’s far from being a one-dimensional speed demon. To the contrary, he won the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity while rallying from five lengths off the pace, and he followed up with a pace-tracking victory in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes, where he pulled away strongly in the final furlong to win by 4 ½ lengths with a 97 Beyer speed figure, the highest in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile field.
With his high-profile connections and top-class stamina-oriented pedigree, Game Winner appears to have a very bright future. At this stage of the game, I think he’s the best horse in the field, and I also think he’s going to get the best trip tracking the speed before rallying in the homestretch. Throw in the fact that Baffert has already won the Juvenile three times, and how can I possibly play against Game Winner?
Two other runners that I plan to use are #11 Code of Honor and #12 Gunmetal Gray. Code of Honor was a rare debut winner for trainer Shug McGaughey at Saratoga this summer, and the son of Noble Mission followed up with an eye-catching effort in the Champagne Stakes, where he stumbled at the start but rallied relentlessly to finish a clear second. Gunmetal Gray has likewise run well in Grade 1 company, employing pace-tracking tactics in the American Pharoah Stakes and staying on well in the homestretch to finish second behind Game Winner. In terms of Beyer and BRIS speed figures, Gunmetal Gray fits very well here and is another runner who could settle off the fast pace and come running late to finish on the board.
Assuming that Game Winner's 8-5 morning-line odds tick up to 2-1 or higher, I would be happy to bet him to win. If he does drop a bit lower, perhaps a strong exacta is in order with Complexity, Code of Honor, and Gunmetal Gray underneath in varying amounts.
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget: Straight Win Bet
$10 to win on #9 Game Winner
Wagering Strategy on a $25 Budget: Exactas
$12 exacta 9 with 6
$8 exacta 9 with 11
$5 exacta 9 with 12
Good luck, and enjoy the race!