The $400,000 Remington Springboard Mile Stakes is a significant race for the 12 two-year-olds who, in just a few weeks, may be considered on the 2020 Kentucky Derby trail. Last year, we selected Long Range Toddy as the most likely winner of this race and were rewarded with a $39.20 payoff on a $2 bet in spite of the fact his trainer, Steve Asmussen, was the leading trainer at the meeting. Asmussen, once again the leading trainer at the meeting coming into this closing weekend, entered a trio of horses in this year’s Springboard Mile. Jungle Runner is one of the Asmussen charges, entering the race off a win in the Clever Trevor Stakes, the same prep Long Range Toddy won last year. Rowdy Yates, another horse trained by Asmussen, has won two stakes in a row, including the Don C. McNeill Stakes on Nov. 15. Shoplifted rounds out the trio, coming into the race off a poor seventh-place finish in the Grade 1 TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile but with a runner-up effort in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes two races earlier. Kirkcules finished a well-beaten second behind Rowdy Yates in the McNeill and hopes to improve, as does McNeill fourth-place finisher Southgate. Embolden tries a dirt route for the first time but fits on class, having finished third in the Grade 3 Futurity Stakes in October before a runner-up effort in the Atlantic Beach Stakes last month. Alternate Time enters the Remington Mile off a hard-fought victory in an allowance-optional claiming race Nov. 29 at Remington Park. Three horses enter the race off wins by multiple lengths in maiden races and may step up as 2-year-olds can do this time of year: Answer In, Piece of Work, and Shipman’s Song. Maximiliano also won for the first time in his most recent start, by a neck, but did so gamely after battling head and head for the lead for the last three-eighths of a mile. Slew Tang Clan has yet to win in four tries, although he finished second in his most recent race, and rounds out the field.
Choosing between the two recent stakes winners from the Asmussen barn is a fairly difficult as both were impressive recently, but I’ll opt for Jungle Runner as he won the non-restricted Clever Trevor Stakes whereas Rowdy Yates defeated Oklahoma-breds only in the Don C. McNeill. Not only that, but last year’s Springboard Mile winner Long Range Toddy had won the Clever Trevor six weeks earlier. It’s not coincidental Asmussen trains both, and knows Jungle Runner is an improving type. Prior to the Clever Trevor, which was contested at seven furlongs, Jungle Runner broke his maiden at the same one-mile trip as the Springboard Mile, so there are no questions about his ability to get the distance. Even though the career-best 80 Equibase Speed Figure earned in the Clever Trevor is only sixth-highest last-race figure in the field, considering Long Range Toddy improved by 10 points on this date last year, I believe Jungle Runner is the one to beat. This is particularly true looking at the record his sire’s progeny in similar races using STATS Race Lens, which reveals sons and daughters of Candy Ride have won six of 18 2-year-old dirt route stakes races in the last five years, including Game Winner (2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile) and Mastery (2016 Los Alamitos Futurity).
Embolden moves from turf to dirt and from a sprint to a route, but I have no doubt he can handle both and run well. In his career debut in July, Embolden finished second to a six-length winner (who repeated shortly thereafter). Breaking his maiden by 10 lengths in his second start with a sensational 96 Equibase Speed Figure, Embolden then won the Jamestown Stakes before a third-place finish in the Futurity Stakes at Belmont. Adding blinkers for the Atlantic Beach Stakes last month, Embolden earned a new career-best speed figure, 98, while closing strongly from seventh to second. As a son of The Factor, racing well around two turns on dirt should be no problem, so we can expect another competitive effort in the Springboard Mile.
Answer In is a recent maiden winner who interests me as a strong contender. In his September debut, Answer In rallied from seventh of 12 early and drew off early in the stretch only to be caught late and beaten by a nose. The winner of that race, South Bend, proved to be a quality horse when winning the Street Sense Stakes in his next start. Answer In took a similar step forward to win by five lengths in “ridden out” fashion at the end of October, earning a career-best and field-high 103 figure. Answer In gets top jockey Javier Castellano to ride and is in the hands of excellent trainer Brad Cox, who has won with four of just 13 horses he’s stretched out off a maiden win in a sprint and into stakes competition in the last three years. As such, I think Answer In should be considered a strong contender in this field.
The rest of the Remington Springboard Mile Stakes field (with best representative Equibase Speed Figure): Alternate Time (84), Kirkcules (82), Maximiliano (91), Piece of Work (88), Rowdy Yates (90), Shipman’s Song (80), Shoplifted (87), Slew Tang Clan (67) and Southgate (78).
My Selections as win contenders, in preference order: