Held at 1 1/16 miles, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is the championship event for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds aiming toward the 2020 Triple Crown series. The prestigious race offers 20 Kentucky Derby qualification points to the winner, making the race a key steppingstone on the road to Churchill Downs.
This year’s Juvenile lost a little luster when Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity winner #9 Maxfield was announced as an early scratch, but the remaining eight entrants promise to put on quite a show.
For starters, there’s #1 Dennis’ Moment, the 8-5 favorite on the morning line. A son of two-time Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Tiznow, Dennis’ Moment suffered misfortune in his debut, clipping heels shortly after the start and losing his rider. He didn’t give up though, continuing on without guidance to rally and finish on even terms with the actual winner.
As a result, Dennis’ Moment was heavily favored to win his second start sprinting at Ellis Park, and he delivered with a stunning gate-to-wire victory. No one could keep up with Dennis’ Moment as he finished fast down the homestretch to win by 19 ¼ lengths, earning a massive 97 Beyer speed figure that remains the highest figure posted by any 2-year-old so far in 2019.
Afterward, trainer Dale Romans elected to run Dennis’ Moment in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs, the first prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Dennis’ Moment promptly won eased up with a 90 Beyer, emerging as the favorite for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
In the weeks since then, Dennis’ Moment has trained up a storm, suggesting he’s ready for a huge effort at Santa Anita. The only problem? He’s drawn the rail, which means he’ll have to come out running and vie for the lead in order to avoid getting boxed in behind horses.
This could potentially be problematic since Dennis’ Moment figures to be pursued from the outset by #6 Eight Rings, a formidable opponent conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. After easily winning his debut at Del Mar with a 94 Beyer, Eight Rings took a sharp left-handed turn shortly after the start of the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity and collided with another horse, causing both to lose their jockeys. Like Dennis’ Moment, Eight Rings showed impressive professionalism to continue running without his rider—he actually closed a huge deficit to pass all of his rivals shortly after the finish line.
For the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes at Santa Anita, Baffert chose to equip Eight Rings with blinkers, and the colt responded with a powerful victory. After carving out a quick pace, the son of Empire Maker pulled away down the lane to win by six lengths.
In the absence of each other, Dennis’ Moment and Eight Rings would be overwhelming favorites to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But because they’re facing off, and loom as the two key speed horses on paper, their meeting sets up an interesting race dynamic. If the Juvenile truly is a match race between these two fast colts, what happens if they hook up shortly after the start and intensify the pace down the backstretch and around the far turn?
Perhaps they’ll duel to the finish line. Perhaps one or the other will pull away to win easily. Or perhaps they’ll wear each other out and set the race up for #5 Scabbard, a late-running colt who looms as the logical candidate to capitalize on a pace meltdown.
Scabbard has already squared off against Dennis’ Moment once before. They met in the Iroquois Stakes, where Scabbard endured a dreadful bit of bad luck. While advancing strongly along the rail, Scabbard ran into traffic and was forced to steady sharply on the far turn, in the process losing several lengths of ground and all of his momentum.
Many horses would have been discouraged by this turn of events, but not Scabbard. He quickly regrouped, advanced smoothly back into contention, and rallied strongly down the stretch to finish just 1 ¾ lengths behind Dennis’ Moment.
With a clean run, it’s possible Scabbard would have challenged Dennis’ Moment for victory. With a clean trip and a fair pace setup in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Scabbard could prove surprisingly dangerous to the two favorites, especially with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith in the saddle for the first time.
So how can we turn these opinions into a logical betting strategy? I suggest playing a simple trifecta box with Dennis’ Moment, Eight Rings, and Scabbard. Playing a trifecta box requires you to pick the top three finishers in any order, so as long as our three colts are the first three to cross the finish line, we should cash a nice ticket.
$4 trifecta box: 1,5,6 ($24)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 9th race, $4 trifecta box 1,5,6
Good luck, and enjoy the race!