Run over 1 1/16 miles on dirt, the $2 million Grade 1 Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Del Mar is a 20-8-4-2 points race on the Road to the 2018 Kentucky Derby.
Since the Breeders’ Cup’s inception in 1984, only two horses – Street Sense in 2006 and Nyquist in 2016 – have bagged the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile/Kentucky Derby double.
Here are five questions that must be answered…
1. How good is Bolt d’Oro?
Named for the decorated sprinter Usain Bolt, Bolt d’Oro is fast, but he also has stamina.
Undefeated from three starts, he was last seen winning the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita by nearly eight lengths, and the time was nearly three seconds faster than that of the Chandelier Stakes, the sister race for the fillies held on the same card.
Mick Ruis has amped up his stable in recent years. He’s been around the game for some time, but doesn’t have extensive experience as a trainer, and he certainly has never had an individual with this level of potential.
Joe’s answer: Off slowly in his first two starts, both sprints, Bolt d’Oro won the debut for fun and overcame adversity in his second try. He broke much more alertly in the FrontRunner, which was his route debut. He smoked some talented rivals, galloped out like a monster, and hasn’t missed a beat in training since.
With a decent run into the first turn, post 11 shouldn’t hurt his cause. He has tactical speed, and on paper, he’s run much faster than any of his rivals have.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will obviously be a stiff test, and there’s a lot of time between now and the first Saturday in May.
2. Who is the main threat to Bolt d’Oro?
Joe’s answer: The only favorite to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in the last six years was Shanghai Bobby in 2012, so there is hope for the rest of the field.
Visually impressive in his career debut sprinting at Churchill Downs, Free Drop Billy followed up with a pair of graded stakes seconds in Saratoga sprints. Stretched out for the first time in the Grade 1 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, he overcame some traffic trouble to score a decisive victory. He’s trained better than ever coming out of the race, extending his stride and gobbling up ground during his morning work. He’s bred, and acts, like a horse who will eventually relish a distance of ground. If he stays healthy, I’d be very surprised if he wasn’t a major player on the Triple Crown scene.
Bolt d’Oro may have a tactical advantage on Free Drop Billy on Saturday, but the difference in odds may make the risk worth the potential reward.
3. Who is the best Juvenile longshot?
Joe’s answer: He’s 30-1 in the morning line, but Golden Dragon might be an even higher price than that by post time. Stabled at Arlington Park, he began his career without much fanfare or promise. He broke through in career start number three, edging a nice horse named Burnside, who would return to break his maiden in stylish fashion on the Churchill grass. Golden Dragon shipped to Louisville himself for an allowance try on turf. Dismissed at odds of 15.80-1, he was squeezed at the start, losing four lengths. He responded when asked on the turn, leveled off, rallied sharply to blow past his competition, and galloped out strongly.
All four of his career starts have been on turf, but his somewhat obscure pedigree tilts towards dirt, and he had an amazing work on the Del Mar main track October 30. Go back and watch it if you get a chance.
He might not win, or even hit the board, but I’m fairly confident that Golden Dragon will outperform his lofty odds on Saturday.
4. Who else intrigues you?
Joe’s answer: Others I’ll be considering for the gimmicks…
- Good Magic – A million-dollar son of Curlin, this colt was the talk of the backstretch at Saratoga this summer. Second in both career starts, most recently in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes, he enters the Juvenile as a maiden for trainer Chad Brown, who wouldn’t run him if he didn’t’ think he belonged. He has tactical speed, has trained well between starts, and is on edge to take a solid step forward.
- U S Navy Flag – As a full brother to Roly Poly, one of the favorites for the Breeders’ Cup Mile on turf, it’s a little surprising to see this one on dirt, but with his Aidan O’Brien-trained stablemate Mendelssohn entered in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, he lands here. Not often do you see a 2-year-old run ten times, but he’s won three in a row including two Group 1s, and keeps getting better. He has speed, but I’m not sure he’s fast enough to make the lead, which means he’s likely to take some dirt from the rail post. Either way, it’s tough to ignore his class, connections and seasoning.
- If you’re playing trifectas and/or superfectas, Solomini, who finished a distant second behind Bolt d’Oro in the FrontRunner, and late-closing Champagne winner Firenze Fire are tough to dismiss.
5. Who wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and why?
Joe’s answer: I’d really like to see Free Drop Billy win, and I think he can slay the Bolt d’Oro dragon, but I strongly believe he’ll be even more formidable as the Triple Crown prep season progresses. Like I said earlier, I think the value will be there with ‘Billy,’ and his stretch kick will prove powerful.
With four pace pressers drawn to his inside, Bolt d’Oro should fall into a clear, stalking trip from the extreme outside post. Good Magic should also find himself in a sweet position behind the pacesetters, and I truly believe Golden Dragon will be finishing with punch.
Joe’s Breeders ‘Cup Juvenile picks: 1) Free Drop Billy 2) Bolt d’Oro 3) Golden Dragon 4) Good Magic