Evaluating Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Winner Storm the Court’s Derby Prospects

Racing
Storm the Court (left) outfinished Anneau d’Or in the Nov. 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to earn 20 qualifying points for the 2020 Kentucky Derby. (Eclipse Sportswire)

Making the Grade, which will run through the 2020 Belmont Stakes, focuses on the winners or top performers of the key races, usually from the previous weekend, who could make an impact on the Triple Crown season. 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 Storm the Court, winner of the Grade 1, $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 1 at Santa Anita Park.

storm the court

Bay Colt

Sire (Father): Court Vision

Dam (Mother): My Tejana Storm, by Tejano Run

Owners: Exline-Border Racing, David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson and Dan Hudock

Breeder: Stepping Stone Farm (Ky.)

Trainer: Peter Eurton

Storm the Court pulled off the shocker of Breeders’ Cup Future Stars Friday with a 45.90-1 upset in the TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, edging fellow longshot Anneau d’Or by a head after a prolonged stretch battle. The Juvenile has produced quite a few surprises over the years. Sometimes a horse like Street Sense wins the Juvenile (2006), pays $32.40 for a $2 win bet, and goes on to great things. Other longshot Juvenile winners, like Action This Day ($55.60) in 2003, never get back to the elite level they displayed at the Breeders’ Cup. Others find themselves somewhere in between extremes. Let’s take a closer look at Storm the Court and his chances to make an impact on the 2020 Triple Crown trail.

Ability: Storm the Court sold twice at auction. He sold once for $5,000 as a yearling in February 2018 and subsequently was purchased for $60,000 at the Ocala Breeders' Sales Co. spring sale of 2-year-olds in training by co-owner Exline-Border Racing.

He debuted Aug. 10 at Del Mar and won a 5 ½-furlong sprint by 1 ½ lengths, earning an 89 Equibase Speed Figure and a 75 Beyer Speed Figure, which was an encouraging start.

The Court Vision colt’s second start was a complete throwaway race through no fault of his own. Heavily favored Eight Rings ducked in and bumped Storm the Court shortly after the start in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity and both horses lost their riders.

Storm the Court prepped for the TVG Juvenile in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes Sept. 27 at Santa Anita Park, where he stretched out around two turns for the first time. Storm the Court finished a distant third, 8 ¼ lengths behind the aforementioned Eight Rings.

The resulting speed figures were solid but unspectacular as he earned a 90 from Equibase and a 74 Beyer Speed Figure for the American Pharoah. Hindsight is 20-20, but given he got almost nothing out of the Del Mar Futurity, Storm the Court probably needed the American Pharoah Stakes to build foundation and as a learning experience while navigating two turns for the first time.

Storm the Court went off at double-digit odds for the fourth straight race in the Juvenile, set an uncontested pace after favored Dennis’ Moment stumbled badly at the start, and fought gamely in the stretch to hold off Anneau d’Or by a head under Flavien Prat.

Given the circumstances of the Juvenile, it would be very easy to dismiss Storm the Court’s win. Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity winner Maxfield was scratched, 9-10 favorite Dennis’ Moment’s nose almost touched the ground when he stumbled out of the starting gate, and Eight Rings simply did not fire as the 3-2 second choice.

However, Storm the Court really has never run a bad race if you draw a line through the Del Mar Futurity (which you should), and the progression he has shown is fairly typical of a promising 2-year-old learning his craft.

The 106 Equibase Speed Figure Storm the Court posted for the Juvenile victory was slightly below the 108.7 average the winner earned for the last 20 editions, but 10 of the 20 winners in that span fit in the 106 to 110 range.

The other 106 figure during this timeframe was earned by Texas Red (13.90-1 odds) in the 2014 Juvenile at Santa Anita. He ran second in a Grade 2 race in February but missed the 2015 Kentucky Derby with a foot issue before coming back to win the Grade 2 Jim Dandy Stakes in August.

Storm the Court probably won’t be an especially popular play in the Kentucky Derby Future pools based on a combination of lack of value – at his current odds of 12-1 set by William Hill, he’s lower than he’s been for any of his four actual starts – and natural skepticism, but I do believe there is a solid chance he turns out to be a very good 3-year-old.

Whether or not Storm the Court has the goods to make his presence felt on the 2020 Derby trail remains to be seen.

Running style: Storm the Court led from start to finish in the Juvenile, but that was the first time he’d set the pace in one of his races. He was also adding blinkers and did not face much pressure.

“We knew he had stamina about him,” winning trainer Peter Eurton told BloodHorse after the Juvenile. “We hadn’t yet seen the speed, so we were hoping he would put it all together. When [Dennis’ Moment] had that horrible break, it allowed us to take the lead. And I think the other riders didn’t really take him seriously down the backside, so he got his own way.”

The ability to set the pace and still grind out a win is a good tool to have moving forward, but Storm the Court is not a need-the-lead type. Look for him to make use of his natural speed moving forward to gain tactical position with the versatility to set, press, or stalk the pace.

Storm the Court and Prat. (BENOIT photo)

Connections: Ryan Exline of Exline-Border Thoroughbreds purchased Storm the Court at the urging of bloodstock agent Marette Farrell at the 2019 OBS Spring sale of 2-year-olds in training after what Farrell told BloodHorse was a “flawless” breeze.

Exline-Border Thoroughbreds is the racing operation of the Exline family and Justin Border, and the ownership group also includes David Bernsen, Susanna Wilson, and Dan Hurdock.

Bernsen also is a part-owner of two-time Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner Roy H and two-time Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint winner Stormy Liberal.

Trainer Peter Eurton won his second Breeders’ Cup race with Storm the Court. A former jockey, Eurton also saddled Champagne Room to a 33.60-1 upset win in the 2016 14 Hands Winery Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. His lone previous Kentucky Derby starter was Dance With Fate, who finished sixth in 2014.

Flavien Prat has been aboard Storm the Court for each of his four starts to date. Prat is in the midst of a career year in which he has amassed more than $18.9 million in earnings and won six Grade 1 races, including the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve on Country House.

Pedigree: Storm the Court is from the fifth crop of 2011 Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Court Vision, who won four Grade 1 stakes and one Grade 2 on grass from age 3 to age 6 and a pair of graded stakes on the main track as a 2-year-old.

Court Vision has sired two-time Canadian champion Mr Havercamp, a graded stakes winner on turf and all-weather surfaces, as well as Canadian champion King and His Court from eight stakes winners through Nov. 11. He’s not a sire that pops into mind when thinking about a star 2-year-old or 3-year-old classic hopeful, but he’s shown some versatility as a sire when it comes to surface and he adds some stamina as a Grade 1 winner (on turf) at 1 ¼ miles.

Storm the Court is out of the winning Tejano Run mare My Tejana Storm, who was purely a sprinter with wins at six furlongs and 6 ½ furlongs. His grandam (maternal grandmother), Sarah’s Settlement, by Settlement Day, was unraced and third dam (maternal great-grandmother), Sarah’s Hope, by Riva Ridge, won once in 14 starts with that victory coming at three-quarters of a mile.

Based upon the pedigree, it’s hard to view Storm the Court as a classic-distance type racehorse, but he has won going around two turns and demonstrated tenacity late in the TVG Juvenile.

Because he won the Juvenile in a monumental upset, I believe Storm the Court is undervalued as a prospect overall. When it comes to his Kentucky Derby chances in 2019, however, I’m skeptical of his chances to excel as the races get longer.

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