The fields for the 14 races that comprise the Breeders’ Cup World Championships really begins to come into focus in late summer and early fall and in the last few weeks we’ve seen the final major prep races for most divisions from coast to coast.
The “Win and You’re In” Challenge Series offers the winners of specific individual races an expenses-paid starting spot for corresponding Breeders’ Cup races.
Entering the Juvenile Fillies off back-to-back dominant victories, the bay filly by Liam’s Map figures to be one of the logical favorites for the 1 1/16-mile race Nov. 5 at Del Mar.
The Albaugh family purchased Juju’s Map for $300,000 at the 2020 Keeneland September yearling sale. She made her career debut a little more than 10 months later and ran second in a 5 ½-furlong maiden special weight race at Ellis Park, where she took the lead but faded late and finished 2 ½ lengths behind the winner for trainer Brad Cox.
Six weeks later, Juju’s Map showed significant improvement when stretching out to a mile at Ellis as she led from start to finish in a 5 ¾-length romp that prompted the descriptive Equibase chart writer to mention in the race notes “held sway under a statuesque rider.”
I love a good tidbit like that in a race chart – you have to go watch that stretch run, right? – and the writer was correct in that it could not have been an easier win. There might have been some very minor encouragement to make sure she kept her mind on the task at hand but jockey Florent Geroux didn’t have to do anything but shake the reins once or twice.
Juju’s Map earned a 91 Equibase Speed Figure and an 80 Beyer Speed Figure for the victory, showing she was plenty fast to be a player in the 2-year-old filly division.
Of course, the big test was to come against stakes competition. It’s one thing to impress against a field of non-winners, it’s another to shine on the big stage of Fall Stars weekend at Keeneland in the Grade 1 Darley Alcibiades.
Geroux was very aggressive early aboard Juju’s Map from the inside post to make sure she did not get trapped in behind a wall of runners in the 11-horse field. She led entering the first turn and tossed her head a bit when Geroux tried to get her to relax behind Runup, who opened a clear lead through the first quarter-mile. She seemed to settle into a nice rhythm along the backstretch but Juju’s Map was eager when given her cue to accelerate and seized command quickly on the final turn.
She looked a little green switching leads in the stretch but proved very much the best in a 4 ¼-length win as the 2.40-1 favorite.
Juju’s Map earned a 95 Equibase Speed Figure, an 84 Beyer Speed Figure, and a 90 Brisnet speed rating for the win. On paper, she’s not quite as fast as Frizette Stakes winner Echo Zulu but she’s very close to Pocahontas Stakes winner Hidden Connection and the rest of the top 2-year-old fillies. With a high-cruising speed, a little bit of versatility as far as running style, competitive speed figures, and an elite trainer, Juju’s Map ticks a lot of boxes when evaluating the field for the Juvenile Fillies.
Juju’s Map is from the third crop of 2015 Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map, who is off to a good start with seven group-graded stakes winners to date including Grade 1 winners Colonel Liam, Wicked Whisper, and Basin and multiple graded stakes winner Crazy Beautiful.
Juju’s Map is the second winner from as many starters produced by the Flatter mare Nagambie, a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to Grade 1 winner Fault and stakes winner Apply. Juju’s Map’s grandam (maternal grandmother) is Charming N Lovable, a stakes winner on grass at one mile.
Already proven at the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies, the only question is if Juju’s Map is fast enough. It would only take a small improvement for her to be a major win candidate for Cox, who won four Breeders’ Cup races and an Eclipse Award as outstanding trainer in 2020.