The fields for the 14 races that comprise the Breeders’ Cup World Championships really begin to come into focus in summer and fall and this regular feature will offer a snapshot profile of one of the previous weekend’s standout stars.
Cave Rock made an impactful impression in his stakes debut by driving to a 5 ¼-length win in the Grade 1, $300,000 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity Sept. 11 at Del Mar. While the Del Mar Futurity is not part of the Breeders’ Cup Challenge Series, Cave Rock should be considered one of the favorites for the $2 million TVG Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4 at Keeneland.
Entering the Del Mar Futurity, Cave Rock was clearly the fastest horse in the nine-horse field on paper but lacked stakes race experience with only a debut win to his credit, and thus the seven-eighths of a mile race was a test of class. The dark bay or brown colt from the second crop of Arrogate passed with flying colors as he set a new stakes record by completing the distance in 1:20.99 to break Declan’s Moon’s 1:21.29 set in 2004.
Cave Rock got pinched a little bit at the start but recovered to set a torrid pace in the Del Mar Futurity through an opening quarter-mile in :21.56 and a blistering half-mile in :43.65. Yet, he still had enough left in the tank to complete his final eighth of a mile in 12.44 seconds and secure a Grade 1 victory.
Honestly, I thought his speed figures came back a little light – 94 Equibase Speed Figure and 98 Beyer Speed Figure for the Del Mar Futurity – after he earned a 109 Equibase figure for a six-length debut win Aug. 13 at Del Mar and a 101 Beyer figure. He broke an 18-year-old stakes record in the win and showed he was capable of running very fast early and still finishing strong. Ability to carry speed a long way was an attribute we witnessed often from his sire, Arrogate, who died at the age of 7 after only three seasons as a stallion.
There have been several impressive 2-year-olds so far in 2022, but Cave Rock stands above the rest of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile hopefuls from my eye for several reasons:
- Natural ability: he’s just faster than his peers right now both on paper and in such a way that he can impose his will on the opposition and run them off their feet. He did just that to stablemate Havnameltdown, who was coming out of a win in the Best Pal Stakes, in the early stages of the Del Mar Futurity.
- Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert earned his record-extending 16th win in the Del Mar Futurity and he has trained five of the last 20 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners, including two of the last five. Midshipman in 2006 and Game Winner in 2018 swept both the Del Mar Futurity and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
- Other historical trends also paint a promising picture: seven of the last 20 Juvenile winners were 2-year-olds with elite speed who preferred to set or press the pace; while 14 of the last 16 were either Grade 1 winners or Grade 1-placed.