Storm the Court has owners, trainer on another magical ride
Every horse, be it a low-level claimer or a decorated champion, runs down its own path, but for Exline-Border Racing and trainer Peter Eurton, they've certainly found a sweet spot.
If you want to cash in on a shocking upset during a Breeders' Cup race, and they have a juvenile going, look out.
In the last four editions of the Breeders' Cup, only three horses have won at odds of 33-1 or greater, and they've been responsible for two.
The first pari-mutuel explosion came in 2016, when Champagne Room shocked the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) at odds of 33-1. Eurton trained the filly, while Ryan Exline and Justin Border, who partner to form the Exline-Border Racing ownership entity, were part of a large ownership group.
Fast forward to 2019, when Exline-Border (this time heading a large ownership group) and Eurton again stunned the horse racing world with Storm the Court, a 45-1 detonation on the odds board, in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1).
"We're 2-0 at (33-1 or more) at the Breeders' Cup, so we're undefeated," Exline joked after the race in November.
There are similarities between the two horses, other than their longshot Breeders' Cup status, ownership and trainer. Both were named Eclipse Award champions for their juvenile campaigns, and both entered their 3-year-old seasons with high expectations, but the fact that Storm the Court is a colt, and is therefore on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, takes everything to another level.
"There's just more attention," Border said. "You get asked more questions about it—about your plans. Everybody wants to know."
The immediate plan for Storm the Court is the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Sunday, Feb. 9 at Santa Anita Park. It's not a Kentucky Derby points race, but it has been used successfully as a Triple Crown prep before. The most notable example is from 2016, when eventual Derby winner Nyquist and eventual Preakness Stakes (G1) winner Exaggerator ran first and second, respectively, in the San Vicente. Sidney's Candy also won the San Vicente on his path to the Derby in 2010.
Eurton likes the timing of the one-turn race to get Storm the Court's season started, and considering the colt is tied for the lead on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with Tiz the Law (22 points apiece), the trainer is not too worried about missing out on points. If all goes well, a major prep, with plenty of points, will be ahead for the son of Court Vision.
"The biggest key for any (Breeders' Cup) Juvenile winner is you can't keep them 'on' all the time," Eurton said. "You've gotta let them come down a bit. And he's a May foal, so it's important to have that time off.
"He's grown maybe an inch or so and filled out a bit, but this is a new thing. There's so many new 3-year-olds around now that he has to prove himself again. ... If we get to the Derby, we want to be the best that day—not over-train and over-race."
The nature of Storm the Court's Breeders' Cup win, along with others taking hold of the spotlight in recent Derby preps, has made the bay colt somewhat of a curiosity.
Champagne Room's Juvenile Fillies score was unexpected but not unprecedented. In the last 10 years three 2-year-old fillies have won the race at odds of 30-1 or greater.
That was not the case for Storm the Court, whose 45-1 price is by far the highest to win the Juvenile. The second-highest winning price came from Vale of York, who won the 2009 Juvenile at 30-1. Before Storm the Court's win, the average odds of a Juvenile winner since 2010 was just over 6-1.
That leads to a couple questions. How good is he, really? Could the Juvenile have been a fluke? The San Vicente should provide some answers.
"We just love this horse," Border said. "We think he has a ton of talent, heart, and speed, which is a good combination. He's just really special, and we're excited and really proud."
The excitement is palpable from the group, at least in part because of what Champagne Room taught them.
Don't waste a moment.
Just like the immediate thought for any Juvenile winner is the Derby, the logical extension for any Juvenile Fillies winner is the Kentucky Oaks (G1), and that was the plan for Champagne Room.
She debuted in the San Vicente's sister race, the seven-furlong Las Virgenes, but later needed surgery to repair an ankle injury. She missed the Oaks and only won once in three more starts before she was retired to be bred.
So, if Border, Exline, and Eurton find themselves in the Santa Anita winner's circle again Sunday, the Derby might be in the back of their minds, but the party in the moment will be on.
"It's been a different level of appreciation (with Storm the Court)," Border said. "After going through that first experience, and knowing what can happen, we know to appreciate it even more.
"Everybody that's involved in racing has dreams of one thing or another, and the Derby is a dream for most. The idea of having a horse even mentioned as a prospect for that race is incredibly special. We're all dreamers, but at the same time you have realize how great this whole experience is in the moment."
"I'm going to try to enjoy it more," Eurton said in reference to his first Derby starter, Dance With Fate, who finished sixth in 2014. "That's more fun. The day-to-day road is so exciting. ... You can't fast forward to the end of it. And if you could, you wouldn't get to enjoy it."