What Breeders' Cup Juvenile Horses Could Be In The Kentucky Derby?
by Tim Quek
In 2015, Nyquist won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) and proved that the Juvenile holds value in preparation for the Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Many 2016 Juvenile contenders also hope to successfully springboard into their three-year-old campaign and the Kentucky Derby.
History isn't typically on the side of Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners. Only two horses have won both the Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby since the 1984 inception of the World Championships. Street Sense was first in 2006 and 2007, and most recently Nyquist in 2015 and 2016. Additionally, only two horses have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby after a place or show finish in the Juvenile. Those are Spend A Buck in 1984-1985 and Alysheba in 1986-1987.
This doesn’t mean these horses are automatically the best three-year-olds. One challenge is how Horses age and mature in different ways, similar to how human athletes do. A prime example is Arrogate, the three-year old winner of the 2016 Travers Stakes, who obliterated a field that included Nyquist, Exaggerator, Gun Runner and others. It was his first stakes race, but a strong enough showing to make him one of the top choices in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Exaggerator was an entrant in the 2015 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, and finished 5th. That was strong enough for him to be viewed as a Triple Crown nominated leader. He certainly made the most of his time on the Triple Crown trail by winning the Preakness Stakes in 2016. The point is that the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is not necessarily a breeding ground for future champions. However, that trend may be shifting with a more established pathway to Churchill Downs and Kentucky Derby 143.
With the race being a Kentucky Derby prep, here are the top-5 horses to watch at the upcoming World Championships.
Klimt - The fall season is where we start to see emerging traits in the two-year-old age group, and Klimt was very quick to put himself at the front of the class. He won the Best Pal Stakes and Del Mar Futurity before finishing second in the FrontRunner Stakes, losing with an upset to Gormley. Klimt has been fiercely touted as the horse to watch in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but has a lot to make up for after the FrontRunner.
Gormley - A trainee of John Shirreffs, Gormley made his presence known in the FrontRunner Stakes. Since the FronRunner he has become undefeated in his two starts. Gormley is not as highly rated as his rivals in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but his outstanding performance in October has certainly generated massive intrigue. Interestingly enough, Gormley is the son of Malibu Moon, a successful stallion in the United States. Nyquist, a son of Uncle Mo, absolutely raised the prestige of his own father. Could Gormley do the same?
Practical Joke - A son of Into Mischief, Practical Joke is a very interesting contender. He is undefeated in three starts, but his most recent victory in the Champagne was a harrowingly close finish by a nose.
Syndergaard - Todd Pletcher's Syndergaard may be the most curious entry in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. He romped in the Funny Cide, a 6 1/2-furlong challenge that he completed in 1:16.75. That's faster than what Nyquist accomplished at a similar time in his development in the Best Pal. There's still plenty of optimism for his career with finishing as the narrow runner-up to Practical Joke. Seeing Practical Joke at the Juvenile once again will either bring out the best in him, or affirm that he's simply not ready to compete among top talent. That doesn't count him out for being a Triple Crown nominated contender. This is very much a horse that you should expect to see at Kentucky Derby 143.
Three Rules - One of the elements that differentiates this horse from his rivals at the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is his experience. Three Rules has been competing since June, and remains undefeated in five races, which all went off at Gulfstream Park. There's no doubt that making the trip to Churchill Downs in 2017 is in the plans for this two-year old, but he has to prove first that he hasn't played his best hand at a young age. Measuring his progression at and after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile will help determine if he's ready to be Triple Crown nominated by his connections at Shade Tree Thoroughbreds.