Separating top juveniles is always tough early in the year because so many are unbeaten or have won a majority of their starts. Still, when it comes to the early favorites for this year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr. I), all lists must start with Awesome Humor.
Awesome Humor may get her name from her sire, Distorted Humor, but make no mistake about it -- there is nothing funny about the way she runs. Those who oppose her, however, better have a good sense of humor.
Winner of her first two starts, including the Debutante Stakes (gr. III) for owner Tom Durant and trainer Ronny Werner, Awesome Humor was sold privately to WinStar Farm and turned over to Elliott Walden. For her new connections, she rolled into Saratoga and won the Adirondack (gr. II) and Spinaway Stakes (gr. I).
Of course, the big question for Awesome Humor and anyone else who elects to run in this year's Juvenile or Juvenile Fillies, is the distance. For the first time in the 17-year-history of the Breeders' Cup, the 2-year-old races will be run at 1 1/8 miles. Three times they have been run at a mile, the other times always at 1 1/16 miles.
The west coast figures to be represented by the one-two finishers in the Aug. 31 Del Mar Debutante, Miss Houdini and Santa Catarina. Bo Hirsch Jr.'s Miss Houdini, trained by Warren Stute is two-for-two.
What would a Breeders' Cup 2-year-old race be without an entrant trained by Bob Baffert? Santa Catarina was beaten just a neck in the Debutante and it looks like the daughter of Unbridled, owned by Bob and Beverly Lewis, will like the added distance of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
From north of the border, keep an eye on John and Glen Sikura's homebred A.P. Indy filly Handpainted, who is unbeaten in three races. All three starts have come at Woodbine for trainer Josie Carroll, most recently the Ontario Debutante Stakes. She has won her three races by a combined 11 lengths.
With Johanessburg's success in last year's Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), one can expect more European shippers for the Juvenile and Juvenile Fillies. Several fillies based in Europe bear watching at this point.
Michael Stoute has a good one in his yard, Russian Rhythm, a daughter of Kingmambo. Unbeaten in three starts, Russian Rhythm won the Princess Margaret Stakes (Eng-III) at Ascot, then took the Peugeot Lowther Stakes (Eng-II) at York. She races for Cheveley Park Stud.
In France, the Niarchos family has two homebred fillies with trainer Pascal Bary that are being mentioned as Juvenile possibilities. Six Perfections, by Celtic Swing, won two stakes at Deauville this summer, most recently the Prix de Calvado (Fr-III). Loving Kindness, by Seattle Slew, finished third in the Prix Morny Casinos Barriere (Fr-I) after winning the Prix de Cabourg (Fr-III). Both her races were also at Deauville.
Major upcoming races in the division include the Matron Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont on Sept. 15, Kentucky Cup Juvenile Fillies at Turfway Park on Sept. 14, and the Mazarine Stakes at Woodbine on Sept. 21.