Patrick Byrne has been in this position at the Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships before, heading into the Bessemer Trust Juvenile (gr. I) with an undefeated colt. Eight years ago, the trainer won the race with Favorite Trick, who kept his unbeaten mark intact while earning champion juvenile male and Horse of the Year honors. This time around, Byrne has the 3-0 Sorcerer's Stone, who rolled to an 8 ½-length victory in the Arlington-Washington Breeders' Cup Futurity (gr. III) in his most recent outing.
"They are two different kinds of horses physically, but they both have the same demeanor," Byrne said. "Sorcerer's Stone is a little taller than Favorite Trick. He's a more leggy horse than Favorite Trick. Favorite Trick had more of a sprint type build. But the main difference between the two is that this horse is a Kentucky Derby (gr. I) prospect. Win, lose, or draw on Saturday, this is a Derby horse, without a doubt. Favorite Trick, in my mind, was never a Derby prospect because the distance was beyond his capabilities. To me, he was a perfect Met Mile (gr. I) horse."
Another difference is that with Sorcerer's Stone, Byrne is that Byrne is experiencing less pre-race anxiety.
"With Favorite Trick, I felt a little bit of pressure because he was the favorite and he was unbeaten," Byrne said. "With this colt, there's just no pressure. He's already been a nice surprise for us. I've always maintained that he's a two-turn horse, and it's amazed me the speed that he's shown."
Sorcerer's Stone, a son of Gulch
, kicked off his career in July at Churchill Downs, winning a 4 1/2 –furlong maiden-special-weight event by a half-length over Private Vow, who will also start in Saturday's Juvenile (gr. I). Then, at Arlington Park, Sorcerer's Stone captured the 5 ½-furlong Honest Pleasure Stakes before tackling the Futurity.
"He has trained exceptionally well and I expect a big effort from him Saturday in the Juvenile," Byrne said. "Whether that's good enough to beat these colts remains to be seen, but he's done nothing wrong for us. This horse is coming into this race at top of his game, and I think he is underrated at this point in time. He's 12-1 on the morning line, and I think he's going to run much better than his odds. It wouldn't surprise me if he won."
Sorcerer's Stone's competition in the Juvenile will include the another unbeaten runner, First Samurai, who has a four-race win streak that includes two grade I victories.
"I think First Samurai is a super nice colt, but he doesn't scare me," Byrne said. "He's got some idiosyncrasies. He lugs in. And the distance is a question for him. He looks like a sprinter."
Another factor in Sorcerer's Stone's favor, according to Byrne, is his break from competition, of more than a month, between the Sept. 18 Arlington-Washington Futurity and the Juvenile. First Samurai's last outing was in the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) on Oct. 8.
"It's awfully hard to come back in three weeks after running a guts-out race, and I think both First Samurai and (runner-up) Henny Hughes were guts out in the Champagne," Byrne said. "That's one thing I do know having run a horse before in the Juvenile (gr. I). They don't breed horses to last like that, and 2-year-olds just can't run that hard and that close. It's just ridiculous. My colt, I've given him time between races because I thought he needed it. This is a dangerous animal now because he's fresh and sharp. He's happy, and he's alert, but he's not jumping all over himself. He's developed into this race and put on weight since his last race. I think he's going to run big."
A victory by Sorcerer's Stone in the Juvenile would give Byrne his third Breeders' Cup Day win. Besides taking the Juvenile with Favorite Trick, he captured the 1997 Juvenile Fillies (gr. I) with Countess Diana and the 1998 Classic (gr. I) with Awesome Again