JUVENILE PREVIEW 2003: Baby Talk
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We live in a world of trends and conventional wisdom. Unfortunately for the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), that "wisdom" now seems to say that no horse that shows up in the vicinity of the Juvenile has a chance to compete in next year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I). While it's a fact that no winner of the Juvenile has gone on to take the roses, that trend has now been expanded to include any starter in the Juvenile.

How else to explain the series of defections that has crippled the Juvenile field? It goes beyond not wanting to ship to California. Witness Ruler's Court, who won the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) by 14 lengths at Santa Anita at the Juvenile distance. He only needed to ship from his barn to the track. Instead, he's off to Dubai for the winter. Eurosilver, winner of the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) at Keeneland, and Birdstone, the Champagne (gr. I) victor, will also be on holiday come Breeders' Cup.

In short, the wisdom seems to be saying you can run 81Z2 furlongs in early October, but asking a juvenile to run the same distance three weeks later is absolutely out of the question. But if six months isn't enough time to prepare for a race, perhaps the indus try should carefully reevaluate what it's breeding these days. It seems we'll have no relief from such thinking until a Juvenile participant/winner comes back and takes the Derby. But this becomes more unlikely as the horses bred for distance vacate the Juvenile and increasingly leave it for stretching-out sprinters to dominate, horses that are not Derby horses to begin with. Can you say Catch-22?

So who's left for the Juvenile? There is no question Cuvee is the most accomplished and consistent performer pre-entered, and he will leave the gate bet down to an unsightly price. He has convincingly won four of his five starts, all by vast amounts of daylight. In his lone defeat, the Steve Asmussen trainee was bumped leaving the gate and then steadied at the half-mile pole, leaving plenty of excuses to toss the race. Doubters can cling to a couple of chinks: Cuvee is a son of Carson City, a sprinter by trade who gets mostly sprinters. He has never run around two turns nor farther than a mile. That mile, however, in the Futurity (gr. I) at Belmont, seemed to show Cuvee won't mind the extra half-furlong of the Juvenile, as he ran away from his field and widened his lead in the lane. Cuvee is teamed with three-time Juvenile winner Jerry Bailey. Go against him at your own peril.

Cactus Ridge has done nothing wrong in four Midwest races. His Arlington-Washington Futurity (gr. III) victory was facile, and his front-running style gives him a puncher's chance. Chapel Royal is obviously a classy individual who ran on for second in the Champagne. Perhaps he can turn the tables after consecutive defeats. Minister Eric is trained by hometown hero Richard Mandella, who knows a thing or two about winning Breeders' Cup contests at Santa Anita. He was coming at the end of the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II), and his off-the-pace MO could put him in the thick of things if it gets steamy up front. Mandella also pre-entered Siphonizer and Action This Day.

From across the pond comes trainer Aidan O'Brien, who won the Juvenile two years ago with Johannesburg, with the stakes-placed pair of Grand Reward and Old Deuteronomy. His fellow Irishman, Dermot Weld, brings Relaxed Gesture. D. Wayne Lukas and owners Bob and Beverly Lewis look to strike again, this time with Race for Glory. And Elliott Walden pre-entered Cradle Stakes victor Tiger Hunt.

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