This is the weekend that should clear up a very murky 2-year-old picture three weeks out from the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Hopefully, and we do mean with fingers crossed, as injuries and illnesses continue to take their toll on the juvenile ranks, we will get to see The Thoroughbred Corp.'s Officer prep for racing's biggest day.
The Bertrando colt is pointing toward Belmont Park and the $500,000 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) Oct. 6 at 8 1/2 furlongs. The California-bred, conditioned by Bob Baffert, is perfect from four tries, including wins by six, eight, and seven lengths in his first three races. In his most recent effort, the Sept. 5 Del Mar Futurity (gr. II), Officer won, geared down, by 1 1/2 lengths.
The Champagne is likely to co-feature Saratoga Special (gr. II) victor Jump Start. The Overbrook Farm homebred launched his career with two victories before faltering in the Hopeful Stakes. The D. Wayne Lukas trainee, a son of A.P. Indy, looks to rebound from that disappointing effort. Also likely for the Champagne is Thunder Days, a colt by Thunder Gulch, who gave us the talented Point Given. Mayakovsky, the Patrick Biancone charge who set a track record at Saratoga in his maiden voyage, is out for the season with ankle chips.
While New York enjoys the Champagne, Keeneland offers its major test for juveniles the same day, the $400,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) over 8 1/2 furlongs. Although lacking a marquee name, the Futurity will draw entrants from around the country. Lukas sends out Truman's Raider and Gold Dollar, who finished in back of Repent in the Sept. 22 Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III). Burnt Ember comes in for Godolphin off a maiden score at Saratoga. Request for Parole won at Ellis Park, and Harlan's Holiday took down the Cradle Stakes at River Downs. Siphonic journeys in from the West Coast for trainer David Hofmans after a Del Mar maiden victory.
Speaking of California, the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita Sept. 29 lost considerable luster with the scratch of morning-line favorite and Hopeful Stakes winner Came Home. The Gone West colt, owned by John Toffan and Trudy McCafferey, had filling in his right front leg and watched from the sidelines as Godolphin's Essence of Dubai proved victorious. Trained by Eoin Harty, the Pulpit colt benefited from a rail split turning for home and cruised under the wire three lengths better than his stable mate, Ibn Al Haitham. Ecstatic, from the Baffert barn, was third, but seems at least a cut below the major players in the division. Essence of Dubai got the mile in a modest 1:37.16, but earned a trip to the big dance. It should be remembered he finished some 10 1/2 lengths behind Officer when they last met.
Also lurking in the division is Repent, the Ken McPeek trainee who won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile off a maiden score. He is a son of Louis Quatorze.