Has it really been 18 years since Chief's Crown came storming down the Hollywood Park stretch to defeat Tank's Prospect and Spend a Buck in the first Breeders' Cup race ever run?
The victory clinched the Eclipse Award for the son of Danzig as North America's outstanding 2-year-old colt or gelding and made him the favorite for the following year's Kentucky Derby (gr. I). Chief's Crown failed to win the Derby--or the Preakness (gr. I) or Belmont Stakes (gr. I) for that matter. But the 1985 Triple Crown results validated the quality of the 2-year-olds competing in the first Juvenile (gr. I).
Spend a Buck, who had knee surgery following the Breeders' Cup, easily won the Kentucky Derby, with favored Chief's Crown third. Spend a Buck dodged the Preakness because of a lucrative bonus available to him in New Jersey, leaving Tank's Prospect and Chief's Crown to battle at Pimlico. Tank's Prospect got up in the final jump for the victory. Chief's Crown then finished third in the Belmont, but came back with a convincing victory in the Travers Stakes (gr. I).
No one then could have dreamed there would be a jinx involving the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Kentucky Derby, since the top three finishers in the Juvenile ran so well the following spring and summer. But what has happened with the next 17 Juvenile winners has left many of us scratching our heads in puzzlement.
Tasso, the 1985 Juvenile winner, never won another graded stakes. Capote, who won in 1986, never won another race of any kind, nor did 1987 winner Success Express. Is It True, upset winner over Easy Goer in 1988, missed the Triple Crown though he won the Jim Dandy Stakes (gr. II) later in the year. The 1989 winner, Rhythm, failed to participate in the Triple Crown but did win the Travers.
Fly So Free, the Juvenile winner in 1990, proved to be a very good horse over the next three years, though the classic distances were beyond his scope. Arazi, brilliant in the 1991 Juvenile, never fully recovered from the knee surgery he underwent later that year and failed as the odds-on Derby favorite in 1992. Gilded Time won in 1992 and was off a year before he raced again. Brocco, the 1993 winner, ran fourth to Go for Gin over a sloppy Churchill Downs surface and was retired shortly thereafter.
Timber Country became the first Juvenile winner to take a Triple Crown race. He parlayed his 1994 triumph into a victory at the following year's Preakness after a third-place finish in the Derby. Next came Unbridled's Song, a game fifth as the 1996 Derby favorite while racing on a bar shoe necessitated by quarter cracks. The 1996 Juvenile winner, Boston Harbor, was retired after one start at three. Favorite Trick ended his perfect season with a Juvenile win in 1997, earning him Horse of the Year honors. He couldn't stretch his sprinter's pedigree to classic distances and finished eighth in the Derby the following year. Answer Lively, the 1998 winner, finished 10th in the Derby and never won another race, similar to the fate of the next year's winner, Anees.
Macho Uno has had a checkered career following his 2000 Juvenile triumph. Last year's winner, Johannesburg, finished eighth in the Derby and has been retired after failing to recapture his 2-year-old form.
Every Juvenile winner had his excuses for failing in the following year's Derby. Some were unlucky, others lucky to win the Juvenile in the first place. Many simply were very good 2-year-olds whose classmates passed them in quality during their sophomore season.
There are some outstanding prospective starters in this year's Juvenile, which promises to be one of the highlights of this year's Breeders' Cup World Thoroughbred Championships at Arlington Park Oct. 26. Wouldn't it be nice if one of them could end the Juvenile jinx?