Juvenile Update (10/8): Sky Mesa Enhances Reputation

When they go to the post for the Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), the likely favorite will be Sky Mesa. The talented son of Pulpit enhanced his already formidable reputation even further by rolling to a four-length victory in the Oct. 5 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. It was a dominating performance, even though the colt lost his concentration in the stretch of the 1 1/16-mile race and started looking around. It could be fatal mistake if someone comes charging down the stretch in the Juvenile, but you can bet that trainer John Ward will do everything he can to break Sky Mesa of that bad habit before Oct. 26.

It was the third consecutive victory, against no defeats for Sky Mesa. Trainer John Ward has said the Pulpit colt belongs in the same league as Kentucky Derby (gr. I) winner Fusaichi Pegasus.
Sky Mesa broke his maiden by 7 3/4 lengths at Saratoga in early August, then won the Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) by 1 3/4 lengths later in the month. He stalked the front-running Truckle Feature in the Breeders' Futurity before storming past that rival at the head of the stretch. Bashford Manor (gr. III) and Miller Genuine Draft Cradle Stakes winner Lone Star Sky finished second and is expected to join Sky Mesa in the Juvenile Field. The plan for Truckle Feature, who ended up third, is not certain, according to Bob Baffert. The trainer told Daily Racing Form that the colt lost a shoe at the start of the Breeders' Futurity, so he has a pretty good excuse for not winning.

Another important Juvenile prep, the Oct. 5 Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont Park, lost some of its luster when multiple graded winner Zavata was scratched because of a foot injury. But the race did not lack in numbers as nine 2-year-olds went to the post. The best that day was the 9-1 shot Toccet, who shot by Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) winner Icecoldbeeratreds in the final yards and pulled away to win by 1 1/2 lengths. He covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.45, which was faster than Sky Mesa's clocking of 1:46.78 over the sandy Keeneland surface.

According to Toccet's trainer, John Scanlan, the colt can "run all day," which is a good sign because stamina will be needed to win the 1 1/8-mile Juvenile. A son of the first crop sire Awesome Again, Toccet has captured three of his four career starts. He finished third in his career debut, but then cruised by 10 lengths in a seven-furlong maiden event at Laurel. In his last outing prior to the Champagne, Toccet won a 1 1/16-mile allowance at Pimlico by 8 1/2.

Baffert, who trains Icecoldbeeratreds, was not certain where the colt would start next.

However, Baffert's stable is deep. And his one-two finishers in the Oct. 5 Norfolk Stakes (gr. II) -- Kafwain and Bull Market -- are headed to the Juvenile. The two were separated by just a nose after battling through the Santa Anita stretch. Bull Market's effort was particularly impressive because he had been pushed on the front end early by longshot Royal Siphon. Kafwain's time for the 1 1/16 miles was 1:42.75.

Another of Baffert's Juvenile candidates, Vindication, worked a mile in 1:39.40 at Santa Anita. He has not started since winning the Sept. 14 Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park.

In the Oct. 6 Grey Breeders' Cup Stakes (Can-III) at Woodbine, favored Wando stalked the pace early, then rallied to win by 3 3/4 lengths, scoring his third victory in four races. The Langfuhr colt emerged from the race with a bloody right hind leg after being stepped on by another horse in the middle of the first turn, according to jockey Richard Migliore. Trainer Michael Keogh said he would consider the Juvenile if Wando recovers quickly from his injury. Veterinarian Robert McMartin said the cut appeared to be minor. Wando covered the 1 1/16 miles in 1:45.10.

In England on Oct. 3, Elusive City suffered the first defeat of his career, finishing third in the Shadwell Stud Middle Park Stakes (Eng-I) at Newmarket. The race was won by Oasis Dreams (by Green Desert), who finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Tomahawk. Elusive City was only a neck farther back. Trainer John Gosden told the Racing Post that Oasis Dreams probably had done enough for the year. Oasis Dreams completed the six furlongs in a course record time of 1:09.61. According to a Racing Post report, Elusive City, who has often acted up before his races, behaved impeccably. However, he fought jockey Kieren Fallon early and didn't look comfortable over the fast going during the race's final two furlongs, struggling up the incline where the course dips.

In France on Oct. 6, Hold That Tiger emerged as a top Juvenile contender when he unleashed an impressive late burst of speed and edged Le Vie Dei Colori by a half-length in the Grand Criterium Lucien Barriere (Fr-I). Favored Intercontinental was another half-length back in third. The winner covered nearly seven furlongs in 1:20.40.

A son of Storm Cat, Hold That Tiger was purchased by Demi O'Byrne for $1.1 million as a weanling at the 2000 Keeneland November breeding stock sale. The colt races for Mrs. John Magnier and Michael Tabor, and he is trained by Aiden O'Brien. The same team won the Juvenile with Johannesburg last year.
The weekend of Oct. 12-13 offers a number of races for 2-year- olds, but many are restricted events. They include the $400,000 In Reality division of the Florida Stallions Stakes on Oct. 12 at Calder.

Fab five contenders:

1. Sky Mesa
2, Vindication
3. Whywhywhy
4. Hold That Tiger
5. Bull Market, Kafwain