Juvenile Preview: Teachers' Pet

View a list of Breeders' Cup Juvenile pre-entries . . .

Over the past several weeks, those seeking our votes for president have bandied about various ways of testing the educational progress of America's youth in a series of sometimes lively debates. "No child shall be left behind" -- one candidate's sound bite -- fails to work in the Thoroughbred classroom, as 19 of those pre-entered at the head of the juvenile class of 2000 have proven to be in the accelerated program.

While the semester's final exam is Nov. 4, it seems apparent these juveniles come well-prepared. Sitting in the first row in front of the blackboard, off their current class rankings, are the pupils with exceptional West Coast schooling.

Homeroom leaders Flame Thrower and Street Cry have thrown in back-to-back A+ efforts in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. II) and the Norfolk Stakes (gr. II). Gary Garber's front-running Flame Thrower came out on top in both races, fighting tooth and nail each time to prove only a head and a neck, respectively, better than Godolphin's Irish-bred Street Cry. Their stature has been polished to a high gleam off a horse they left behind at Del Mar, Arabian Light, who went on to crush a wide-open field in the Breeders' Futurity (gr. II) at Keeneland.

Arabian Light, for whom The Thoroughbred Corp. paid $700,000 at the Barretts sale in March, was 3 1/2 lengths back of Flame Thrower and Street Cry in the Del Mar Futurity. His seek-and-destroy run in Kentucky put a seal of approval on West Coast form.

Another runner who spent his formative days on the West Coast, Point Given, has taken his show on the road to earn high marks for The Thoroughbred Corp., seeking its second Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in a row. The massive son of Thunder Gulch swallowed his 10 rivals whole in Turfway's Kentucky Cup Juvenile (gr. III), then, perhaps learning a lesson about pace and tempo, ran on gamely while pressing the lead from inside in the over-crowded classroom of the Champagne Stakes (gr. I) at Belmont on Oct. 14.

Flame Thrower, Arabian Light, and Point Given are all trained by Bob Baffert, the Derby Dandy who had a back-to-earth oh-fer at last year's Breeders' Cup, and lifetime in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he's zip-for-five.

His one-time assistant, Eoin Harty, now is in charge of Godolphin's experiment of testing a Dubai-broken string of 2-year-olds in California. The inaugural experience so far has resulted in three wins from 25 starts at Del Mar, and Street Cry's two graded stakes-placings, but Godolphin's focus is always centered on the largest prize. A third showdown with Flame Thrower at Churchill makes for an interesting sub-current to the Juvenile.

This is not to say the East Coast horses have been stuck in remedial reading. City Zip, the $9,000 sale purchase, lived up to his name during summer school, running off with the four graded stakes at Saratoga and Belmont. However, a question of his ability to get the 1 1/16 miles of the Juvenile remains unanswered after a seventh-place finish in the Champagne in which he was later found to be suffering from an upper respiratory infection, according to trainer Linda Rice. Multiple graded stakes-placed Scorpion has a chance to break through at any moment for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

Trainer Nick Zito has perhaps the most precocious runner heading to Louisville in A P Valentine. The pride of Celtic Pride Stable, a $475,000 yearling purchase, went from maiden winner to the Dean's List with an exceptional run up the rail to win the Champagne going away. The performance, far grittier than a horse in just his third start should be capable of, may land him the favorite's role in the Juvenile.

Zito's been down this path before, having won the Champagne three years running, but The Groom Is Red, who finished sixth in the 1998 Juvenile, was one of five Zito-trained juveniles denied Breeders' Cup glory. Greenwood Lake, last year's Champagne winner, did not start in last year's Breeders' Cup at Gulfstream.

View a list of Breeders' Cup Juvenile pre-entries . . .