Breeders' Cup Juvenile low priority for Kentucky Derby hopefuls


In the long, rich history of the Breeders' Cup, only one of the 28 Juvenile winners has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby. That was Street Sense in 2006.

Of course, not all Juvenile winners even made it to the Derby, but don't expect this moribund trend to improve any time soon.

The Juvenile is still important because it will decide the 2-year-old Eclipse Award champion. But I predict it will be rendered useless as it pertains to the Triple Crown because of a double hit it will be taking this year.

First is the new Breeders' Cup rule that bans the use of the diuretic Lasix in all five of its 2-year-old stakes.

Owner Mike Repole is the first horsemen to take a real stand against the Lasix ban, declining to send any of his star horses to the Breeders' Cup. Repole told Daily Racing Form, "I'm a pro-Lasix person. It's the one drug that can prevent a horse from bleeding and help a horse."

I suspect some owners of other 2-year-olds might bypass the Breeders' Cup in a silent protest. Plus, there are so many other rich stakes for 2-year-old horses that do allow Lasix.

Keep in mind that because about 95 percent of the 2-year-old Breeders' Cup starters are being taken off Lasix, there is potential for chaotic results.

The second issue is the new Kentucky Derby point system instituted by Churchill Downs. The graded earnings system is out. Now points earned in select stakes will decide who gets into the 20-horse Derby field.

An imbalance has been created in which the winners of chosen 2-year-olds stakes will receive only 10 points. Thus, even if a top colt such as Shanghai Bobby were to win three Grade 1 stakes for 2-year-olds, he will get only 30 points.

The Derby field ultimately will be determined by 15 stakes for 3-year-olds in the spring.

Eight stakes will award 50 points to each winner. Those races are the Risen Star, Fountain of Youth, Gotham, Tampa Bay Derby, San Felipe, Rebel, Spiral and Sunland Derby. Runners-up will receive 20, 10 and five points.

Seven other stakes will award 100 points to each winner. Those races are the Florida Derby, UAE Derby, Louisiana Derby, Wood Memorial, Santa Anita Derby, Arkansas Derby and Blue Grass. Runners-up will get 40, 20 and 10 points.

So, for example, the third-place horse in the Sunland Derby will get the same 10 points as the Juvenile victor.

I expect the Juvenile fields will begin to be watered down starting this year.

If horsemen have the goal of winning the Kentucky Derby, then the Juvenile now is a far lesser priority. Year-end 2-year-old stakes such as the Remsen, Kentucky Jockey Club, CashCall Futurity and Delta Jackpot actually might draw stronger fields.

Those races will have two things going for them: the use of Lasix and 10 points to the winner, equal value as winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

 

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