My favorite race at the Breeders’ Cup has always been the Juvenile. Even if I don’t pick the winner, I know the Juvenile is the unofficial start of the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
Two key Juvenile preps will be run Saturday, the Champagne at Belmont Park and the Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland.
Neither will have Hopeful winner Boys at Tosconova, the pro tem leader of the division. He will train up to the Juvenile, giving him nine weeks off between starts.
The hot colt Saturday will be Uncle Mo in the Champagne. He won his debut by 14 lengths with an eye-opening 102 Beyer speed figure. But his stablemate, Stay Thirsty, is a colt who I think six months from now will develop into the better Derby contender.
The Breeders’ Futurity is wide open, but a colt who interests me is J.B.’s Thunder. As a son of Thunder Gulch, who won the 1995 Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes, J.B.’s Thunder should be able to run all day. Also, the switch from turf to Polytrack at Keeneland should be to his liking.
Last weekend, Jaycito won the Norfolk at Oak Tree. The Mike Mitchell colt raced wide on both turns yet still had the stamina to outlast the favorite, J P’s Gusto. Expect big things from Jaycito.
■ ZENYATTA — It’s difficult not to keep mentioning the undefeated mare Zenyatta because her historic 20th and last start will be in four weeks in the Breeders’ Cup Classic.
Last weekend on two local horse racing radio shows, I heard two handicappers give contrary opinions about Zenyatta. Gordon Jones on “Track Talk” has said for weeks that Zenyatta will finish out of the money in the Classic. An hour later, Jerry Jacovitz on “Race Day Las Vegas” said she has an excellent chance to win.
Jones and Jacovitz are pros. But it shows how difficult this sport is when two experts can make speed figures on the same 19 wins by Zenyatta, watch all of her races, yet come up with differing opinions on the biggest race of her life.
I feel sure about one thing: Zenyatta’s odds in the Classic will be lower than her morning line. The reason: Horseplayers around the world will buy bunches of win tickets on the mare to save as uncashed souvenirs should she win.
Richard Eng’s horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.