By: Eric DeCoster
Race #6: The Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint (Turf – 5 1/2 Furlongs) 2 YO
Purse: $1 Million
The newly minted Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint will kick off this all-star weekend with a huge bang. Twelve of the fastest freshman around will dash the 5 1/2 furlongs over this Keeneland turf course, with a strong European contingent of five starters making their way over to challenge the seven Americans.
Wesley Ward and Irad Ortiz Jr. have teamed up to win the last three editions of this race and hold a strong card with #2 Love Reigns (4-1 ML), Ward’s lone representative this year. This filly has rattled off two wins in three starts this year, with one of those performances being a dazzling maiden score over course and distance this spring. There might be concern that she passed over prepping in the Listed Indian Summer S. last month, but I think it was more so Ward believing the filly was ready to go rather than any issue that could’ve arisen. Her chief American rival is the aptly named #11 Speed Boat Beach (6-1 ML), who looks to give Bob Baffert his first career Breeders’ Cup win on the grass. He isn’t drawn overly well in a race filled with early speed, but his two win have been nothing but impressive. He fired a 104 Beyer Speed Figure in a salty Del Mar maiden race before winning the Listed Speakeasy S. at Santa Anita in his turf debut. Although there was some heavy regression in that spot, it felt like it was more a lousy start than a disdain for the surface that held him back. #3 Private Creed (12-1 ML) has course and distance experience having won the aforementioned Indian Summer S.. He’ll benefit greatly from the likely early speed as a bona fide off the pace type. #7 Oxymore (8-1 ML) intrigues as the first ever starter in this race for Chad Brown. He’ll be cutting back after a game second in the Listed Nownownwow S. at Monmouth around two turns, but prior to that won two straight sprints, including the Listed Skidmore S. at Saratoga over a couple rivals in here.
The Euros are still trying to get on the board in the Juvenile Turf Sprint but have knocked on the door in the last few years. At Keeneland in 2020 they ran 3-4 and last year at Del Mar Go Bears Go nearly got up in the late stages but came home second. #12 The Platinum Queen (7/2 ML) is the morning line favorite in here and easily is the most talented of the shippers, but her outside draw downgrades her heavily. She is always willing to flash strong early speed but will fail to save any ground with a shorter run to the turn and all the speed to her inside. That’s in addition to the simple fact that gate speed in Europe isn’t close to American gate speed. #5 Mischief Magic (8-1 ML) is the second lowest European on the morning line and enters with the hottest connections in the Breeders’ Cup over recent years – Godolphin, Charlie Appleby, and William Buick. He feels like a bit of a reach outside of his people’s track record, given his better work has come over a true, European style 6 furlongs that plays a lot stiffer than the rapid 5 1/2 panels he’ll cover Friday. He will, however, be another pace beneficiary as he has no early foot. #6 Persian Force (15-1 ML) could make some sense over this course and he’s held some very strong form across multiple countries this year. He’s won or placed in five straight high level group stakes while running amongst Europe’s best juveniles and exits a third place finish behind Blackbeard and The Antarctic, who both would be likely favorites if they were here, in the G1 Middle Park S. at Newmarket. The key for him will be settling and be able to come from just off the pace in here, as he doesn’t possess the early foot of some of his rivals.
Finally, we can’t put together a preview for this race without mentioning #10 Tyler’s Tribe (15-1 ML). No horse has ever come close to the fan-favorite Iowa-bred in five career starts, but he’ll have to overcome facing real competition and running on turf for the first time. A cool story nonetheless.
The Choice – #2 Love Reigns
We’ll go with what works and hope Irad Ortiz Jr. and Wesley Ward can take a fourth straight win in this race. This filly has looked extremely sharp in both U.S. starts and has the turn of foot necessary to win. I’ll back her up with #3 Private Creed due to his course and distance experience as well as his off the pace style, in addition to the speedy #11 Speed Boat Beach on the chance he’s simply able to out-sprint everyone. As talented as the European’s are in this Juvenile Turf Sprint, I’m not sure any of them are tactically in a better position than the three I just mentioned to put on a winning performance.