Last year fans saw the pale grey Hansen become the early Kentucky Derby favorite when he won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on a fast track at Churchill Downs in early November. In the 2010 edition of the race, it was Uncle Mo who would hold that title until an illness forced the colt to be scratched a day before Kentucky Derby 137. So, who will win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile this year and grab the title of the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby?
The 29th running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will be run at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California on Saturday. A field of nine colts will contest the 1 1/16 mile $2,000,000 Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) over the dirt.
Only one of the nine two-year-olds competing comes into the race undefeated and that’s Todd Pletcher’s Shanghai Bobby who is owned by Louisville’s Jack Wolf and his Starlight Racing syndicate. Shanghai Bobby was named by Wolf for his longtime friend, Bob Burton. Burton, a pilot, failed to tell his wife his scheduled flight to Shanghai had been cancelled and spent the time at Saratoga with Wolf instead which prompted him to name the colt he purchased soon after for his friend.
After breaking his maiden in April, Shanghai Bobby took a couple of months off before returning to win the Track Barron at Belmont (Jun. 27) and earned a Brisnet speed figure of 103. After another two-month layoff, the son of Harlan’s Holiday returned to take the Hopeful Stakes (G2) (Sept. 3) by nearly four lengths over fellow-Breeders’ Cup Juvenile contender, Fortify. In his last start, the Champagne Stakes (G1) at Belmont (Oct. 6), Shanghai Bobby beat his nearest rival by five lengths in the one mile test. Jockey Rosie Napravnik, who has been aboard for all four victories, retains the mount.
Fortify, who has faced Shanghai Bobby in two of his three lifetime starts, may have the upper-hand in Saturday’s meeting. For the first time, all runners in Breeders ‘Cup juvenile races will not be allowed to use any race-day medication, most notably the anti-bleeder medication Lasix. According to a statement Pletcher made in a national media call last month, Shanghai Bobby hasn’t trained without Lasix, much less ran a race without it. Fortify, on the other hand, has never used it.
Fortify has never finished off the board and has appeared in two stakes, the Champagne and the Hopeful where he met his fate to Shanghai Bobby. Although trainer Kiaran McLaughlin has found Breeders’ Cup victory in the past (Lahudood, 2007 and Invasor, 2006), he finished second in his only Breeders’ Cup Juvenile attempt (Henny Hughes, 2005). Jockey Ramon Dominguez will be in the irons as Fortify tries to give McLaughlin his first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile victory.
Shanghai Bobby has been installed as the morning line favorite at 2-1 and Fortify was made the third choice at 9-2. Since a west coast-based horse has won the Juvenile four times in the five times the race has been held at Santa Anita, a couple of price horses worth considering are 6-1 Title Contender and 12-1 Monument, both based on the west coast.
Title Contender moves up from the maiden ranks for trainer Bob Baffert and will seek his second win in three starts. This type of jump in class may seem crazy to some, but Baffert seems to be the one that can make the crazy sane, having performed similar feats with Midnight Interlude (winner 2011 Santa Anita Derby (G1)) and Bodemeister (second in 2012 San Felipe (G2)). In his final work in preparation for Saturday’s race, Title Contender worked five furlongs in a sharp :59, in company with stablemate and Juvenile contender Power Broker. The pair was the fastest of 50 others going the distance that day at Santa Anita.
Monument will make his fifth start for trainer John Sadler and will be under the guidance of Santa Anita specialist, Joe Talamo, for the first time. He has three wins and finished second once. In his last start, the colt won the ungraded California Cup Juvenile, a 1 1/16 mile trip on the Santa Anita dirt. Monument hasn’t shown the speed as some others in the field, but if he can get the lead early, he may be able to slow the pace down to his own liking.
Rounding out the field are Speak Logistics, He’s Had Enough, Dynamic Sky, and Capo Bastone.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is the eighth on Santa Anita’s Saturday Breeders’ Cup card with a scheduled post time of 5:36 p.m. EST. The race can be seen on HRTV, TVG, NBC Sports Network and will be streamed live at www.breederscup.com  and on the Breeders’ Cup iPad and iPhone app.