By Ed McNamara
Friday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) shapes up as a three-horse race among Dennis’ Moment, the 8-5 morning line favorite, Eight Rings, the 2-1 second choice, and Maxfield 7-2.
That’s how it looks on paper, which is not where the 2-year-old championship will be decided, and each of the top three might make a bettor edgy about taking a short price.
Dennis’ Moment clipped heels and lost his rider in his debut before dominating his next two races by a combined 21 lengths for trainer Dale Romans.
After Eight Rings crushed his first race by 6 1/4 lengths for Bob Baffert, the 1-2 favorite in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) ducked in at the start, got bumped and dropped Drayden Van Dyke.
Maxfield, trained by transplanted Irishman Brendan Walsh, is 2-for-2 despite slow starts. Maxfield’s sweeping move on the turn in Keeneland’s Breeders’ Futurity (G1) was reminiscent of Arazi’s runaway in the 1991 Juvenile.
“Very rare that they’re the horses to beat and they both lost their riders,” Baffert said. “In the paddock before the Del Mar Futurity, someone in the owners’ group said the only way my horse could lose is if the jockey falls off. When I heard, I said, ‘Why would you say that?’ ”
That’s the negative stuff, which is far outweighed by the brilliance of three inexperienced colts. Dennis’ Moment’s recent workout at Santa Anita was spectacular, as was Maxfield’s at Keeneland.
Clocker Gary Young said he wouldn’t be surprised if they made up the exacta. To do that they’ll have to outrun Eight Rings, named for Patriots coach Bill Belichick’s eight Super Bowl victories. The son of Empire Maker, a course-and-distance winner, comes in off a six-length runaway at 1 1/16 miles in the American Pharoah (G1).
“I was very impressed with Dale’s horse,” Baffert said, “and after watching him work the other day, he’s the horse to beat. But if you listen to Maxfield’s trainer, Dale and me, that winner’s circle is going to be pretty crowded.”
Romans thinks the Juvenile will be one of the best races on championship weekend.
“I don’t think second will be good enough for any of these horses,” he said.
|1||Dennis’ Moment||Dale Romans||Irad Ortiz||8/5|
|2||Wrecking Crew||Peter Miller||Paco Lopez||20/1|
|3||Shoplifted||Steve Asmussen||Ricardo Santana||20/1|
|4||Storm the Court||Peter Eurton||Flavien Prat||20/1|
|5||Scabbard||Eddie Kenneally||Mike Smith||8/1|
|6||Eight Rings||Bob Baffert||John Velazquez||2/1|
|7||Anneau d’Or||Blaine Wright||Juan Hernandez||15/1|
|8||Full Flat||Hideyuki Mori||Yutaka Take||30/1|
|9||Maxfield||Brendan Walsh||Jose Ortiz||3/1|
Ed McNamara is an award-winning journalist who has been writing about thoroughbred racing for 35 years. He has handicapped races for ESPN.com, Newsday and The Record of New Jersey. He is the author of “Cajun Racing: From the Bush Tracks to the Triple Crown” and co-author of “The Most Glorious Crown,” a chronicle of the first 12 Triple Crown champions.