11/11/2012 11:24AM

Scouting The 2-Year-Olds

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As I was getting off the plane back from the Breeders’ Cup, a couple of racing fans who recognized me asked if there were any 2-year-olds out there that I liked. Any 2-year-olds at all.

I got where they were coming from. After a maiden won the Juvenile Sprint, and after the fourth quarter mile of the Juvenile was run in 27.50, making for an interminable final five-sixteenths of a mile in 34.30, it’s easy to think that the 3-year-olds we will be talking so much about a few months from now will be an entirely different group from the one we saw at the Breeders’ Cup.

For example, a week before the Breeders’ Cup, Uncaptured was very impressive winning the Iroquois Stakes out of the mile chute at Churchill Downs in his first  ever start on dirt, earning a 90 Beyer Figure, and improving his record to 5 for 6. And the day after the Breeders’ Cup, Violence improved his record to 2 for 2 with a decisive victory in the Nashua Stakes out of the mile chute at Aqueduct, earning an 86 Beyer.

But there are other lesser known, less proven, yet no less promising 2-year-olds out there. Here are a few who have caught my eye:

Little Distorted – This Distorted Humor colt won a very fast maiden race in his recent debut at Belmont Park, receiving a 101 Beyer. Now, you don’t want to jump too fast when a firster or a lightly raced juvenile gets a big fig, as evidenced by Emollient. Emollient got a huge 98 Beyer when she got her maiden win at Belmont in late September, and in the context of other times that day, her race was indeed very fast. Unfortunately, no one who has run back from the Emollient race has justified the high fig, raising the question if there was some sort of weird aberration at play in that race. In any case, there is reason to buy into the validity of the Little Distorted race, namely in the form of the next name on the list.

Revolutionary – He was a tick under 2-5 against Little Distorted because he ran giant in his debut at Saratoga, finishing a close third after getting absolutely obliterated at the start. From an odds standpoint it was a disappointment this son of War Pass didn’t win, but he ran very well finishing second, and his previously demonstrated ability supports the form of this maiden race.

Delhomme – Finished a solid second as the favorite in his debut at Saratoga while racing a bit greenly, and then took a significant step forward second time out. This Dixie Union colt led all the way to win going a mile at Belmont, getting a 94 Beyer.

Long River – Was soundly beaten in his first start, but as many Kiaran McLaughlin trainees do, he improved dramatically second time out to finish a game second to Delhomme. Long River also has some kind of pedigree, being by A.P. Indy out of Round Pond, romping winner of the 2006 Breeders’ Cup Distaff.

Titletown Five – Picked up minor awards in his first three starts, but after a freshening and the addition of Lasix, this Tiznow colt recently exploded with a seven furlong maiden win at Churchill by the length of the stretch (nine lengths, to be precise), earning a 97 Beyer. Titletown Five, like Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Sprint upsetter Hightail, is trained by D. Wayne Lukas. I think Titletown Five is by far the better of the two.

Frac Daddy – By Scat Daddy (it figures, right?), this one also moved way up with Lasix on. He finished second in an off-the-turfer in the mud at Belmont in his debut, but with Lasix on and, notably, going two turns last time out at Churchill, Frac Daddy ran away to win by almost 10 lengths, receiving a 90 Beyer, and that after breaking from the 12 hole.

Gulfport – Also a recent Churchill maiden graduate, he showed flashes of ability in his first three starts, but put it all together last time out. This Unbridled’s Song colt ran off to score by more than seven lengths going seven furlongs, earning an 88 Beyer.

War Academy – Got the job done as the even money favorite in his debut at Betfair Hollywood just this past Friday. He won by only 1 3-4 lengths, and he received a Beyer of only 81. But what was impressive about it is, as a son of Giant’s Causeway and an A.P. Indy mare, War Academy was able to do what he did at a 6 1-2 furlong distance that figures to be well short of his best.

Shakin It Up – A rallying second in his debut, this Midnight Lute colt did get a perfect trip in his second and most recent start. But he also improved with blinkers on to win going away at a six furlong distance that also might be less than his best, getting an 86 Beyer. Like War Academy, he is trained by Bob Baffert, who is certainly familiar with the road to the Derby.