02/24/2008 10:52AM

When Juve Champs Return


While few of them faced as dismal a field as War Pass does Sunday at Gulfstream, 16 of the last 25 champion 2-year-old males have lost their first start as 3-year-olds, 11 of them as odds-on favorites.

In all fairness, four of the losing champions (Macho Uno, Maria's Mon, Gilded Time, Roving Boy) returned in late summer or fall after being knocked off the Derby trail by injuries, and Gilded Time's close third in the Breeders' Cup Sprint was a Herculean effort. Still, the overall results for returning juvenile champions is suprisingly poor: A $2 wager on each of them would have cost $50 and returned just $27.30, a 45 percent loss on investment. It's gotten even worse recently: Since 1992, the returning champs are just 3 for 14, returning $10.60 for each $28 invested.

War Pass, however, should add a dime or two of profit to those results unless something goes hideously wrong Sunday. This is some group of five four (Ultimate Authority is scratched) that's been rounded up to face him -- a barnmate and four three horses who have run for claiming tags, including a last-out $8k maiden-claiming winner at Tampa. On speed figures, it's one of the biggest mismatches in the history of the turf. War Pass's last two Beyer figures are a 113 and a 103. The career-best efforts of his five opponents are a 72, 70, 81, 84 and 53.

Obviously, the G2 $350k Fountain of Youth half an hour earlier is a much better wagering event, with a full and contentious field of 12. I wish I had a clever idea, but I've been most impressed to date by Court Vision and Monba and they're the favorites at 3-1 and 4-1 on the ML. One horse who might get lost in the shuffle is Halo Najib at 12-1. If you draw a line through his beaten-favorite performances in the Kentucky Jockey Club (dueld through fast fractions) and Hutcheson (slop), he hasn't done anything wrong and was beaten just half a length by Court Vision in the Iroquois.