11/02/2016 3:56PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: Little to dislike about Not This Time

Barbara D. Livingston
Not This Time trains at Santa Anita on Saturday. He won the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs by 8 3/4 legnths.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Trainer Dale Romans has been telling anyone who will listen that he believes Not This Time could be the best horse he has ever trained.

Not This Time certainly will have to bring his best to win Saturday’s $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, a race that has brought together a most-accomplished group of 2-year-olds who have combined to win 15 stakes, nine graded.

“If you hit the board in this race, you’re a good horse,” said Jose Pinchin, the trainer of the undefeated Florida-based Three Rules. “If you win this race, you’re a great horse.”

Romans believes Not This Time, a son of Giant’s Causeway and a half-brother to 2015 BC Dirt Mile winner Liam’s Map, has the potential for greatness.

Not This Time is coming off an 8 3/4-length victory in the Grade 3 Iroquois at Churchill Downs, overcoming a slow start to rally from next to last. That win followed a most-emphatic 10-length maiden victory at Ellis Park that has proven to be a productive race.

“He checks off every box,” Romans said when asked why he is so high on the colt. “He’s got intelligence, he’s got pedigree, he’s got looks and turn of foot, and he’s already run fast. What else do you need?”

Not This Time, who will be ridden by Robby Albarado, drew post 10 in the 11-horse field, but Romans thinks that will enable him to avoid any of the jostling that could go on early in the 1 1/16-mile race.

“We can sit outside and clock them and let them keep banging around and find our spot down the backside,” Romans said.

Classic Empire could be the biggest threat to Not This Time in the Juvenile (race 8). He is 3 for 4, and in his only loss, he wheeled at the start of the Grade 1 Hopeful at Saratoga, unseated jockey Irad Ortiz Jr., and basically jogged over to the outside rail near the gate and waited to be corralled.

Trainer Mark Casse put blinkers on him for his next start, and Classic Empire was professional in winning the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland by three lengths.

“Essentially, he ran two turns off a three-month layoff and never batted an eye,” Casse said. “Blinkers maybe made him not see too much. He’s so smart, he sees a lot of things. I can tell you one thing, he’s a focused horse.”

This is the ninth Breeders’ Cup held at Santa Anita, and six of the previous eight editions of the Juvenile here have been won by horses based in Southern California. Trainer Bob Baffert won two of his three Juveniles here and sends out Klimt on Saturday.

Klimt won the Grade 2 Best Pal and Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, but a slow start cost him when he was second to Gormley in the FrontRunner Stakes here. Klimt drew the rail for this race.

“A young horse in the 1 hole, they usually don’t break that well,” Baffert said. “He’s going to have to bring his best. That race is a pretty tough race.”

While Baffert is starting his 24th horse in the Juvenile, John Shirreffs is making his first start in this race with Gormley, the upset winner of the FrontRunner. Gormley has raced on the lead in his two starts, but Shirreffs said it was jockey Victor Espinoza’s decision to go to the lead in the FrontRunner.

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Shirreffs has worked Gormley four times since the FrontRunner “to take the edge off him,” he said.

“I don’t want to take his energy away, but at the same time, we don’t want him too keen,” Shirreffs said.

Trainer Chad Brown also is making his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile debut with Practical Joke, who is 3 for 3, including Grade 1 victories in the Hopeful and Champagne. The last horse to win both was Shanghai Bobby, who won the Juvenile here in 2012.

Todd Pletcher, who trained Shanghai Bobby, is a two-time winner of the Juvenile. On Saturday, he sends out Theory and Syndergaard.

Theory is 2 for 2, but both wins came sprinting, including the Belmont Futurity just three weeks ago.

Syndergaard dominated New York-breds in his first two starts before running a tremendous race in defeat in the Champagne, where he was run down by Practical Joke.

Pletcher has said that Syndergaard is fast but not rank, and he believes based on his last two workouts that Syndergaard will be able to handle the two turns and 1 1/16 miles of the Juvenile.

Three Rules is the wild card in this year’s Juvenile. He has won all five of his starts by a combined 31 lengths but has dominated mostly horses eligible for the Florida Sire Stakes series.

Trainer Doug O’Neill won last year’s Juvenile with Nyquist. On Saturday, he sends out the longshot Term of Art.

Lookin At Lee, second in the Iroquois and Breeders’ Futurity, and Star Empire, second to Theory in the Belmont Futurity, complete the field.