10/26/2016 1:26PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: For once, Pletcher not the big dog

Barbara D. Livingston
Syndergaard is one of two contenders trainer Todd Pletcher will send out in the Juvenile.

After a one-year hiatus, trainer Todd Pletcher is back in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, albeit in a slightly different position.

The last four times Pletcher has participated in the Juvenile, he has sent out the favorite. Uncle Mo (2010) and Shanghai Bobby (2012) delivered victories, while Carpe Diem (2014) and Havana (2013) finished second.

On Nov. 5, when the 33rd Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is contested at Santa Anita, Pletcher will have two midpriced contenders in Syndergaard and Theory. Both have talent, but both have questions to answer in regard to the 1 1/16-mile distance of the race.

Syndergaard, a New York-bred son of Majesticperfection, ran a game second to Practical Joke in the Grade 1 Champagne, losing a nose bob in the one-turn-mile race after setting wicked fractions. Prior to that, he defeated New York-breds sprinting twice by a combined 13 1/4 lengths.

Theory, a Kentucky-bred son of Gemologist, was most impressive in winning his debut by 5 1/2 lengths at Saratoga but then was taken out of training due to what ultimately was diagnosed as a foot bruise. He won the Grade 3 Futurity, another six-furlong race, by 3 1/2 lengths while being asked to gallop out another quarter-mile.

“I think both of these colts have shown talent in the mornings, run well in the afternoon, and have given us the indication the way they train they’re going to handle more distance,” Pletcher said. “Until you do it, you just don’t know.”

Syndergaard and Theory were among 12 horses pre-entered for the $2 million Juvenile. The field has combined to win 16 stakes, 10 of which are graded.

Klimt, the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity winner; Classic Empire, the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity winner; and Not This Time, the Grade 3 Iroquois winner, likely will vie for favoritism. Practical Joke, the Grade 1 Hopeful and Grade 1 Champagne winner, and Gormley, the Grade 1 FrontRunner winner at Santa Anita, will also garner their share of support.

Three Rules, undefeated in five starts at Gulfstream, is the wild card. He has won his races by a combined 31 lengths but is stepping up in class here.

Lookin At Lee, second in the Iroquois and Breeders’ Futurity, and Star Empire, second to Theory in the Belmont Futurity, also were pre-entered.

Two somewhat surprising pre-entrants were Good Samaritan and Term of Art.

Good Samaritan, trained by Bill Mott, has gone 2 for 2 on turf, including a victory in Woodbine’s Grade 2 Summer Stakes, a Win and You’re In race for the Juvenile Turf, for which he was also pre-entered. The Juvenile on dirt is listed as first preference for Good Samaritan.

Good Samaritan is owned by WinStar Farm and the China Horse Club, which also owns Theory. Elliott Walden, president, chief executive, and racing manager for WinStar, said each horse is treated separately, and a decision on which race Good Samaritan would run in wouldn’t be made until the weekend or entry day, Monday.

Walden said the chance to be 2-year-old champion is one reason why he’d consider running Good Samaritan on dirt instead of turf. Good Samaritan, a son of Harlan’s Holiday, worked five furlongs in 1:01.20 on the dirt Oklahoma training track at Saratoga on Oct. 21 before shipping to Southern California.

Term of Art, a son of Tapit, is coming off a maiden win going a mile at Santa Anita on Oct. 8. He is trained by Doug O’Neill, who won last year’s Juvenile with Nyquist and the 2005 running with Stevie Wonderboy.

Post positions for the Juvenile will be drawn Monday.

:: BREEDERS’ CUP 2016: Pre-entries, odds, comments, and more