09/23/2013 4:56PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: Pletcher's hope Havana stepping right into Champagne

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Tom Keyser
Havana wins his debut last month at Saratoga in 1:02.64 for 5 1/2 furlongs.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has won two of the last three runnings of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with horses who had decidedly different campaigns.

In 2010, Uncle Mo went from a spectacular maiden win at Saratoga in August to a victory in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park in October to a dominant victory in the Juvenile at Churchill Downs in November.

In 2012, Shanghai Bobby got his campaign started in April and was a three-time graded stakes winner by the time he won the Juvenile by a head over He’s Had Enough at Santa Anita.

[BREEDERS' CUP CHALLENGE: Win and You’re In schedule and results]

This year, if Pletcher is to make it back to the $2 million Juvenile - to be held Nov. 2 at Santa Anita - it will be with Havana, who will try to follow up a spectacular debut at Saratoga in August with a victory in the Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont on Oct. 5.

Pletcher said it takes a special horse to do what Uncle Mo did, and he hopes that Havana is in that mold. A son of Dunkirk, Havana won a 5 1/2-furlong maiden race by 2 3/4 lengths on Aug. 23, running the distance in 1:02.64 - just .13 of a second off the track record - and beating Kendall’s Boy, who came back to win his next start at Churchill Downs.

“A lot of factors indicate this horse is very legitimate, but I said it at the time Uncle Mo was doing it it’s very rare when you have horses go from maidens to winning the Champagne to the Breeders’ Cup,” Pletcher said. “It’s not unprecedented, but it does take a special horse, so we’ll see. We’ll give him that chance to prove he is or he isn’t.”

On Monday, Havana worked five furlongs in 1:00.58 over the Belmont Park training track under jockey John Velazquez.

The Champagne will be topped by Hopeful winner Strong Mandate, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, and Hopeful runner-up Casiguapo, as well as good-looking debut winner Honor Code. On Monday, Honor Code worked five furlongs in 1:01.54 over Belmont Park’s main track in company with the 3-year-old maiden Secret Bid.

This Saturday at Santa Anita, Southern California’s top juveniles will try to convince their connections they are worthy of a start in the Juvenile in the Grade 1, $250,000 FrontRunner Stakes. Both the FrontRunner and Champagne are Win and You’re In races, meaning each winner gets his entry fees paid.

Del Mar Futurity 1-2-3 finishers Tamarando, Dance With Fate and Can the Man are expected in the FrontRunner, as well as maiden winners New Year’s Day and Roundupthelute and Schoolofhardknocks. A trio of Paul Reddam-owned horses - maidens Bond Holder and Ontology and the maiden winner Indexical - are possible.