09/26/2012 3:43PM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Sprint: Futurity and Matron could provide some clarity to wide-open division


It’s fair to say that the state of the juvenile sprint division is in disarray. Early-season stalwarts such as Maybe So (fractured tailbone) and Circle Unbroken (ankle surgery) are out for the year, and Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner Spurious Precision was euthanized after fracturing a knee during a workout. Most of the better-regarded 2-year-olds currently in training will prep for berths in more prestigious Breeders’ Cup events like the Juvenile.

The Juvenile Sprint seems destined to attract later-developing youngsters or precocious babies with sprint-laden bloodlines. At this time last year, eventual Juvenile Sprint winner Secret Circle was coming off a debut win at 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar and had yet to face winners, let alone stakes company of any kind.

Although not official “Win and You’re In” events, the Grade 2 Futurity Stakes and Grade 2 Matron Stakes, both six-furlong races at Belmont on Sunday, may provide more clarity as we search for potential Juvenile Sprint contenders.

Handsome Jack, the runner-up in the Grade 2 Sanford Stakes at Saratoga on July 22, may be one of the favorites in the Futurity. Bred, owned, and trained by Wesley Ward, Handsome Jack is by Bring the Heat, a stakes-placed sprinter who has sired some fleet juveniles from a limited sample. A 6 3/4-length maiden winner in his second lifetime start, Handsome Jack placed behind eventual Grade 2 Hopeful Stakes winner Shanghai Bobby in the $85,000 Track Barron Stakes at Belmont on June 27.

Carried Interest, a son of multiple Grade 1 sprint winner Henny Hughes, also looms as an intriguing Juvenile Sprint possibility. A $50,000 yearling buy resold for $190,000 to Klaravich Stable in March, Carried Interest won his debut in a five-furlong maiden special weight at Belmont on July 5 with a 90 Beyer. The runner-up that day, Palace Malice, returned to graduate at Saratoga but is currently out for the remainder of the season with a bucked shin. Carried Interest himself was forced to miss the Saratoga Special on Aug. 12 with a sore shin but is back in regular training for Rick Violette.

Muppet Man, trained by James DiVito, may be a turnback candidate in the Juvenile Sprint. The son of Corinthian won his first two starts sprinting over the Arlington Polytrack before failing to stay a flat mile in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. DiVito believes that Muppet Man may be more comfortable at shorter distances for the time being.

Brave Dave, the winner of the Grade 3 Sapling Stakes at six furlongs on Sept. 2 at Monmouth, is scheduled to compete in Saturday’s $100,000 Birdonthewire Stakes at Calder. While Brave Dave has the credentials to contend in the Juvenile Sprint, he currently is not nominated to the Breeders’ Cup program and would have to be supplemented for a hefty fee.

Oddly enough, the only designated “Win and You’re In” event for the division is the Group 1 Middle Park Stakes, to be contested at six furlongs on the grass at Newmarket on Oct. 13. It is possible that a European entrant or two will emerge from that race.