10/23/2013 10:02AM

Breeders' Cup Juvenile: Tap It Rich adds intrigue to 14 pre-entries

Shigeki Kikkawa
Tap It Rich has raced only once, winning a Santa Anita maiden race and earning an 89 Beyer Speed Figure.

He will come into the race with the least amount of experience and will be running back on the shortest amount of rest, but Tap It Rich could be the most intriguing of the 14 2-year-olds pre-entered for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Tap It Rich, trained by Bob Baffert, didn’t make it to the races until Oct. 12, but his debut was worth the wait. Off slowly and floated very wide into the first turn, Tap It Rich galloped to a 4 1/4-length victory under Mike Smith in a one-mile maiden race over the same Santa Anita strip over which the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will be run on Nov. 2. His 89 Beyer Speed Figure trails only the two figures earned by Champagne winner Havana and Hopeful winner Strong Mandate among the juvenile pre-entrants.

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“That was pretty darn impressive,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Juvenile prospects Bond Holder and Rum Point. “He’s the one people are saying ‘God, what could he be?’ “

Baffert called Tap It Rich’s performance “freaky” and said one of the primary reasons he is running the colt in the Juvenile is because he doesn’t have to ship the horse. Baffert has won the Juvenile twice, including in 2008 at Santa Anita with Midshipman. Baffert also pre-entered New Year’s Day, who won a maiden race at Del Mar on Aug. 31.

Trainer Todd Pletcher is seeking his third Juvenile victory in the last four years with Havana and We Miss Artie. Havana was most impressive winning his debut at Saratoga before holding off Honor Code in the Champagne. We Miss Artie won the Breeders’ Futurity over Keeneland’s synthetic surface, but trained well on dirt prior to and after that race.

D. Wayne Lukas, the trainer of Strong Mandate, is a five-time winner of the Juvenile, having last taken it in 1996 with Boston Harbor. Strong Mandate was dominant winning the Hopeful but disappointing when seventh in the Champagne.

Mexikoma was confirmed as a Juvenile starter on Tuesday by his owner, Barry Irwin, the president of Team Valor International, which purchased the son of Birdstone following a 14 1/4-length maiden win at Delaware Park. A seven-furlong work in 1:27.40 Tuesday at Fair Hill combined with the lack of a stand-out in the Juvenile field were factors in the decision to run.

Four of the horses pre-entered for the Juvenile were also pre-entered for the Juvenile Turf, including Diamond Bachelor, who has never raced on dirt. His connections were leaning toward this spot, and were expected to make a final decision following a Friday workout over Santa Anita’s dirt surface.

Like Pletcher, Baffert and O’Neill, trainer Dale Romans pre-entered two horses in the Juvenile. Cleburne earned a spot in the race by winning the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill. Medal Count won an off-the-turf maiden race at Ellis before finishing fifth in the Bourbon Stakes on turf.

Completing the Juvenile pre-entries are Dance With Fire, second in the FrontRunner; Smarty’s Echo, second in the Breeders’ Futurity; and Conquest Titan, winner of the Swynford Stakes as a maiden.