11/02/2011 5:27PM

Breeders' Cup: Juvenile Turf field shapes up tough


LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Keep studying. Cram if you need to. Examine every statistic and nuance you can find regarding the 14 horses in the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, then make your best guess – like everyone else.

Here’s the first clue as to how tough the Juvenile Turf shapes up: The morning-line favorite is 4-1, and there’s a chance that he won’t even be favored. He is Majestic City, who has never raced on grass, and although he ran big in the Del Mar Futurity and Breeders’ Futurity, some of the other 2-year-olds facing him already have shown flashes of brilliance on turf.

“This looks like such a tough race,” said Al Stall Jr., who will saddle Animal Spirits, winner of the Grade 3 Bourbon on the Keeneland turf, as one of the many logical contenders. “Even without talking about the Euro horses, it looks really deep, with horses like Lucky Chappy, Finale, State of Play, and some of the others.”

Majestic City, with Garrett Gomez to ride from post 8, figures as one of the early goers among plenty of speed in this 1 1/16-mile race, along with Excaper, Finale, and State of Play. And that doesn’t even account for the running style of the three Europeans in the field – Faraaj, Wrote, Caspar Netscher – although they typically don’t have the kind of early speed of their North American counterparts.

Stall, who enjoyed the greatest day of his career at the Breeders’ Cup last year when sending out Blame to defeat Zenyatta, is hoping a swift pace could set things up for a stretch runner – namely, Animal Spirits, who breaks from post 10 under Robby Albarado.

“The strategy is very simple for our horse,” he said. “Place himself well, go along smooth, and hopefully come flying like Pluck did last year.”

Pluck captured the 2010 Juvenile Turf for Team Valor International, the ownership entity that in May teamed with Graham Motion to upset the 137th Kentucky Derby with Animal Kingdom. Motion trains the uncoupled duo of Lucky Chappy (post 12, Joel Rosario) and State of Play (post 14, Ramon Dominguez). Lucky Chappy, an Irish-bred imported from Italy this summer, rallied to be third in the Bourbon after an awful start; State of Play is unbeaten in two career races and enters off a front-running score in the With Anticipation at Saratoga.

“They are very different horses,” Motion said. “Lucky Chappy is a very European type. He had a rough go last time in that he walked away from the gate – typical of the European first time. I don’t think he’ll do that Saturday.

“State of Play is very professional, a really good horse. I feel very good about running him.”

Finale (post 13, John Velazquez), winner of two turf stakes this summer, is trained by Todd Pletcher, who won last year with Pluck.

As for Majestic City, he has worked twice on the turf at his Santa Anita home base.

“I don’t have much doubt he’ll handle the grass,” trainer Peter Miller said.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf: Get graded entries, comments by Mike Watchmaker, and more

As usual, the Europeans sport form that American handicappers often find vexing. Suffice it to say that Wrote (post 5, Ryan Moore) is a Coolmore colt trained by Aidan O’Brien, top-shelf credentials without knowing anything else, and Faraaj (post 4, Neil Callan) has run well in all four starts in England. Perhaps most dangerous of all, though, is Caspar Netscher (post 7, Kieran Fallon), whose nine-race r é sum é makes him the most experienced in the field.

Caspar Netscher comes out of four straight group races, all at six furlongs, in his native England. Regarding the 1 1/16-mile distance of the Juvenile Turf, “his pedigree suggests (he can handle) it, and he finished up really well in his last race,” said trainer Alan McCabe. “He has physically and mentally improved throughout this year.”

Rounding out the Juvenile Turf lineup are Fantastic Song, Shkspeare Shaliyah, Coalport, and Daddy Nose Best, and Tequila Factor, the last of whom makes the race as No. 15 with the early scratch of Gung Ho. Trainer Mike Maker said Gung Ho was sore in his hind end. Gung Ho was scheduled to break from post 1, meaning all other starters will move in one spot, with Tequila Factor breaking from post 14 in the 1 1/16-mile race.

The Juvenile Turf was first run in 2007 at Monmouth Park. It is carded as the fourth of 12 races and leads off the first 50-cent pick four wager (races 4-7) of the day. Post time is 2:02 p.m. Eastern.

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R. Varian
N. Callan n/a, n/a, n/a Solid English form makes him a logical win threat; well bet in every start 10-1
Caspar Netscher
A. McCabe
K. Fallon n/a, n/a, n/a Beaten only a length in a 16 horse Group 1 last time; stretching out; intriguing 8-1
State of Play
H. G. Motion
R. Dominguez 80, 68 Stake he won at Sar got a boost when third finisher won Breeders' Futurity 5-1
A. O'Brien
R. Moore n/a, n/a, n/a Was an okay third in his first attempt at the group stakes level last time out 8-1
T. Pletcher
J. Velazquez 81, 77, 79 Perfect in three starts since switching to turf; versatile running style; obvious 9-2
Animal Spirits
A. Stall Jr.
R. Albarado 79, 68 Took a step forward to win eventful Bourbon; chance with more improvement 10-1
Lucky Chappy
H. G. Motion
J. Rosario 75, n/a, n/a Gaining third in Bourbon in his U.S. bow; is also moving in the right direction 10-1
Majestic City
P. Miller
G. Gomez 84, 89, 89 Fine second in Breeders' Futurity; strong synthetic track record says he'll turf 6-1
Shkspeare Shaliyah
D. Shivmangal
A. Solis 73, 77, 70 Question if his Pilgrim score was attributable to the extremely deep going 15-1
W. Catalano
J. Alvarado 78, 67 Creditable second in the Bourbon; just think several others here are better 20-1
I. Black
E. Wilson 67, 79, 64 Game second to Finale in the Summer; contention here just runs so deep 20-1
Fantastic Song
C. Brown
J. Castellano 71, 68 Fair third as the favorite in the Pilgrim; needs a big Beyer boost, however 20-1
Daddy Nose Best
S. Asmussen
J. Leparoux 72, 72, 66 Soundly beaten third to Finale in Summer Stakes; must do better than that 30-1
Tequila Factor
W. Catalano
R. Bejarano 71, 65, 67 Has won two grass stakes, but they were not tough races; overmatched 30-1
Gung Ho
M. Maker
M. Smith 72, 71, 49 Scratched -