Updated on 09/17/2011 12:33PM

Cuvee's chief rivals due to emerge


Cuvee, the leading 2-year-old prospect in the East, inched a little closer to California and the Breeders' Cup on Wednesday when he was flown from New York to trainer Steve Asmussen's Churchill Downs barn in Louisville.

This weekend, we should get a line on who figures to inch a little closer to Cuvee on the list of contenders for the $1.5 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile to be held at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

With stakes races run at distances beyond one mile from Canada to California, 2-year-olds will get the opportunity to prove whether they are worthy of running in the Juvenile, which is run around two turns at 1 1/16 miles.

"A lot of new horses could come into the fold this weekend because horses that have been crying out to go two turns or at least that want to go a longer distance are finally going to get to do it,'' said trainer Mark Hennig, who believes longer distances will suit his Notorious Rogue, a runner in Saturday's Grade 1 Champagne, a one-turn, 1 1/16-mile race at Belmont Park.

Saturday's races also include the $400,000 Lane's End Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland. Sunday, the $250,000 Norfolk will be run at Santa Anita and Woodbine will hold the $250,000 Grey Breeders' Cup.

Through the first part of the year, when 2-year-old stakes were run at sprint distances, Chapel Royal was boss, winning the Flash and Sanford stakes before running second as the 3-5 favorite in the Hopeful. Chapel Royal, a $1.2 million son of Montbrook, was part of a four-ply fight for the lead in the Hopeful and could not kick on when Silver Wagon split horses to his inside.

"Other than a couple of the obvious things - he bumped the side of the gate coming out and was parked four wide all the way around the turn - I thought he ran a solid race without him running as well as I thought he would,'' trainer Todd Pletcher said.

Pletcher also will run Limehouse, the only horse to beat Cuvee, in the Lane's End Futurity, and Value Plus in either the Champagne or Breeders' Futurity. Value Plus, a son of 1995 Juvenile winner Unbridled's Song, should have no problems stretching out. Though soundly beaten by Cuvee in the Futurity, Value Plus broke slowly and made a huge move to reach contention at the quarter pole before fading in the stretch in just his second career start.

Pletcher said Value Plus would most likely run in the Lane's End Futurity, unless he drew a terrible post.

The interesting horse in the Futurity is Mass Media, a son of Touch Gold who won a six-furlong allowance race at Louisiana Downs by 22 lengths for trainer Cole Norman.

Bob Baffert, Nick Zito, and Rick Violette will all have multiple runners in stakes this weekend.

Zito will send out the impressive maiden winner Eurosilver and The Cliff's Edge, a troubled second in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile, in the Lane's End. Zito will seek his fourth Champagne in the last six years with Birdstone, an impressive maiden winner who regressed when he finished fourth in the Hopeful. When asked about the Breeders' Cup, Zito said he is not looking past this weekend.

"I don't think you run any good in the Breeders' Cup if you don't run any good in the preps,'' Zito said.

Violette has two progeny of Sprint champion Smoke Glacken that look like they can run a distance of ground. Read the Footnotes, a New York-bred who will run in the Champagne, demonstrated the ability to come from off the pace when winning a seven-furlong allowance race at Belmont on Sept. 7. Distressed Debt, who will attempt two turns in the Lane's End, won a seven-furlong maiden race at Saratoga.

Baffert is expected to start three horses - Odds On, Consecrate, and Coldntight in the Norfolk. All three are coming off open-length maiden scores with Coldntight having won a one-mile maiden race by seven lengths.

"I think Odds On will need it more than the other ones,'' Baffert said. "Coldntight is a very good horse and Consecrate is getting better and better. We're basically all in the same boat going two turns for the first time.''

The horse to beat in the Norfolk will be Siphonizer, who is coming off a half-length score over stablemate Minister Eric in the Del Mar Futurity.

In 2000, Macho Uno won the Grey Breeders' Cup at Woodbine before taking the Juvenile at Churchill Downs. If Bachelor Blues is able to transfer his turf success to the dirt in the Grey, trainer Josie Carroll said he could earn a trip to California.