09/30/2015 1:56PM

Desormeaux eyes Breeders’ Cup Juvenile repeat

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Barbara D. Livingston
Exaggerator wins the Grade 2 Saratoga Special going 6 1/2 furlongs.

This year’s Breeders’ Cup is four weeks away, but trainer Keith Desormeaux still can’t stop thinking about last year’s Breeders’ Cup, where his Texas Red rallied from last to win the $2 million Juvenile by 6 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita.

Desormeaux could be in a position to repeat in the Juvenile with as many as two starters in the race. Swipe, with three consecutive runner-up finishes to Nyquist in Southern California stakes, has done enough to warrant a start in the race, though Desormeaux is noncommittal. On Saturday, Exaggerator will be at Keeneland to see where he fits in the division when he heads a field of 12 entered in the Grade 1, $500,000 Breeders’ Futurity.

The winners of the Breeders’ Futurity and Saturday’s Grade 1 Champagne at Belmont Park – which drew a field of eight – both earn fees-paid berths in the Juvenile.

“I’m still celebrating the win last year. I’m still on Cloud 9, I haven’t got off that yet,” Desormeaux said this week. “But yes, it’s gratifying, and I’m very thankful that we’re in this position again. I’m going to start thinking that this crew and I know what we’re doing.”

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The Breeders’ Futurity, at 1 1/16 miles, offers horses a chance to run over the track and at the distance that the Juvenile will be run Oct. 31. The Breeders’ Futurity was the target for Exaggerator since he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special going 6 1/2 furlongs. Desormeaux also considered running in the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill on Sept. 12, but Exaggerator had a temperature after shipping to Kentucky from Saratoga.

Exaggerator is a son of Curlin out of a Vindication mare, which “says distance will not a problem,” Desormeaux said. “Distance might be his forte. I’m looking forward to it. With that kind of speed and if he can carry it, we’re in for some fun.”

Exaggerator drew post 7 in a 12-horse field that includes Pinnacle Peak, the winner of the Prairie Meadows Juvenile; Rated R Superstar, the runner-up in the Iroquois; good-looking maiden winners Sticksstatelydude and Sheikh of Sheikhs; and three-time winner Hawkbill, who is making his dirt and North American debut for Godolphin Racing.

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Ralis, the winner of the Grade 1 Hopeful, heads a field of eight entered in the Champagne. He will take on Magna Light, second in the Hopeful; Sunny Ridge, the winner of the Sapling Stakes; and maiden winners Sail Ahoy, Ready Dancer, Greenpoint Crusader, Rafting, and Tale of S’avall.

◗ Desormeaux said he will give it a few weeks before deciding whether to send FrontRunner Sakes runner-up Swipe to the Breeders’ Cup. Swipe has run six times this year, and the FrontRunner came back a slow race.

“Those two horses,” Desormeaux said, throwing Nyquist into the mix, too, “wouldn’t have hit the board in last year’s FrontRunner. He’s a pretty resilient horse. He holds his weight well. The good thing is we get five weeks.”

◗ Trainer Doug O’Neill said Nyquist came out of his FrontRunner win in great shape and that he likely would ship to Keeneland in time to have at least one workout over the track.