09/14/2012 3:48PM

Fairplex: Barretts Juvenile up for grabs

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Tree of Life won his racing debut by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:04.29 for 5 1/2 furlongs, earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 65.

POMONA, Calif. – A long list of outstanding young horses were sold at Barretts before achieving notoriety on the racetrack. They include Unbridled’s Song, Squirtle Squirt, Brocco, and Sharp Cat.

The spirit of those Barretts graduates is recalled this weekend at Fairplex Park in two stakes for 2-year-olds that were offered at a Barretts sale – the $100,000 Barretts Debutante on Saturday, and $100,000 Barretts Juvenile for colts and geldings Sunday.

The stakes often attract quality fields, but not always. While the Debutante appeared to attract a good field, the Juvenile on Sunday appears weak. Not that trainer Craig Dollase, owner West Point Thoroughbreds, or jockey Victor Espinoza will complain.

One day after the filly Pure Indy was scheduled to start as the Debutante favorite for the same connections, the colt Tree of Life will try to win the Juvenile on Sunday. Purchased for $70,000 at Barretts, he has a lot to prove based on his Aug. 18 debut.

A 22-1 outsider, Tree of Life lagged off hot early fractions, then took advantage of the collapsing pace to win by 1 1/2 lengths in 1:04.29 for 5 1/2 furlongs. He earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 65, which, surprisingly, makes him one of favorites to win the Barretts.

Beyond the low figure, subsequent efforts by three runners who finished behind Tree of Life add to the dilemma. The runner-up, Pure Loyalty, returned to finish 10th in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity, fifth-place Forest Boy returned to finish ninth in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf, and ninth-place Kipke returned to finish third in a $32,000 maiden claimer.

Nonetheless, a special-weight victory at Del Mar counts for something, and Tree of Life is the lukewarm Barretts favorite in a nondescript field of 10.

The main rivals for the favorite include recent maiden-claiming winner Ukraine James and Golden Gate shipper Tenango, a maiden wheeling back in eight days with a 68 Beyer that actually tops the field. The race is begging to be won by a crazy.

Ukraine James was purchased for $80,000 at the same sale as Tree of Life. But after one dull start in a maiden special-weight, Ukraine James dropped immediately to $40,000. He responded with a 4 1/2-length victory for trainer Leandro Mora.

Martin Pedroza is scheduled to ride Ukraine James, a son of Discreet Cat with enough speed to be forwardly placed.

Tenango finished third in a special-weight at Golden Gate on Sept. 8.

Trained by Dennis Patterson, the gelding by Lion Heart will be ridden by Juan Hernandez, who entered the weekend as the second-leading rider at Fairplex Park.

One Firm Cat finished a creditable fourth in his debut Aug. 30 at Del Mar, a $50,000 maiden-claimer in which he earned a 58 Beyer that puts him within striking range of the top choices. Kevin Krigger rides for trainer Peter Miller.

The field includes Taylor’s Journey, Judge Carr, Calculated Chaos, Lousthefifteenth, and Mark’s Cat.