03/14/2012 2:04PM

Jerardi: Breeders' Cup Juvenile continues as key race

Barbara D. Livingston
Hansen (right) wins the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, holding off Union Rags (left), and Creative Cause (center).

Here is some advice for you all you future-book fanciers. Stop being so infatuated with “all others” and start looking at all those horses that ran in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

So far in 2012, six off them have won eight stakes – the Fountain of Youth (Union Rags), Gotham (Hansen), San Felipe (Creative Cause), San Vicente (Drill), Tampa Bay Derby and Pasco (both Prospective), and Count Fleet and Withers (both Alpha). Those six also accounted for seconds in the Holy Bull (Hansen), Withers (Speightscity), and Sam Davis (Prospective). A seventh Juvenile participant (Dullahan) was second in the Palm Beach. Creative Cause was third in the San Vicente.

These horses finished first (Hansen), second (Union Rags), third (Creative Cause), fourth (Dullahan), ninth (Speightscity), 10th (Drill), 11th (Alpha), and 13th (Prospective) in the Juvenile.

This is a seriously key race.

By the way, Take Charge Indy, who was fifth in the Juvenile, finished second in his only 2012 start, an optional claimer at Gulfstream Park. The winner was El Padrino, who came right back to win the Risen Star Stakes.

So, just about everything is running from the Juvenile.

Crusade (sixth) and Daddy Long Legs (12th) have not started this year. They are trained by00 Aidan O’Brien. Fort Loudon (seventh) was fourth in the Holy Bull and fifth in the Fountain of Youth. Optimizer (eighth) has not been much of a factor in three subsequent races.

So why is this Juvenile so strong when so many others have been so weak the following year? Don’t have that answer, but the facts are the facts, so I suggest we all adjust.

I have never been much for historical trends. I actually know people who did not put any No. 1 or No. 2 seeds into this year’s Final Four because none made it last year. Were any of these No. 1 or No. 2 seeds, with the same rosters, in last year’s tournament? No. So why should anybody care about what went down last year.

I don’t know about you, but I could not possibly fill out a bracket without any of Kentucky, Syracuse, North Carolina, Michigan State, Missouri, Kansas, Duke, or Ohio State. Well, maybe Duke, but you get the idea.

So why would you think this Derby is going to be won by a horse other than the Juvenile Seven.

Wasn’t it just six years ago when Barbaro could not win the Derby because he hadn’t raced in five weeks? How silly does that seem now?

Or Street Sense could not win in 2007 because he won the Juvenile? Really?

As we close in on the final Derby preps, I would suggest we all ignore the extraneous nonsense. Just watch the races. Listen to the trainers and jockeys. Watch the races again. Think for yourself. Watch the races again. See how the horses have developed race to race. Watch the races again. Form opinions, but don’t make any conclusions until Derby Week.

Anybody who watched Smarty Jones (2004), Barbaro (2006), or Street Sense (2007) during Derby Week or listened those who did watch had some priceless information that may have confirmed what they already knew or given them insight they did not have.

So far, Creative Cause (102), Secret Circle (102), Bodemeister (101), Scatman (101), and El Padrino (100) have the Best Beyer Speed Figures among the logical contenders. I thought Union Rags was the most visually impressive in his Fountain of Youth. I was most surprised by Hansen’s win in the Gotham. Not surprised by the win, but how the colt won. Did not know if Hansen could sit and go. He did and did it like the good horse he was when he won the Juvenile.

This is starting to look like a very solid and, most importantly, a very consistent group of Kentucky Derby contenders.
We have Juvenile graduate contenders training in south Florida (Union Rags, Dullahan, Take Charge Indy, Prospective, and Alpha), Kentucky (Hansen), and Southern California (Creative Cause). In less than a month, all or most of them will be congregating in Kentucky for the Final Twenty.

Could a horse that did not start in the Juvenile win the Derby? Obviously.

But seven weeks out, the Juvenile really looks the place to be. When I am done typing here, I am going to watch the Juvenile tape for about the 1,000th time. When you single Union Rags in the pick six and would have ended up with five if he had gotten up, you tend to replay the race.

I will never forget the morning after the Juvenile when Michael Matz showed me a picture of Hansen and Union Rags at the wire. In that photo, Union Rags was in front. Either it was the angle or the photo was taken just after the wire. Every time I watch that tape, Hansen holds on. But there are clues on that tape that could very well be relevant on the first Saturday in May. Watch that tape and all the horses in it.