10/01/2009 11:00PM

Juvenile stakes favorites will offer little value


PHOENIX - Sunday's renewals of the Grade 1 Oak Leaf and Grade 1 Norfolk at Oak Tree may tell us who will be favored in next month's bigger Grade 1's - the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies. These are the key local preps for those races, which will be held here in early November. The winners of both of Sunday's 1 1/16-mile races will have proved the ability to handle distance and Santa Anita's Pro-Ride synthetic track.

The likely favorites for each race come from different directions. In the Norfolk, Lookin at Lucky has been at the top of the West Coast 2-year-old pecking order seemingly since his first work. Trained by Bob Baffert, he's a perfect 3 for 3, including victories in the Grade 2 Best Pal at Del Mar and the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Polytrack. He won his debut on the Cushion Track at Hollywood Park on July 11, so he's proven quite adept on two different types of synthetic tracks and is the deserving heavy favorite for the Norfolk. A bullet four furlongs in 46.80 seconds over this track Sept. 30 adds to the optimism.

Pure Class, who runs in the Oak Leaf, has a chance to take over as division leader of the 2-year-old filly set out West. Mi Sueno, winner of the Grade 1 Darley Del Mar Debutante, suffered what may be a career-ending injury, while others who made an impact earlier in the year either are more sprint-oriented or likewise on the sidelines. Pure Class, trained by John Sadler, romped in her first route attempt at Del Mar on Sept. 7, sitting back early and blowing past the field like a filly with a future. It was just a maiden win, yes, but the manner of her win and the Beyer Speed Figure (81) may earn her the favorite's role in the Oak Leaf.

Neither has exactly scared away the opposition. Pure Class sees 12 others line up against her; Lookin at Lucky, despite being perfect, faces 11. Both may win and go on to bigger and better as soon as a month from now on racing's biggest stage, but there are options.

Oak Leaf

It's not like I'm grasping at straws or have come up with some revelation to move into Blind Luck's corner for the Oak Leaf. After all, the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained filly may well go favored off three superb efforts to start her career. Even with the depth of competition here, she figures no worse than second choice.

But that still makes her a viable option should there be a run on Pure Class. Blind Luck has proven class, proven form, proven synthetic ability, and acts as though she'll relish the added ground and extra turn. A romping win over maidens at Calder (by 13 1/4 lengths) was followed by an immediate private purchase, and under Hollendorfer's care she came to Del Mar and promptly powered home to whip starter allowance foes in a sprint.

Next was a shot at the deep end of the pool - the Grade 1 Darley Del Mar Debutante. Blind Luck didn't win but still passed that test with flying colors. She was away slowly from her rail draw, had to swing up and out into the lane, and then finished gamely for second, giving favored Mi Sueno a bit of a scare. Odds of about 4-1 seem more than fair.


I'm not kidding myself. I know Lookin at Lucky is imposing in the Norfolk. He's been thoroughly professional in his three races, and there's every reason to believe based on his style, temperament, and pedigree that he'll handle this trip.

What I don't want is the 7-5 or so that figures to come with Lookin at Lucky. Dave in Dixie offers an alternative.

Dave in Dixie also figures to get plenty of backing for the Norfolk. That's what happens when you do what he did in his Aug. 29 debut at Del Mar.

A son of Dixie Union who cost $310,000, Dave in Dixie went off at 7.80-1 for his six-furlong bow. He was slow into stride from his outside post. Even as he advanced on the far turn and into the lane, there wasn't anything of note happening - until the final furlong.

That's when Dave in Dixie hit high gear. He blasted past his rivals to win going away by 3 1/4 lengths for a heady 85 Beyer. That's right in line with what Lookin at Lucky has been recording.

Dave in Dixie's sire, Dixie Union, won the Grade 1 Haskell and gets routers, so you'd assume this longer trip will be no issue. A bullet seven furlongs in 1:27 here Sept. 27 bodes well, too. He's giving away seasoning and taking the huge jump from maiden ranks to Grade 1, while Lookin at Lucky is the proven commodity and has more experience. But Dave in Dixie's win hints at plenty of upside, and at 3-1 or so appears a viable alternative for those of you not feeling "Lucky."