11/02/2012 10:02AM

Juvenile Turf: Dundonnell has the right stuff

Barbara D. Livingston
Dundonnell has won two of four starts and is coming off a second-place finish in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on Sept. 15.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Narrowing down Saturday’s $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf at Santa Anita to one of the European-based runners still leaves handicappers with five horses from which to choose.

Perhaps, then, it best to heed this assessment from Jeremy Noseda, the trainer of the European-based Fantastic Moon.
“The standout horse to me, the one we all have to beat, is Dundonnell,” Noseda said. “Beat him and you win.”

Dundonnell, a Kentucky-bred son of First Defence, is owned and bred by the Juddmonte Farms of Khalid Abdullah and trained by Roger Charlton, an England-based conditioner who has not started a horse in the Breeders’ Cup since Quest for Fame ran third in the 1991 Turf at 57-1.

Though Noseda views Dundonnell as a standout, he was made a tepid 4-1 morning-line favorite for the one-mile race by track handicapper Jon White, the second-highest-priced favorite of the 15 Breeders’ Cup races.

Dundonnell has won two of four starts and is coming off a second-place finish to the undefeated Toronado in the Group 2 Champagne Stakes at Doncaster on Sept. 15. His rider, James Doyle, arrived here with Dundonnell at the request of Charlton and has been trying to get the horse acclimated to his new surroundings.

“He has plenty of speed,” Doyle said. “It's keeping a lid on him early that's been a challenge, but he's getting more relaxed. He was a little anxious yesterday, but he's settled in well and seems to be adapting.”

Six horses are listed at 6-1 to 8-1 on the morning line, including Artigiano, a Godolphin Racing-owned runner trained by Mahmood Al Zarooni.

Artigiano, a Kentucky-bred son of Distorted Humor, is only 1 for 6, but comes off second-place finishes to Olympic Glory in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes at Goodwood and to the highly regarded Steeler in the Group 2 Royal Lodge Stakes at Newmarket.

In the Royal Lodge, Artigiano was a bit keen early, which cost him late, according to Zarooni. Frankie Dettori, who it was recently announced won’t be back next year as one of Godolphin’s stable riders, was aboard Artigiano for his last race and will be back aboard on Saturday.

“Frankie was thinking just sit behind the pace, but the horse didn’t help him,” Zarooni said about the Royal Lodge. “He’s a good horse jumping from the stall, he’ll jump and put you in front. So he learned a lot from that race.”

Zarooni believes firm ground and what he perceives as a short Santa Anita stretch could hinder Artigiano.

“I think the distance will suit him, I’m not sure about the ground,” Zarooni said. “It looks like fast ground; we think he prefers soft ground. This horse needs a long gallop. The straight here is not long.”

Fantastic Moon won his first two starts, including a Group 2 Stakes at Sandown, before finishing fifth in the Royal Lodge, four lengths behind Artigiano. Noseda called it a throw-out race.

“He got squeezed out, got bumped twice and then ran on late after being absolutely run clean out of the race,” Noseda said. “With a [clean] run in the race he definitely would have finished with the first two in my opinion.”

Trainer Aidan O’Brien won this race last year with Wrote. This year, he has the uncoupled entry of George Vancouver, who is 1 for 6, and Lines of Battle, who got stuck in post 14.

The North American contingent is led by the Chad Brown pair of Noble Tune and Balance the Books. Noble Tune is 2 for 2, with a win in the Pilgrim Stakes at Belmont last out. Balance the Books won the With Anticipation at Saratoga as a maiden and the Bourbon at Keeneland.

“They’re mirror images,” Brown said. “Both horses have equal shots in the race. Based on the past performances you’d say Noble Tune may have an advantage being in front of Balance the Books. But I’m not sold Balance the Books has to be a deep closer.”

Joha was beaten a head by Balance the Books in the With Anticipation, and came back to wire the field in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity over Keeneland’s synthetic surface. He won sprinting on turf at Belmont in the spring.

Dry Summer won the Oak Tree Juvenile over the turf at Del Mar in September before finishing eighth of 11 in the FrontRunner on dirt.

I’m Boundtoscore and Gervinho successfully stretched out from sprint distances to a mile to win the Summer Stakes at Woodbine and the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita, respectively.

Brown Almighty and Summit County, second and fourth in the Bourbon, and Know More, second in the FrontRunner on dirt, complete the field.
–    additional reporting by Marcus Hersh