03/07/2012 4:50PM

Kentucky Derby 2012: BC Juvenile looking key

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Shigeki Kikkawa
Creative Cause's third-place finish in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is looking better and better.

In the 28 times the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has been run since 1984, only once, with Street Sense, did the winner also come back six months later and take the Kentucky Derby. Only four other Derby winners – Spend a Buck, Alysheba, Sea Hero, and Mine That Bird – even ran in the Juvenile.

Just as inglorious, though, is how the Juvenile form has often times failed to hold up the following spring, irrespective of success in the Derby. Fans were spoiled by the inaugural Juvenile running in 1984, in which Spend a Buck finished third behind Chief’s Crown and Tank’s Prospect, all of whom were major players the next year.

But for every year like that – such as in 2000, when Macho Uno, Point Given, and Street Cry were the first three across the line – there have been years like 1997, when Favorite Trick secured Horse of the Year by out-running such legends of the turf as Dawson’s Legacy and Nationalore, and 2008 and 2010, when none of the first three finishers in those Juveniles made it to the starting gate the following spring at Churchill Downs.

The 2011 Juvenile, however, is so far shaping up as the key race for this year’s Derby preps.

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Hansen, who won the Juvenile, rebounded from a second-place finish in the Holy Bull to score a stylish victory in last week’s Gotham. And Union Rags, an unlucky second in the Juvenile, came roaring back in his lone start since then, overpowering his rivals in the Fountain of Youth.

In addition, Alpha, who was 11th in the Juvenile, has subsequently captured two stakes at Aqueduct, including the Withers.

Those results have helped boost the confidence of trainers whose prominent Juvenile finishers will have key Derby preps this weekend.

“That’s what I’ve been telling my owner,” Mike Harrington, who trains owner Heinz Steinmann’s Creative Cause, the third-place finisher in the BC Juvenile, said on a national teleconference earlier this week. “Union Rags was impressive, and Hansen won nicely. That must mean that we have a good horse at this point in time.”

Creative Cause is scheduled to make his second start of the year, and since the Juvenile, on Saturday in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, which follows his deceptively good third-place finish in the San Vicente last month. Ten were entered in the San Felipe, with Creative Cause landing post 7 and his stablemate, Empire Way, in post 10.

Dullahan, fourth in the Juvenile, is scheduled to make his first start of the year on Sunday in the Grade 3, $150,000 Palm Beach Stakes at Gulfstream Park.

And Take Charge Indy, fifth in the Juvenile, is entered on Saturday in the Grade 2, $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby. It will be his second start of the year, following a second-place finish in a Gulfstream allowance race to El Padrino, who validated the form of that race with his subsequent victory in the Risen Star at Fair Grounds.

“I think this is a good group of 3-year-olds,” said Dale Romans, the trainer of Dullahan. The Juvenile, Romans said, “was a quality race, and Dullahan showed he could run with them.”

“He had trouble early in the race, and he made up ground on a speed-biased track,” Romans added.

The 2011 Juvenile – significant in that it was run at Churchill Downs, the site of the Derby – was a critical race in the management of Dullahan, who is a half-brother to Mine That Bird. Dullahan came into the Juvenile off a victory in the Breeders’ Futurity on Polytrack at Keeneland, and his form on dirt was in question. But the Juvenile, Romans said, “proved to me, and the ownership group, that he can run with the best horses in the world on dirt.”

Armed with that knowledge, Romans mapped out a 2012 prep schedule he believes offers Dullahan the best chance to get to the Derby. After running in the Palm Beach, which is on turf, he will return to Keeneland, site of his Breeders’ Futurity victory, for next month’s Blue Grass.

“Grass and synthetic, we know he likes both, and they are easier as stepping-stones to the Derby,” Romans said. “But I do feel like he will be at his best on dirt.”

Creative Cause has been among the leaders of this crop since he burst onto the scene in July with a dazzling victory against maidens at Hollywood Park. He subsequently won the Best Pal at Del Mar, then took the worst of a bumping match in the Del Mar Futurity that wound up with him being promoted from third to second via disqualification. Then, in his first start around two turns, Creative Cause comfortably won the Norfolk at Santa Anita.

In the Juvenile, Creative Cause was only a length away from Hansen and Union Rags. Following a three-month break, he was third in the San Vicente, the first of his three scheduled Derby preps.

“He galloped out strong, and he’s come back and worked very well,” Harrington said. “He looks like he should step forward nicely.”

James Mcrae More than 1 year ago
well i remember after hansen lost his debut this year everyone was saying how week the juvie was but i thiught it was premature to judge that on one race and it was great to see hansen rebound and get back in the picture and union looked great too,and a few others are doing great too so lets hope everyone stays healthy and itll be a great derby
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
The mile and a quarter will seperate the field, as usual. It's too early to say too much, but Union could not have looked any better and is a clear favorite at this point. I bet El Padrino in the future2, I like the way he grinds, and fights, his physique is picture-perfect (like Union), and he has an excellent running style for the Derby, and his pedigree for the distance takes a back seat to nobody in this crop. At almost 20-1, he seemed like an a very reasonable alternative to the favored Union. I also put a small wager on Secret Circle, who is learning to rate, and as a son of Eddington will always have my support due to my "baby reasons" (viewers of "Luck" will understand the reference).
Charles Berger More than 1 year ago
Hey guys.....you all are getting too excited. It's still way too early to start saying who will start in the the derby let alone win it. Too much can happen. Nobody has proven they can go a mile and an eighth let alone a mile and a quarter. Too many times the winners of the mile and an eighth preps wind up using themselves up by the time the derby comes. However, I do think this is a very talented group of three year olds. Ah, but to see a group such as 1957( which I saw)..........BOLD RULER, ROUND TABLE,GALLANT MAN, IRON LIEGE, FEDERAL HILL and probably the best of the crop GENERAL DUKE who was the favorite broke down the day before the derby.
Bill Feingold More than 1 year ago
Yup...they say that was the best crop ever and the names back it up...I'm not convinced this crop belongs in anything like that kind of discussion, or even close. The best crop in my lifetime, no doubt, was 1987...Alysheba, Bet Twice, Java Gold, Polish Navy, Gulch, Gone West, Lost Code, Cryptoclearance, Temperate Sil, Demons Begone. Next best was probably 1994 with Holy Bull, Concern, Go for Gin, Tabasco Cat, Soul of the Matter and others.
Don Passidomo More than 1 year ago
No question JP this race is one key...I do believe, however, that the KYJC G-2 of Nov 26 with "Gemologist's" driving win, at equal or even better overall profile, may turn out to be the even more "key" race after we see what the gem does in "The Rebel" next week, don't think he will disappoint, only those skeptics who can't envision the KD solid exacta, Gemologist and Union Rags....the others will be fighting for shows....Don
Mike Bilinskas More than 1 year ago
The Juvenile does look like a good race for once with the 2 year olds who ran in it actually came out in their 3 year old year running well. I just wish people would stop saying Union Rags was a unlucky 2nd, it's not like a horse fell in front of him, or he got him by a goose, he had every shot to win and didn't and it was his and his jockeys fault, not luck. Hansen overcame the bias that day and was superb in victory
leonardf More than 1 year ago
So far on paper this looks like the best group of three year olds derby bound that I've seen in many years. My feeling is we're going to see some really exciting triple crown races. I also feel this is the year where we'll be seeing one horse step up and take the first two legs.Then it will be a nail biter and allot of excitement at the Belmont.Which horse that will be stands to be seen but I wouldn't want to miss it for anything .
Noreen Norris More than 1 year ago
Looking forward to seeing the Kentucky Derby on tv as I will not be able to attend. There are several possible winners this year and each on any given day could win the race. My best to all. Keep it clean and may the best horse & jockey win.
robert More than 1 year ago
Romans: "speed-biased track" in Breeders Cup. What? Plenty of deep-closing longshots and mid-pack stalker won. Some speed won and held for second, but according to Racing Flow, the dirt track was slightly biased to closers on Nov. 5. Hansen was vs. bias, Union Rags was with bias. Force Freeze was vs. bias, Amazombie was with bias. Shackleford was vs. bias, Caleb's Posse was with bias. Game on Dude was vs. bias, Drosselmeyer retires with the bias.
prlyr4lyf More than 1 year ago
Creative cause will romp in the san felipe
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I Believe You Are Absolutely Correct ! I Honestly Would Have Felt Better If CREATIVE CAUSE Would Have Run In The TAMPA BAY DERBY or REBEL , Just To Give Better Hope For EMPIRE WAY As A Harrington Fan . I Just Dont See Why Not , U N L E S S . . . . EMPIRE WAY Has The Ability This Soon To Give CREATIVE CAUSE A Run For His Money , And Olny Harrington Would Know Whats Up ! remember , creative cause does not have to race his race to win , but creative cause could set the pace up perfect enough to allow empire way to close in deep for an awesome finish 1 - 2
Nick Gunritz More than 1 year ago
El Padrino will put to rest who will win the Derby as long as he stays healthy.