10/23/2003 11:00PM

Pedigree Handicapping - Juvenile: This is when distancebreeding should shine

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Perhaps more than any other year, championship honors are up for grabs in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. Silver Wagon (Hopeful Stakes), Birdstone (Champagne Stakes), Eurosilver (Lane's End Futurity), and Ruler's Court (Norfolk Stakes) each won one major stakes, and by skipping the most important race for 2-year-olds, they leave the door wide open to crown the winner of the BC Juvenile as champion.

As their pedigrees indicated, Cuvee (Carson City) and Chapel Royal (Montbrook) showed brilliance early at 2, and a victory in the Juvenile would cement an Eclipse Award for either colt, especially since the winners of the division's major events are absent.

Cuvee and Chapel Royal are both classy individuals, but there is a big question regarding their ability to be as brilliant at 1 1/16 miles, especially around two turns. Chapel Royal was a $1.2 million purchase last February at Ocala, Fla., where he dazzled onlookers with his blazing workouts. After reeling off three straight victories to begin his career, including easy romps in the Flash and Sanford stakes, he finished second to Silver Wagon in the Hopeful Stakes, and finished a game second over a tiring track to Birdstone in the 1 1/16-mile Champagne Stakes. By Montbrook out of a Cutlass mare, Chapel Royal gets a double dose of high speed, and his second dam is a half-sister to champion Fanfreluche. Chapel Royal will have plenty of speed to contend with early, most notably from Cuvee, Race for Glory, Capitano, and Siphonizer.

Aside from a rough start in the Bashford Manor Stakes, where he finished third, Cuvee has been perfect, winning his other four starts, including three stakes, all by lengthy margins. A flashy chestnut like so many runners by Carson City, Cuvee had his most significant victory in the Futurity Stakes, where he easily negotiated one mile around one turn at Belmont. But the Breeders' Cup Juvenile is around two turns, and he faces a stronger pace threat. Carson City was one of Mr. Prospector's fastest sons, and from the very start, his runners have proven to be best sprinting. Under ideal circumstances, they have occasionally managed to win at 1 1/16 miles. Cuvee's female family, which has been nothing short of sensational, was cultivated by the late Verne Winchell. Cuvee's dam, Christmas Star, is a half-sister to stakes winners Olympio, Call Now, and Your Call, as well as stakes-placed Carol's Wonder, the dam of stakes winners Wild Wonder and Acrylic. Bien Nicole, a starter in this year's Filly and Mare Turf, and stakes winner Early Flyer also come from this prolific family.

With an expected hot pace, the Juvenile sets up for a colt bred to appreciate distance, much like in 1999, when Anees (by Unbridled) won despite a pronounced Gulfstream Park speed bias to sweep by horses whose brilliance diminished beyond seven furlongs.

Three colts who should benefit from the strong pace and two-turn distance are Tiger Hunt, Minister Eric, and Action This Day.

Tiger Hunt and Action This Day are by the late Kris S., whose runners have had remarkable success in Breeders' Cup races, including Hollywood Wildcat (Distaff), Soaring Softly (Filly and Mare Turf), Prized (Turf), and Brocco (Juvenile).

Despite several bumping incidents in his July debut at Churchill Downs, Tiger Hunt rallied to win a six-furlong maiden race at 24-1. Off a two-month layoff, he won the Cradle Stakes at River Downs at 1 1/16 miles, and in his third and last start, he finished second to Eurosilver in the Lane's End Breeders' Futurity, rallying from nearly 10 lengths off the lead over Keeneland's speed-favoring surface and encountering traffic on the second turn.

Tiger Hunt is from the female family of Shy Dancer, whose descendants include champion 2-year-old filly Heavenly Cause, Two Punch, Shy Dawn, Purple Mountain, Petite Rouge, and Jacques Who.

Minister Eric and Action This Day are both trained by Richard Mandella, who also has Siphonizer, who will help set the table for his uncoupled stablemates. Minister Eric is by freshman sire Old Trieste, who died earlier this year. Having tactical speed, Minister Eric will be stalking the early leaders and will get first jump on the late runners. Minister Eric's third dam is Aladancer (Northern Dancer), a stakes-winning half-sister to the dam of Cryptoclearance. Distinguished runners from this family include Run Softly, Latin American, and Pico Teneriffe.

Action This Day has only had two starts, but in this watered-down Juvenile, he is the kind of fast-developing colt who could spring an upset. Action This Day will ultimately be most effective at distances longer than 1 1/8 miles on turf, but runners by the versatile Kris S. are reliable on dirt. Action This Day is out of a mare by Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe winner Trempolino, his second dam is by Forli, and his third dam is by the renowned European miler Habitat. As unlikely as it may seem, Action This Day could get a minor award, if not the victory itself.