10/25/2007 11:00PM

Two-turn experience may be crucial

EmailOCEANPORT, N.J. – Of all the Breeders' Cup races, none is impacted more by location than the Breeders' Cup Juvenile. It is a 1 1/16-mile race, but at Belmont Park, it is run around one turn. At a track like Monmouth Park, site of this year's Breeders' Cup, it is run around two turns.

The impact of that second turn has been profound. Since 1996, the Juvenile has been run around one turn twice. Both times, the winner had never raced around two turns. But in the nine Juveniles since 1996 that encompassed two turns, the winner on eight occasions had prior experience going two turns. The lone exception was Wilko in 2004, and he had an excuse, since he had been racing on turf in Europe.

There were 13 horses entered in this year's $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Monmouth Park, but the field was reduced to 11 with the scratches of Slew's Tiznow and Dixie Chatter. Of those still remaining, just one – Wicked Style – has won a race around two turns, and only five have even raced around two turns on the main track. Six others, including top betting choices War Pass and Tale of Ekati, will be attempting two turns for the first time.

There's plenty on the line in this Juvenile. The winner most likely will be named champion 2-year-old male, a crown worn last year by Street Sense, who became the first horse to win the Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby. Handicappers will have to weigh horses coming from different regions, the merits of preps on synthetic surfaces vs. old-fashioned dirt, and, in six cases, whether raw talent can usurp lack of experience going two turns.

War Pass is the probable favorite, based on his unbeaten record and victory in the Champagne Stakes. He also drew well, landing post 2, from which he can use his keen speed. But he is coming back on just three weeks' rest, and has yet to race two turns.

"Obviously the three weeks is a concern," said Nick Zito, who trains War Pass. "I don't think the two turns will be a problem. The only problem will be if something suicidal happens with the pace. Don't get me wrong, he's going to have to run all the way."

Tale of Ekati must overcome a lack of experience going two turns, but also an outside draw. He starts from post 10. He overcame a rough trip to capture the Futurity at Belmont in his last start.

"He's done everything we've asked him to do in his racing and his training," said his trainer, Barclay Tagg. "He's kind of a tenacious horse. He seems to work his way around trouble. He's a tough little guy. He doesn't take any nonsense."

Like War Pass, Wicked Style has won all three of his starts. But his most-recent victory came in the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland, which is around two turns. Wicked Style, however, must start from the outside post.

Old Man Buck was third behind Wicked Style in the Breeders' Futurity, which gives him that invaluable two-turn experience. But neither Wicked Style nor Old Man Buck has won on a traditional dirt surface.

Salute the Sarge, who was second in the Norfolk to Dixie Chatter, and Shore Do, who was third, are in the Juvenile. Neither, however, has ever raced on conventional dirt.

Salute the Sarge won his first three races, then was second despite trouble in the Del Mar Futurity prior to the Norfolk. "Trust me, he'll be right there," said his trainer, Eric Guillot. "With any luck, he'd have won the futurity, without a shadow of a doubt."

The only other horse with two-turn experience is Overextended, a maiden winner at Santa Anita's Oak Tree meeting in his last start.

Pyro and Z Humor, second and third in the Champagne, are back for a rematch with War Pass. Pyro finished sharply in the one-mile Champagne, indicating the extra distance should suit him. Z Humor was not impressive in his final workout at Belmont Park on Monday.

Kodiak Kowboy was second to Tale of Ekati in the Futurity at Belmont. The extra turn and distance might be beyond his range.

Globalization comes off a win against maidens in a one-turn mile at Belmont Park.

Dixie Chatter had a win around two turns, in the Norfolk Stakes, which made his trainer, Richard Mandella, bullish on his chances. But Dixie Chatter had his temperature climb to 102 degrees Thursday morning, according to Mandella.

"It's not anything serious," Mandella said Thursday. "He had a little temperature [Wednesday] night, and it was 102 this morning. We've gone ahead and treated him with medication and scratched him."


Longshot GLOBALIZATION will not get the same soft trip he did wiring maidens last time, but he might not need to. The improving Touch Gold colt romped in his first main-track distance race, winning in fast time by more than seven lengths while in full stride to the wire. He obviously has been crying for a route, and if he is as comfortable pressing as he was on the lead, he can post an upset over pacesetter WAR PASS. The latter ran them silly in the Grade 1 Champagne, and if he is able to stretch his speed two turns could be long gone. Z HUMOR continues to improve for trainer Bill Mott, whose 2-year-old colts this year have won 13 races. PYRO finished fast for second in the Champagne. OLD MAN BUCK finished well for third in a stakes that was dominated by front-runners.


In the Grade 1 Champagne, PYRO was finishing like a horse who would like more ground. WAR PASS was finishing like a horse who was running out of gas. I'll go with Pyro going two turns in the rematch. TALE OF EKATI outkicked relatively fresh horses in the seven furlong Futurity, a race that was slow early, and fast late. If he improves as he stretches out, and second time after the freshening, he'll contend. WAR PASS is probably going to be overbet, and cannot afford to distribute his energy as unevenly as he did last time. I'll play against him. Z HUMOR can be a part in the exotics if he improves with the addition of blinkers.


Despite winning stakes at Woodbine, Churchill Downs, and Saratoga, KODIAK KOWBOY is a largely forgotten horse since being outfinished at 4-5 in Belmont's Futurity. But he did hold second through a very fast final furlong, and his huge-figure, tough-trip score in the Saratoga Special was impressive. On a day when all dirt winners set or pressed the pace, WAR PASS capitalized under aggressive handling to win the Champagne, while losing four lengths of his lead to Pyro in deep stretch. War Pass should have easy time clearing to the rail. The key is whether he can come back in three weeks off such a peak performance. TALE OF EKATI waited for room in upper stretch, dived to the rail, and won the Futurity powerfully over a quality rival. He was slated as top choice until final workout. SALUTE THE SARGE and WICKED STYLE couldn't have drawn worse for their initial starts on conventional dirt.


PYRO finished well when a gaining second in the Champagne. He acts like a colt who will only improve with added distance, and stretching out to two turns. He also figures to get an early pace that will flatter his late kick. TALE OF EKATI was much the best winning the Futurity, coming back on short rest after dealing with sore shins and overcoming traffic trouble. He also acts like a middle distance horse, and his ability to run well from off the pace is an asset. WAR PASS remained undefeated winning the Champagne. He ran fast early, and was strong enough late to earn this field's top Beyer. But, the track might have been speed-favoring on Champagne Day, and I wonder if three weeks is enough time to recover after such a demanding effort.