LEXINGTON, Ky. – It makes sense to call it “Future Stars Friday” at the Breeders’ Cup.
After all, the five BC races scheduled on Friday at Keeneland Race Course are restricted to 2-year-olds, so it’s natural to wonder what will become of the horses who perform well on that card the following season, when they’ve grown and matured, and gained the experience to aim for the biggest 3-year-old races.
Then there’s Cave Rock, who trainer Bob Baffert said is already ahead of the curve, having figured out this racing game to the point where he “looks like a 3-year-old.”
The undefeated Cave Rock may very well be one of the top contenders for the 2023 Kentucky Derby when we get into next spring, but for now he’s merely the 4-5 morning-line favorite for the BC Juvenile, that’s all.
He’s one of the biggest favorites of the weekend based on three victories in California by a combined 16 1/2 lengths, including two Grade I stakes.
“He came around quickly,” Baffert said Thursday morning. “He’s powerful, he’s quick, he’s fast and he showed, when he turned for home [in the American Pharoah], he caught another gear. Every time he runs, he shows me something else.”
One of the things Cave Rock has shown Baffert is a resemblance to his sire, at least in how he runs, if not in the color of his coat.
Not all future stars come out of the Breeders’ Cup, of course, and that was certainly the case with Arrogate, who not only didn’t run in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, but didn’t race at all as a 2-year-old.
He came on later in his 3-year-old season in 2016 to win the Travers at Saratoga Race Course and the BC Classic in the first two stakes starts of his career to earn an Eclipse Award. Cave Rock is a member of the second crop sired by Arrogate, who suffered health issues that didn’t respond to treatment in 2020 and was euthanized.
“Why is he so fast? Probably because his sire is one of the fastest horses I ever trained, one of the greatest horses I ever trained, and he’s just got God-given talent and speed and gets it from both sides of the family,” Baffert said.
“He’s very mature. If you look at him, I have two horses in there, and National Treasure is very talented, too, but he hasn’t really filled into his frame. But Cave Rock looks like a 3-year-old. He’s one of those horses who came around quickly, and for the way he’s bred, he’s not supposed to run ‘til later on.”
Baffert has won the BC Juvenile five times, with Vindication (2002), Midshipman (2008), New Year’s Day (2013), Game Winner (2018) and Corniche (2021), who is now trained by Todd Pletcher.
Of those five, only New Year’s Day failed to win the Eclipse Award, and none proved to be future stars, although Game Winner was a Grade I runner-up and was fifth in the Kentucky Derby. Vindication and New Year’s Day were injured after the Breeders’ Cup and never raced again.
As emphatically as Cave Rock has established himself as a racehorse since his maiden win at Del Mar in August, he’ll face a bunch of other promising 2-year-old colts in the BC Juvenile who include Forte, who won the Hopeful at Saratoga, and Grade I Champagne winner Blazing Sevens.
An interesting twist for Chad Brown, who trains Blazing Sevens, is that his colt was sired by Good Magic, the Brown-trained 2017 BC Juvenile and champion.
“Different kind of horse,” Brown said of Blazing Sevens. “Blazing Sevens is a bigger, kind of laid-back kind of horse. But being by Good Magic is extra special. It’s his first crop, and he’s off to a great start, which makes me proud.”
The Future Stars Friday program also includes the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Juvenile Fillies, Juvenile Fillies Turf and Juvenile Turf.
The 2-year-olds are lightly raced, which means that there isn’t much form to use when trying to predict the outcomes.
“Until the gate comes open, you don’t know,” Baffert said. “That’s the beauty of the Breeders’ Cup. It’s like the playoffs. Everybody’s tough. So when that gate comes open … I’ll never forget, I had Officer in the Juvenile in New York [at Belmont Park in 2001], and I thought there was no way they could beat him. Then a little horse called Johannesburg just destroyed him.
“That can happen. These horses, you just don’t know. There’s a horse out there, and he’s going to shine. The good ones, if they get the trip, they don’t get beat.”
ALSO ON THE CARD
Besides Blazing Sevens, Brown has a good shot in the other four Juvenile races, with Oxymore in the Juvenile Turf Sprint, Raging Sea in the Juvenile Fillies, Free Look in the Juvenile Fillies Turf and I’m Very Busy in the Juvenile Turf.
“They’re coming to the race the right way,” Brown said. “Raging Sea has a really difficult post . We’re going to have to work out a trip from there. Hopefully there’s enough speed in the race to maybe string the field out a little bit on that first turn, I’m hoping.”
The field for the Juvenile Fillies includes four of the top five from the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland on Oct. 7, Wonder Wheel, Chop Chop, Raging Sea and Sabra Tuff.
Raging Sea finished third but was disqualified to fourth for interfering with Xigera, who is an 8-1 contender in the Juvenile Fillies Turf.
“It was a tough one to swallow because I felt like she ran a winning race,” trainer Brad Cox said of Chop Chop. “She just came up a touch short. The main thing is, she came out of it in good order. I feel like she has moved forward from a physical standpoint. She’s put on weight since the race and she’s done exactly what you want to see a young horse do – move forward at the right time. I think if she breaks a little better this time, she has a big shot.”
“There wasn’t a whole lot of speed in the Alcibiades,” Wonder Wheel’s trainer Mark Casse said. “It looks like there will be a fair amount of speed. We’ve got some New York fillies coming that have only run one turn so they’re going to be doing something they haven’t done before.
“The first turn is going to be interesting. I would say we’re going to be fairly close [to the pace].”
The New York fillies include the Todd Pletcher-trained Chocolate Gelato, the slight favorite at 7-2 off a victory in the Grade I Frizette at a mile during the Belmont at the Big A meet at Aqueduct. The BC Juvenile Fillies will be run around two turns and cover a mile and sixteenth.
“I don’t think that [two turns] will be a question considering how well she finished going a mile in the Frizette,” Pletcher said.
GAZETTE COVERAGEEnsure access to everything we do, today and every day, check out our subscribe page at DailyGazette.com/Subscribe
More from The Daily Gazette:
Categories: -Sports, At The Track, Sports