As we roll right along through the Breeders’ Cup races for Saturday at Santa Anita, we find ourselves next posed with the prospect of picking the best “baby.” Which 2-year-old will win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and follow in the steps of recent winners such as War Pass and Street Sense?
Munnings has earned the initial morning line favoritism at 7/2. The son of Speightstown has been in the money in each of 3 lifetime starts (1 win, 1 place, and 1 show), and has been finishing along with Vineyard Heaven and Cribnote in his initial Grade 1 attempts in the Hopeful and Champagne. On the plus side, Munnings will not run into either of those competitors on Saturday. On the downside, he hasn’t won since his debut in the Maiden Special Weight ranks on July 25 at Saratoga. Still, when you look at him – his first two races he blew the start, thrashing into the gate and then stumbling. In his latest effort in the Champagne, he was compromised a bit perhaps by breaking from the 10 hole. On Saturday he’ll get a new challenge to overcome with the Pro-Ride track at Santa Anita, which has me leaning in a different direction.
The horse I’m giddy about seeing is the 2nd choice on the morning line, Square Eddie. I’ve heard him called “baby Curlin” - which probably helps explain a bit why I’m interested in him. Beyond that he appears to be a horse with some upside who may have rounded into form just in time for the Juvenile. Keeneland’s track plays a little different than Santa Anita’s, but this guy has also shown he can handle the turf, and I like to see that versatility. He’s also going to have Rafael Bejarano aboard as jockey – a guy that can certainly get the job done at Santa Anita.
A couple of other horses look interesting to me as well. Street Hero is an improving son of Street Cry, much like Street Sense was 2 years ago. He’s won over the track, can handle the distance, and was able to turn the tables on his main rival thus far, Midshipman. Of course, Midshipman is also here, so if you like one you’ve almost got to like the other. If I had to pick one of these guys, I’d probably lean towards Street Hero as I feel he’s more likely to be headed in the right direction.
There seem to be two key races for this event – either the Grade 2 Norfolk at Santa Anita (which produces Azul Leon, Midshipman, Silent Valor, and Street Hero) or the Grade 2 Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland (which produced Pioneer of the Nile, Square Eddie, and Terrain). Sadly, I was only able to find the youtube replay for the Breeders’ Futurity:
Square Eddie romps away to victory in the Lane’s End Breeders’ Futurity
Of the two races I actually believe the Norfolk is the one to focus on. I’m going to be backing Square Eddie as my top choice though in the hopes that “baby Curlin” can help present a good omen for the fortunes of Curlin in the Classic. As a handicapper though, I’d probably side with Street Hero.
Bushranger looms as the Euro-invading x-factor of the race that I’m having trouble getting a good read on. Likewise, I wouldn’t be surprised if West Side Bernie breaking from the outside at odds of 20/1 found a way to hit the board. I don’t really want anything to do with Azul Leon or Mine That Bird, although the latter is 4 for 5 thus far on the synthetic surface at Woodbine.