2-Year-Olds of 2018 to Watch

July 15, 2018

By Kaitlin Free

The summer months are sacred to horse racing. With July in full swing and the Triple Crown over, everyone is looking toward the future. The future is fast at work  on the track. The 2-year-olds of 2018 have begun to race and show their early talent. Thus far, we have seen several to be very excited about, and there are more intriguing ones that have yet to start. Let’s take an in depth look at 5 highly anticipated juveniles from 5 of the top American trainers.

Shang Shang Shang
Trainer : Wesley Ward

Shang Shang Shang is the lone filly on this list as well as the most experienced of the bunch. She traveled to Royal Ascot and defeated the colts in the G2 Norfolk Stakes. A winner on both dirt and turf, this lady has some serious potential.

By Shanghai Bobby out of a Yankee Victor mare, she has the goods for all surfaces. Shanghai Bobby has been a breakout sire of sharp juveniles on the turf. As well as Shang Shang Shang, he sired several juvenile G1 winners (in South America) on the turf already this season.

Her dam, Yankee Victoria, had a productive career and was stakes placed. Yankee Victoria has 3 other foals to race, 2 of them being winners. Shang Shang Shang’s dam side is strong on wins and speed, but lacks in stakes performance.

She is by far the standout of her close lineage. With a TrueNicks rating of A++, even without massive earnings in their bank this cross could prove sneaky good. Shang Shang Shang’s double dose of speed has been lethal in her two starts and is showing no signs of slowing down. This filly is live to take the inaugural running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint.

Instagrand
Trainer : Jerry Hollendorfer

Instagrand is without a doubt the ‘buzz’ juvenile of the summer. Debuting at Los Alamitos on June 29, his maiden win was giant. He showed extremely mature moves throughout the race and powered home in hand.

By Into Mischief out of a Lawyer Ron mare, this horse has a very ‘now’ pedigree. Into Mischief has been an extremely popular stallion on the market as of late. Many thought his progeny could not step up to classic distance, but his Triple Crown nominees have improved distance wise each year.

With a strong 3rd place finish from Audible in the Kentucky Derby, it is only a matter of time until he secures his first American Classic. Instagrand’s dam Assets of War may not have been successful on the track but she has strong promise for success as a broodmare. She has 2 foals to race, both are winners. Asset of War’s pedigree is textbook for a broodmare.

Her sire Lawyer Ron has enjoyed success as a broodmare sire and his sire Langfuhr even more so. Her dam was a graded stakes winner by the influential sire Lord At War (BM sire of 56 stakes winners). In his 5 generation pedigree, Instagrand has zero inbreeding. Based on TrueNicks, he is rated an A++. This colt is loaded with speed and class, let him out of your sight at your own risk.

Roadster
Trainer : Bob Baffert

If history is to repeat itself, we should have one more horse destined for greatness this decade. Purchased for a handsome half million, this horse is said to be Baffert’s top 2YO. Set to debut at the upcoming Del Mar meet, only time will tell if this gray colt can fulfill his presumed potential.

By Quality Road out of a Silver Ghost mare, Roadster has a classy pedigree that is set to go the distance. His sire Quality Road is one of the most popular current stallions and has by far exceeded expectations. Quality Road progeny possess a perfect dose of both speed and stamina.

Roadster’s dam, Ghost Dancing, has so far proven herself incredibly as a broodmare. All foals to race are winners including her G1 winning son Ascend. Ghost Dancing is also the dam of breakout Texas stallion Moro Tap. Roadster’s dam herself is also a sibling to several black types as well. Although this mating is not as highly rated, Roadster is bred on the same cross as graded stakes winners Core Beliefs and Cowboy Culture. He also has a double dose of Mr. Prospector, a trait that is common among top horses.

If Bob Baffert is impressed we should be as well. Even with the early hype there is no reason to suggest that Roadster won’t be legitimate.

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Lebron J
Trainer : Doug O’Neill

Purchased for a cool $1.2 million, Phoenix Thoroughbreds thinks they have found their next star. This ownership group is the same that brought you the ever popular Gronkowski. Named for another sports hero, could he follow in his namesake’s footsteps and also become a king?

By Medaglia d’Oro out of a Tapit mare, Lebron J has the necessary tools in his blood to make a huge impact as a 3YO. His sire Medaglia d’Oro has stamped himself among the best in the world with progeny of all ages. Lebron J’s dam, Tapicat, was popular on the track. She is a graded stakes winner and placed in several others. Tapicat was slated to be a great broodmare prospect from the beginning as well. From a very well known black type family, her third dam is the Champion mare Track Robbery. Tapicat’s line is the exact one that produced Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Cat Thief.

This pedigree TrueNicked an A+ and is inbred to Northern Dancer up front only. Lebron J is designed for stability and durability with this classy pedigree. As distance increases, this colt should only get better and will be one to watch on the Triple Crown trail. With several published works he should be debuting at Del Mar or Santa Anita in the coming months.

French Reef
Trainer : Todd Pletcher

Our lone foreign invader on this list was purchased as a yearling in France for half a million. Under the care of Todd Pletcher, this horse has created some under the radar attention. He has put in several head turning works and is set to debut very soon. This colt is said to be so versatile that they are unsure whether to start him on dirt or turf!

By New Approach out of a Mark of Esteem mare, French Reef brings some international flair to the States. His sire New Approach is the most proven son of the great Galileo currently standing at stud. He is responsible for numerous stakes winners including Champion Dawn Approach. French Reef’s dam, Tessa Reef is a stakes winner herself and is a black type stakes producer.

She is also the dam of MGSW Permian who suffered a fatal injury as a favorite in last year’s Secretariat Stakes at Arlington. Only to add to an already impressive family, Tessa Reef’s dam is a full sister to the great Miesque. French Reef is also inbred up close to the breed shaping mare Special. Inbreeding to top mares such as this has become a trait of many stakes winners including Triple Crown winner Justify (inbred to Narrate). With a TrueNicks rating of A++, horses bred on the same cross as French Reef have already produced several G1 winners. Despite the obviously turf pedigree, this colt has trained just as well if not better over the dirt. His versatility offers many options and he could be considered almost anywhere.

Whether any of these 2-year-olds of 2018 will fulfill their desired potential is yet to be determined. These 5 and a few honorable mentions (Bano Solo, Chasing Yesterday, and Two Dozen Roses to name a few), have definitely created a hype that has the racing public curious for more. As you begin to follow 2YO’s this summer make sure this group is at the top of your list!

Jonathan Stettin is a New York Legend. He's been a Horseplayer, earning his living at the track, since he was 19 years old. @jonathanstettin

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