Juvenile favorite Cave Rock wins the G1 American Pharoah (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)
By Margaret Ransom
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), which is sponsored by Fan Duel and presented by the Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance, is once again worth $2 million this year. The main 2-year-old event for the World Championships is one of the seven original Breeders’ Cup races and was contested at the inaugural event at Hollywood Park in 1984. The 1 1/16-mile main track test is more often than not the predictor of who will win the Eclipse Award for the division and also seals the winner’s status as the early favorite for the following year’s Kentucky Derby (G1).
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert last year saddled the recently retired Corniche to victory and in doing so joined fellow Hall of Fame member D. Wayne Lukas in holding the record for number of winners with five (Lukas: 1986, Capote; 1987, Success Express; 1988, Is It True; 1994, Timber Country; and 1996, Boston Harbor; and Baffert: 2002, Vindication; 2008, Midshipman; 2013, New Year’s Day; 2018, Game Winner; and 2021, Corniche.)
Retired jockeys Laffit Pincay Jr. and Jerry Bailey each rode three winners throughout their Hall of Fame careers and Mike Smith joined them with his third a year ago when he piloted Corniche.
Chief’s Crown, trained by Roger Laurin – the son of Secretariat’s trainer Lucien – won the first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Hollywood Park under jockey Don Macbeth. He was the first winner of the race to be crowned champion 2-year-old and since then 30 more (from 38 runnings) also earned the honor, including Essential Quality in 2020 and Corniche last year.
The last juvenile to be named Horse of the Year and the first since Secretariat in 1972 was Favorite Trick, who won this race in 1997 at Hollywood Park before earning the year-end honor. He was undefeated in all of his eight starts as a 2-year-old for owner Joseph LaCombe and trainer Patrick Byrne.
One of the most famous Breeders’ Cup Juvenile performances was Arazi’s run in 1991. The Allen Paulson-owned son of Blushing Groom launched a powerful late run from the back of the pack in the early going to storm home a five-length winner. The son of Blushing Groom lived to a ripe old age of 32 and passed away in 2021 at Shockwell Thoroughbreds in Victoria, Australia.
So far only two Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners have also won under the Twin Spires in the main event on the first Saturday in May – Street Sense (2006, 2007) and Nyquist (2014, 2015) though Timber Country, who won the 1994 Juvenile at Churchill Downs, was the first Triple Crown race winner when he captured the 1995 Preakness Stakes (G1).
The fastest running at the current distance is the 1:40.94 that Midshipman clocked when he won at Santa Anita in 2008 under the late Garrett Gomez.