The emotion is palpable in Jason Loutsch’s voice whenever he talks about the possibility of standing in a Breeders’ Cup winner’s circle celebrating one of Albaugh Family Stables’ own, but amends himself slightly when asked about the venture earning its first triumph in the World Championships.
While the Albaugh blue and white silks have yet to cross the wire in front in a Breeders’ Cup race, the ownership group is indeed responsible for the victorious runner as the breeder of 2015 Dirt Mile (G1) winner Liam’s Map. Whether he has a competitive interest in them or not, Loutsch says he now views all offspring by the son of Unbridled’s Song as kids of his own, relishing the success the gray stallion has enjoyed since entering stud at Lane’s End Farm.
“I always watched the Breeders’ Cup and the big races, and I never dreamed we’d be on this stage competing at this level,” said Loutsch, racing manager for Albaugh Family Stables. “And to have a horse that we bred win the Breeders’ Cup and see what he’s doing in the stallion barn…we take so much pride in them winning races. I don’t care if it’s a claiming race or a Grade 1, I just love seeing our stallion’s babies win.”
These days, there is one particular Liam’s Map baby Loutsch and his father-in-law, Dennis Albaugh, are unapologetically head-over-heels for. She is the one taking her connections back to the Breeders’ Cup with a chance to earn their first victory in the event as an owner. And given what she has already achieved in her young career, there is a reason Loutsch has to fight to contain his excitement about what might become the evening of Nov. 5 at Del Mar.
The opening day of the Keeneland Fall Meet doubled as a coming out party of sorts for the Albaugh-owned, Brad Cox-trained Juju’s Map. On the afternoon of Oct. 8, the bay daughter of Liam’s Map signaled she may have the goods to topple expected favorite Echo Zulu in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) when she rebuffed stablemate Matareya and kicked on powerfully down the lane to win the Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) by 4 ¼ lengths.
In the process of stamping herself as a top contender in the Breeders’ Cup odds for the 2021 Juvenile Fillies, Juju’s Map got the new partnership between her connections off to a fantastical beginning as she is the first horse Cox has started for the Albaugh team. On Oct. 29, she completed her last major work before shipping to California when she clipped five furlongs at Churchill Downs in :59.60 under jockey Florent Geroux, working in company with older stablemate and Albaugh-bred Matera.
“(Matera) is a stakes winner in her own right so she’s a pretty tough workmate,” Cox said after the move. “‘Juju’ sat just off her and maybe broke about a length behind. She was well in hand throughout the work, and it was exactly what we were looking for at this stage. This filly seemed to improve a little bit since her win in the Alcibiades, which is what these horses need to do this time of year leading into the Breeders’ Cup.”
Purchased for $300,000 out of the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, Juju’s Map is set to be the second starter Albaugh Family Racing has had in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies as they finished third in last year’s edition of the race with graded stakes winner Girl Daddy. With her attractive pedigree page and physical attributes, Juju’s Map was a clear choice for their short list – and has backed that high regard up in earning her two wins from three starts by a combined margin of ten lengths.
Brilliance is something that absolutely runs in the family as Liam’s Map won six of his eight career outings and never finished worse than second. It is a trait Juju’s Map will need to manifest to its fullest, however, if she is to upset the unbeaten Echo Zulu, who ran her competition off their feet in taking the Spinaway (G1) and Frizette Stakes (G1).
“Brad said (Juju’s Map) is probably doing a little bit better now than she was going into the Alcibiades, which she’s going to have to be,” Loutsch said. “We have nothing to lose. We know we’re running against a big time favorite and a much deserving one in Echo Zulu. She’s won two Grade 1s already. She’s a scary, freaky filly and she’s doing well so we know we’re going to have to have a little luck on our side.
“But as I’ve found out in this game, the favorites don’t always win.”
Loutsch knows what he speaks when it comes to big-race heartache with the eyes of the world on his runners.
In the 2016 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), Albaugh Family Stables had the betting favorite in Not This Time only to watch the colt fall a neck short of victory to eventual champion Classic Empire. Three years later, such angst would wash over the team once more – this time in even more gut-wrenching fashion – when odds-on choice Dennis’ Moment went to his knees at the start of 2019 Juvenile, losing all chance en route to finishing last in the field of eight.
With that in mind, Loutsch says he is happy to have Juju’s Map and their expected Juvenile entrant, Giant Game, play the role of hunter rather than bearing the target themselves.
Perhaps, Loutsch hopes, it will be a cosmic shift he and his family need to get them the first-hand experience of hoisting year-end hardware.
“We’ve been there with Dennis at 3-5 in the Breeders’ Cup and we know how that turned out,” Loutsch deadpanned. “You’re going to need racing luck and I’m thinking one of these times, it’s going to be on our side.”
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Article by Alicia Hughes at TVG News courtesy of Breeders’ Cup
JuJu’s Map under Florent Geroux leaves the pack behind by 4 1/2 lengths to win the G1 Darley Alcibiades at Keeneland on Oct. 8, 2021. Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire