By Mike Farrell
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before.
It’s Breeder’s Cup time once again and here comes Dale Romans, the affable and eternally optimistic trainer, who usually shows up for the $2 million Juvenile (G1) with a promising colt.
The optimism soon turns to despair. Nine times he has tried; nine times he has left empty handed.
The Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby (G1) are two of the primary unachieved goals still out there for Romans.
He once again approaches the Juvenile believing this is the one that ends the drought. Romans hopes to flip the script with Sittin On Go in the featured event of Future Stars Friday for 2-year-olds that kicks off Breeders’ Cup weekend at Keeneland.
It’s a strong and deep renewal of the race that annually crowns the division champion and launches the road to the 2021 Triple Crown.
The 1 1/16 miles race drew a full field of 14 including five undefeated colts.
Jackie’s Warrior is the most accomplished of the unbeatens, and the deserving 7-5 favorite.
The colt already owns a pair of Grade 1 victories, the Hopeful at Saratoga and the Champagne at Belmont Park.
Thus far, Jackie’s Warrior is simply faster than the competition, cruising to four front-running victories for trainer Steve Asmussen.
The colt approaches this test on a very smooth trajectory. Starting with his 5-furlong debut score at Churchill Downs, Jackie’s Warrior has easily stretched out an additional furlong in each victory, culminating with a 5 ½- length triumph in the one-mile Champagne with ever-improving speed figures.
“The horse is doing extremely well,” Asmussen said. “Obviously, we’re very excited about his chances in the Juvenile.”
The biggest challenge for Jackie’s Warrior might be tackling two turns for the first time.
“He’s very mature physically, mentally. He’s done everything right,” Asmussen said. “He’s the most accomplished 2-year-old we’ve had to this stage.”
Another impediment for Jackie’s Warrior is the weight of being the favorite. Only four of the last 21 Juvenile betting choices wound up in the winner’s circle.
Romans certainly knows the pain of losing the Juvenile with a favorite.
Last year at Santa Anita, Romans sent out Dennis’ Moment, the 4-5 favorite, and lost all chance when the colt stumbled at the start and never recovered while Storm the Court pulled off the 45-1 upset.
Romans suffered a wicked beat in the 2016 Juvenile when Not This Time, the 5-2 favorite, lost by a neck to Classic Empire.
“This is one I’ve always wanted to win,” Romans said of the Juvenile, “If you win, you’re almost automatically 2-year-old champion, and I think it will be that way this year. It sets you up in a pretty good spot going forward.”
Sittin On Go is 2-for-2 in his brief career, winning at first asking at Ellis Park before taking the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs. A son of Brody’s Cause, who Romans trained to a third-place Juvenile finish in 2015, is 12-1 on the morning line.
Essential Quality is the other graded stakes winner in the race, also unbeaten at 2-for-2 following a victory in the Breeders’ Futurity (G1) at Keeneland. He is the 4-1 second choice.
The other horses with unblemished records have run only once: Camp Hope (30-1) and Classier (15-1).
Another prominent player in the lineup is Reinvestment Risk (9-2), the runner-up to Jackie’s Warrior in both the Hopeful and the Champagne.
|1||Camp Hope||30-1||Kenneth G. McPeek||Robby Albarado|
|2||King Fury||15-1||Kenneth G. McPeek||Brian Hernandez Jr|
|3||Reinvestment Risk||9-2||Chad Brown||Irad Ortiz Jr.|
|4||Likeable||15-1||Todd A. Pletcher||John Velazquez|
|5||Essential Quality||4-1||Brad Cox||Luis Saez|
|6||Keepmeinmind||30-1||Robertino Diodoro||Jose Ortiz|
|7||Jackie’s Warrior||7-5||Steven M. Asmussen||Joel Rosario|
|8||Classier||15-1||Bob Baffert||Florent Geroux|
|9||Sittin On Go||12-1||Dale L. Romans||Corey Lanerie|
|10||Dreamer’s Disease||30-1||Robertino Diodoro||David Cohen|
|11||Next||15-1||Wesley A. Ward||Gerardo Corrales|
|12||Hot Rod Charlie||30-1||Doug O’Neill||Tyler Gaffalione|
|13||Rombauer||15-1||Michael W. McCarthy||Javier Castellano|
|14||Calibrate||20-1||Steven M. Asmussen||Ricardo Santana Jr|
Mike Farrell has worked in thoroughbred and harness racing for much of his career in journalism. Mike is a turf writer, harness writer, and handicapper, covering and analyzing races at dozens of racetracks around the country. Based on the East Coast, Mike has covered the Triple Crown races and the Breeders’ Cup for a number of publications, including Daily Racing Form, as well as The Associated Press. He spends time at Gulfstream Park taking in the races, and also hits the harness racing circuit in the Northeast region. He’s been a fixture at The Hambletonian and the Haskell Invitational for longer than he’d like to remember.