A few weeks ago I never thought I’d be saying this, but suddenly the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile may be shaping up as the most interesting of the World Championship 15-race menu. Always one of my favorites, it’s the race that best gets the anticipation train rolling for the following year. Is there a potential superstar for next spring’s classics? Who will be the champion two-year-old male of the year? Which horse will greet the winter as the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby? More often than not, it is the BC Juvenile that answers each of those burning questions. Despite the fact that there has only been one horse (Street Sense) that has completed the Juvenile-Derby double, it is without question easily the most important race of the year for the younger set. While last year displayed the great potential of the winner, in Uncle Mo, this year’s edition promises a clash of hotshots coming from all over the nation. Representing the East will be Union Rags, from the West it will be Creative Cause, while the Midwest will offer up Hansen.
Hansen may have only run twice so far, but it would be hard to imagine how he could have been more impressive in the pair. Both run at Turfway Park, in Northern Kentucky, the grey son of Tapit won them by a combined margin of 25 ¼ lengths for red-hot trainer, Michael Maker. After running off with a 5 ½ maiden race, Hansen stepped up in both distance and class with a freewheeling, front-running tour de force that saw him hit the finish line more than 13 lengths in front of his Kentucky Cup Juvenile competition at 1 1/16 miles. He will need to take another big step up in competition, and prove he can handle dirt like he does synthetics to win the Breeders’ Cup, but there can be no denying that this one is a unique talent.
Trainer Michael Matz certainly has one attractive specimen in the undefeated Union Rags. The son of Dixie Union is three for three, and is looking more impressive with each start. Union Rags broke his maiden going five furlongs at Delaware Park in July, before winning the Grade 2 Saratoga Special in the Saratoga slop by 7 ¼ lengths on August 15. But it was yesterday’s performance that has really ratcheted up the potential meter on the Phyllis M. Wyeth homebred. Bottled up on the far turn, Union Rags smoothly weaved through traffic in mid-stretch before exploding to run away with the Grade 1 Champagne by 5 ¼ overpowering lengths. Surely the win will send him to Louisville as the Breeders’ Cup favorite.
And last, but certainly not least is the California representative of the terrific trio, Creative Cause. He may be the only one of the three to taste defeat, but make no mistake; this grey son of Giant’s Causeway is the real deal. After being in the middle of a Malachi Crunch when running third as the heavy favorite in the Del Mar Futurity, Creative Cause came back with a dominant performance to take the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes by a widening 3 ¼ lengths over the highly regarded Drill. Save the Futurity fiasco, Creative Cause is perfect in three starts, including two graded stakes, and appears to relish the two-turn, 1 1/16 mile trip that he will see at Churchill Downs.
So what’s it going to be? Something has to give … each of the transcontinental trio has the potential to be any kind, making the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile a most intriguing race to ponder for the next four weeks. Could one of these three be racing’s next superstar? And if so … which one?