Home field advantage is always a good thing to have, especially in the Breeders Cup. Having Bob Baffert as a trainer and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile run over his home turf, definitely gives Power Broker a big edge in the Juvenile. Do I think it will be good enough to beat the unbeaten Shanghai Bobby… No.
This talented colt has done absolutely nothing wrong, and yet somehow, he still has many doubters. He flashed his speed early on in his career when winning a four and a half furlong maiden. That may have been the cause of some doubters, since many babies that start out that early aren’t running against all that much and prove to be not as dazzling when the distances grow and the competition rises.
That has not been the case with Bobby. He stepped up into to stakes next out, winning the Track Barron Stakes going five and a half furlongs this time. After that his connections laid off for a couple of months, and during those few months Bobby blossomed. He ran next in the Hopeful, coming into the seven furlong event off a two month layoff and a five and half furlong dash. Normally one would expect a baby that coming into a race fresh and off two shorter than average sprints to gun it from the gate and not look back. That was not so with Bobby. He rated kindly before exploding just before the stretch, drawing away down the lane impressively.
Before his last start, the Champagne, people said he couldn’t get the distance. Despite seeing his professionalism they still doubted the colt. He silenced them with more of the same. Again, he displayed professionalism, rating kindly in second before again exploding to the front and proving easily the best down the lane.
For such a young horse, Shanghai Bobby has shown experience that goes beyond his years. He is not the typical speed crazy two year old that will gun to the lead and fold when pressured. He has speed, but it can be controlled. He is seemingly push button, being able to out foot his opponents from the gate in order to gain position, and then be switched off once that position has been established.
Another thing this young horse has going for him is his experience. He has proven he is not a horse for course. In his four starts he has run at four different tracks. They are Aqueduct, Monmouth, Saratoga, and Belmont. Power Broker has run at only two, and while he did demonstrate an affinity for Santa Anita, one has to wonder if that was a fluke. Sometimes a surface switch can move a horse up when it is their first time over the new footing. How can one not have that question about Power Broker? Bobby has proven himself capable over several tracks and distances, while Power Broker has run big just once, and as impressive as it was, he is simply not as proven as his Eastern counterpart.
I know you may say the delayed travel may have an effect on Shanghai Bobby’s performance and while it might, there is just as much chance that it won’t. As I mentioned earlier, this colt has handled everything thrown at him. He has overcome new tracks, new distances, stiffer competition, you name it. Good horses overcome and that is exactly what Bobby has done is entire career. That cannot be said for Power Broker.
Yes, the Breeders’ Cup is at the site of Power Broker’s only win. Yes, he has Bob Baffert, who is one of the best trainers in America, and has the America’s richest racing event taking place in his home court. Yes, I know how much of advantage that is, but it’s not like Bobby is coming into this race with no assets. He is professional, has tactical speed, and a very good turn of foot. Not to mention his trainer Todd Pletcher isn’t a half bad trainer himself. Most importantly, Bobby has shown the ability to overcome, and it will be that ability that separates him from his foes for a fifth consecutive time, in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Absolutely. It is a major advantage for a horse to be stabled in Southern California, and to have already proven a fondness for the Santa Anita main track. I especially believe this to be true for the youngsters, who may not be as well equipped to handle the unfamiliarity that comes from a cross-country sojourn to a track they have never seen. This is just one of the reasons I like Power Broker in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Here’s a horse who absolutely whistled at Santa Anita and at the same distance he will see on Saturday.
Meanwhile, Shanghai Bobby comes from the East Coast, where juveniles have traditionally struggled when the Breeders’ Cup is held in California. He also has the disadvantage of never having gone two-turns before. Sure he looked good in the one-mile Champagne, but at one-turn, that is more of an elongated sprint, rather than the route race he will see in a couple of days.
Keep in mind that one of America’s best trainers felt that Power Broker was a future star from the very beginning. After finishing 4th as a 7-10 favorite on a surface he did not care for at Del Mar in his career debut, Bob Baffert placed the well-bred son on Pulpit in a pair of one mile turf races. A solid third against a good field of maidens, was followed by a narrow neck loss in the Oak Tree Juvenile Turf Stakes. Whether or not he is a turf horse or not remains to be seen, but the upward trending performance in each successive race demonstrated that the $360,000 yearling purchase was becoming the horse that Baffert thought he was.
I think the pair of two-turn races on turf did him a world of good, so it was no surprise when he won the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes in his fourth lifetime start, and his first race ever on dirt. What was surprising, though, was the way he won. Cruising close to the front from the outside, Power Broker rushed to the lead when asked by leading rider, Rafael Bejarano, and continued to widen his margin down the lane, winning by 6 ½ lengths.
His tractability is a quality that I like in Shanghai Bobby, but couldn’t you say the same about Power Broker? He’s both gone to the lead and stalked in his career, and in the FrontRunner he demonstrated the ability to have enough speed to gain a perfect spot, before unleashing an irresistible move that so often has won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“One run big just once,” but Laura, that big run came where? It was at Santa Anita. And at what distance? The same 1 1/6 miles he will see in the BC Juvenile. That is the experience that will really matter on Saturday. Also, the fact that this a two-turn race, and one of the favorites has never run two-turns, while the other has already done it three times, is a huge experience factor in the favor of Power Broker. And by the way, Shanghai Bobby has only run at three different tracks, never leaving New York until now. Clearly the experience factor has to go to Power Broker.
Whether it be the fall, winter, or following spring, these young horses are very transient as far as who is the best. The precocious ones dominate early, while the ones that develop a bit later usually pass them by at some point. You see where I am going with this … Shanghai Bobby being the quick to develop one, with Power Broker being the one that gets better and better.
If Shanghai Bobby can come west this week and beat the best field he’s ever faced, on a track he’s never raced on, and at a distance one-turn farther than he’s ever run, then I will tip my hat and gladly admit that he is America’s best juvenile. It may happen, but that’s a lot of ifs for the race favorite. I will be firmly on the side of the experienced Californian that is getting better with every race, and already has a wealth of experience running two-turns. I’ll take it one step farther … Not only do I see Power Broker as a horse on the improve, but I believe all he has to do is run another race like he did in the FrontRunner to win this. No more improvement needed, he’s already shown me that he is good enough.