Keys to handicapping the 2021 Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Keys to handicapping the 2021 Breeders' Cup Juvenile
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile is one of the easiest to handicap of all of the Friday events for 2-year-olds, with only a 10 percent win rate for long shots. Seven of the last 10 Juvenile winners won their previous race.

Breeders' Cup champs and Triple Crown

Seven of the last 10 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winners, five of them undefeated, earned year-end championship honors.

Nyquist (2015) was the last Juvenile-Kentucky Derby winner, although Juvenile winner Good Magic placed second in the Derby, bested 2 1/2 lengths by Justify.

Two Juvenile winners hit the board in the Preakness Stakes. Classic Empire (2016) was second, and Nyquist (2015) finished third.

Last year's 2-year-old champ Essential Quality placed fourth in the Derby and won the Belmont Stakes. He was the first Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner to contest the Belmont Stakes since the inaugural victor Chief's Crown finished third on Long Island in 1985.

Notes about Del Mar

At only 919 feet, the Del Mar stretch is the shortest of all the current Breeders' Cup host tracks. For comparison, Santa Anita is 990 feet. The shorter stretch gives horses that are closer to the lead the advantage. Del Mar has hosted the Breeders' Cup once, in 2017.

Breeders' Cup Juvenile at a glance

All stats are for the last decade (2011–2020)

Division debut: 1984

Key prep-race winners:

American Pharoah Stakes (G1) — Corniche

Champagne Stakes (G1) — Jack Christopher

Breeders' Futurity (G1) — Rattle N Roll

Del Mar Futurity (G1) — Pinehurst


Average win payout: $20.29

Lowest: $4.00 Game Winner (2018)

Highest: $93.80 Storm the Court (2019)


20% win

40% in the money

Last to win: Game Winner (2018)

Del Mar: The favorite, Bolt d’Orok finished third after bobbling at the start and was wide throughout.

Second favorite:

30% win

20% in the money

Last to win: Essential Quality (2020)

Post position: 

Post 5: 4 winners

Post 4: 3 winners

Posts 6, 7 and 12: 1 each

Rail: The rail is the kiss of death. None has hit the board in the last decade, and only two have won since the Juvenile inception in 1984.

Del Mar: The winner broke from post No. 6, the second-place finisher from post No. 2 and third-place from post No. 11.

Winning style

Determined by position at the half-mile:

2 pacesetters — wired the field.

2 presser-setters —  within a half-length of the pacesetter.

3 pressers — one to four lengths behind the pacesetter.

3 closers — five or more lengths behind the pacesetter.

Del Mar: Winner and runner-up were pressers. Third-place finisher closed.

Previous starts:

5 Juvenile winners were undefeated.

5 winners had 2 previous starts.

4 winners had 4 previous starts.

1 winner had 3 previous starts.

No Juvenile winner has finished worse than third in their final prep.

Prep races:

7 Juvenile winners won their final prep.

4 winners prepped in the American Pharoah (G1).

2 prepped in the Champagne Stakes (G1).

2 prepped in the Breeders' Futurity (G1).

1 prepped in the Kentucky Cup Juvenile.

1 last-out maiden winner has won.

Del Mar in 2017:

Winner Good Magic was second in the Champagne Stakes (G1).

Second-place finisher Solomini was second in the FrontRunner Stakes (G1), now known as the American Pharoah.

Third-place finisher Bolt d'Oro won the FrontRunner.

Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 ThoroFan Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
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