The Breeders' Cup Juvenile has proven to be more unpredictable than many would think over the past 10 years, with only two winning favorites, but one constant tends to remain: a fast early pace.
Most 2-year-olds lack the seasoning to be at their best when they have to pass horses, which leads to many wire-to-wire prep winners and thus, a field with many front-runners. The 2023 edition of Juvenile looks to have another contentious pace. Below I analyze the expected early pace of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.
Wine Me Up: As the least heralded of the Bob Baffert trio in this race, this colt's best chance of winning is to try to steal it on the front-end. He made the lead over stablemate Muth in the American Pharoah (G1), but was no match for him late.
Fierceness: Todd Pletcher's colt looked brilliant winning on the front-end in a fast debut score. He tried to come off the pace in the Champagne (G1) after breaking slowly and that turned out to be a disaster. The sloppy track may have had something to do with that effort. Look for him to be ridden aggressively to the front on what should be a dry track.
General Partner: Chad Brown's runner did make the early lead in the Champagne (G1) and ran a good second after setting fast fractions. He will likely be in the tussle for the top spot in the early stages of this race.
Muth: This pricey colt showed the ability to rate when stretched out for the first time in the American Pharoah (G1). That handiness should help him sit a nice trip just behind the main front-runners in here.
Prince of Monaco: He may show more speed in his two-turn debut, but thus far he has shown the ability to sit just about anywhere Flavien Prat places him. He would be smart to avoid the early charge for the lead and tuck in just behind with his stablemate, Muth.
Timberlake: This son of Into Mischief has a nice tactical style that should allow him to sit a good trip. He does not need the lead, but should be able to stay in touch with the main contenders in the early stages.
The Wine Steward: He has come from midpack in all his races and there is no reason to change his style after this New York-bred almost knocked off Locked in the Breeders' Futurity (G1).
Cuban Thunder: The European trying dirt for the first time is a bit of a tactical unknown. One would imagine his connections would like him close to the pace to avoid getting dirt kicked in his face, but he does not appear fast enough to make that a reality.
Locked: This Grade 1 winner has shown that he does not necessarily need to be this far back early, but with many confirmed front-runners, he will likely be ridden patiently while hoping for a pace collapse as he comes running late.
Ecoro Neo: The Japanese invader is tough to get a read on, but the one replay I was able to pull up showed him closing like a freight train from way out of it while sprinting.
The pace scenario looks too hot to handle for Wine Me Up, Fierceness and General Partner, who have all yet to prove they are able to pass horses.
Muth, Prince of Monaco and Timberlake should sit the best tactical trips while getting first run on Locked, who will be coming fast, but may have a bit too much to do late.