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Breeders' Cup 2017

2012 BC Juvenile: Sweet Home California

Vale of York

In no way is this is a promissory note or tip from the backside but the numbers don’t lie, so it may be wise to take this information into consideration. California Horses tend to race better when they remain grounded inside the luxurious confines of Southern California. When you think about it, there can be a lot of reasonable arguments as to why this may be. We could go on and on about why certain elements play a big in role in that logic but that will be left out for now. As for the two-year-olds, what we will discuss is that California runners have great odds of finding the winners circle when the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile is hosted in California.

The Numbers
  • Breeders’ Cup’s in California since the inaugural in 1984: 8
  • Of the 8 - Juveniles won by a horse whose last race was in CA: 6 (75%)
  • Breeders’ Cup’s Hosted by Santa Anita: 5
  • Of the 5 - Juveniles won by a horse whose last race was at SA: 4 (80%)
Now let’s dig a little deeper and break these numbers down. Let’s start by rewinding back to the very first Breeders’ Cup in 1984. Of course this age in racing has long since passed but is not always forgotten. Back then horses ran a much more aggressive schedule and often notched between 3 to 4 races in only a four week period. In 1984 the eventual Juvenile Champion didn’t start his career in California but he eventually migrated west.
Chief’s Crown’s career rocketed when he scored back to back wins in the two prestigious stakes for Juvenile’s at Saratoga – G2 Saratoga Special & G1 Hopeful. From there he was off to Belmont for a 2nd place finish in the G1 Futurity followed by another win in the G1 Cowdin. Since the inaugural Breeders’ Cup was being held at Hollywood Park his connections, Star Crown Stable and Trainer Roger Laurin, decided on a final prep out west, the G1 Norfolk Stakes at Santa Anita.
After scoring there, Chief’s Crown would return just 21 days later at Hollywood to win the very first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile along with Canadian Jockey and Horse Racing Hall of Famer Don MacBeth. And so the trend began.
Two years later the Juvenile returned to California but it was Santa Anita that was honored as the host for the 1986 Breeders’ Cup. Unlike Chief’s Crown the eventual winner was nothing but a California kid.
Bred in KY by Seattle Slew – Too Bald, Capote was under the tutelage of a rising star trainer named D. Wayne Lukas and began his racing career at Del Mar. In his second career start his first win was reached and a streak began. From there Capote reeled it in at the Norfolk before he fired back to claim the Juvenile making it 3 wins in 3 starts at Santa Anita. For the second time in as many attempts the Norfolk winner in California became the Juvenile Champion in California.
The following year was a combination of 1984 and 1986. The similarities to ’84 were that for the second time, Hollywood Park would be the Breeders’ Cup host and again it was an East Coast horse that would travel west for the Norfolk before moving over to Hollywood to win the Juvenile.
The big similarity to ’86 is that the winner, Success Express, was also trained by D. Wayne Lukas. This time D. Wayne had his colt on the move. Success Express began his career in August at Saratoga before making the G1 Hopeful his graded stakes debut (3rd).  After that he found his rhythm and scored back to back graded wins (Canterbury Juvenile – Sport of Kings Futurity) before heading west for his final prep.
This is where the big difference between ’87 vs. ’84 & ’86 occurred but one thing remained the same. Although Success Express wasn’t game enough to win the Norfolk (4th) he still had enough to come roaring back and steal the Juvenile. The accomplishment proved that a Norfolk win was not a crucial factor for a Juvenile victory but that racing in California immediately before was.  
By the end of the ’87 Breeders’ Cup it was time for the East Coast to become a bigger player. Over the next 5 years it would bounce between Churchill Downs, Gulfstream Park and Belmont before eventually coming back to Santa Anita in 1993 for the 10th Breeders’ Cup.
Now this is where things got even more interesting. In the previous 9 years the eventual Juvenile Champion came into the Breeders’ Cup directly from a Graded Stakes. But as we’ve seen over the years the Juvenile age is always so interesting because you just never know when to expect the unexpected. What else is so appealing is that this story was very Hollywood.
Brocco - Does this name sound familiar? If you’re not picking up on it the horse’s name was short for his owner’s last name, Albert R. Broccoli - producer of the legendary James Bond films. After purchasing the Florida bred colt by Kris S and Anytime Ms he was brought back to California where his racing career began.
After a win in his debut at Del Mar, Brocco hopped over to Santa Anita for an Allowance race 5 weeks later. Following a dominating performance with Gary Stevens in the irons trainer Randy Winick had seen enough and sent him straight to the Juvenile, his first ever Graded Stakes and only his 3rd career race. And that was that because he stormed home to win and California remained a trendy place to be racing before a Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita.
In 2003, the fickleness of 2-yr-olds lit the tote board up in the Juvenile. This time it was not only a non-graded stakes winner that stole the show but a horse that had only two Maiden races on his chart. But that was all that Action this Day and David Flores needed as they won the Juvenile going away. The kicker was the payout: $55.60 - $19.20- $11.00. A long shot winner indeed but he was also just another California kid that had a nose for the Santa Anita dirt.
Now it’s on to 2008, the first year that Santa Anita would host with its new All Weather Track in place of the traditional dirt. You didn’t think we would go through a California trend without mentioning Bob Baffert did you? No way. In his barn was the highly regarded Midshipman, winner of two out of three races coming in – MSW and Del Futurity. His only loss was a close 2nd to Street Hero in the Norfolk but the next time they met was when Midshipman settled the score and California won again.
Does this prove that racing in California immediately prior to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in California is a decision that pays off? Again, if you add them up it’s happened six out of eight times and when both races were at Santa Anita it’s happened four out of five times.
What’s fascinating is that if you look back at the two years that this trend didn’t hold true, a California horse still finished in the money. In 1997 Favorite Trick foiled the fad for the very first time. He raced in the Bluegrass State and at Saratoga before shipping west to keep his undefeated streak alive. There were three horses that raced in California prior including Nationalore who finished 3rd.
Then there was a close finish in 2009, the most recent Breeders’ Cup on the West Coast and the last that would feature an All Weather Track at Santa Anita. In a thrilling stretch duel the European Vale of York (IRE) held off Lookin’ at Lucky at the wire by a head. Lookin at Lucky had already raced and won on the synthetics so that was not a factor. A late bump on the other hand may have cost him. But even though he missed the California play was still a smart one.
The Golden State has produced nothing less for horses that prepped there prior to entering the Juvenile there. Based on these numbers it would be wise to keep an eye on the Norfolk Stakes next weekend (9/29) and not rule out any California Maiden or Allowance winners that will be making the Juvenile their very first Graded Stakes. Things are heating up as the Juvenile approaches and we begin to analyze who will be the odds on favorite for becoming the next California Star. Stay tuned. 


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Older Comments about 2012 BC Juvenile: Sweet Home California...

Anita favors the front end. always has when it is dirt beneath their hooves.
Is that what is known as a West Coast Bias? LOL!
The California tracks are different from the deeper eastern tracks and the weather in the fall is also different. I don't understand why more trainers don't follow Roger Laurins example and ship their horse out for a final prep race in California.
The Ca
I have to agree with you, Brian. Most 2-YOs generally aren't well traveled, so those with the home track advantage, whether it be California or somewhere else, will tend to do better.
I've always thought that the biggest home field advantage happens when the BC is in California, and that is even more true for the two-year-olds.

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