Game Winner sweeps Breeders' Cup Juvenile, 2-year-old title

Game Winner sweeps Breeders' Cup Juvenile, 2-year-old title
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

With a grinding, outside run, Game Winner both won Friday's Breeders' Cup Juvenile and cemented a 2-year-old championship with a difficult score at Churchill Downs.

Will he be back looking for more under the Twin Spires on the first Saturday in May?

"He likes Churchill Downs, so that's a good sign," said Bob Baffert, who trains for owners Gary and Mary West. "We've just got to keep him healthy. We've got a few there that we're getting ready. Thank the Lord that this horse came through and everything went well for us today, because these races are hard to win."

Under jockey Joel Rosario, Game Winner didn't take an expected front-running position from the gate. Rather, after settling fifth up the back stretch, the colt made a three-wide bid through the turn and caught longshot Knicks Go for the win.

The final time was 1:43.67 for 1 1/16 miles after the winner, a son of Candy Ride off as the favorite, gave up plenty of ground throughout.

"You talk about a rough trip," quipped Baffert.

Unbeaten in four starts, three of them Grade 1 victories, Game Winner's now the big horse on the 2019 Kentucky Derby trail.

Signalman got up for third at 67-1. Knicks Go, the runner-up, ran valiantly after winning at long odds last out in Keeneland's Breeders' Futurity (G1).

The result was disappointing, however, for Complexity, the race favorite who burned out on the lead setting fractions of 23.24 and 46.87 in his two-turn debut for trainer Chad Brown. That one will cut back in distance moving forward, Brown said.

Throughout, Game Winner was grinding, showing the same running style -- albeit farther back in the pack -- as in his Del Mar Futurity (G1) and American Pharoah Stakes wins.

"He broke fine, but they kind of got away very fast in the beginning," Rosario said. "He has long, cruising speed. I just tried to get him going and to put him in the right spot where he'd like to be."

This week, Baffert was speaking outside his barn at Churchill Downs bearing signage with his five Derby winners' names. He turned to it and suggested Game Winner may one day join them. Derby Dreaming has started.

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