Gary and Mary West’s champion Game Winner captured the 2018 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs to cap a perfect two-year-old season. The son of Candy Ride defeated a dozen foes in finishing off a four-for-four campaign for conditioner Bob Baffert. And surprisingly, the colt was the lone horse in the field to make a start in the 2019 Kentucky Derby (G1).
The cast that went postward in the 2018 Juvenile was not the deepest that we have seen, and it would be shocking if that scenario played out again with this particular group of well-meant two-year-olds. Three of the main protagonists for the 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) give the impression of youngsters with especially bright futures ahead of them, and a few others could develop into top sophomores with an eye on Louisville for the first Saturday in May, too.
Eight Rings has displayed brilliance for Kentucky Derby savant Bob Baffert. The expensive son of Empire Maker is bred to handle a route of ground, and he looked the part in his route debut when winning the American Pharoah (G1) by six widening lengths. Eight Rings figures to be a prominent name on the Triple Crown Trail in 2020.
The same can be said for the precocious Dennis’ Moment, who was a geared-down winner of the Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs. Trained by Dale Romans, the Tiznow colt has stamina influences on both sides of his pedigree page and is a proven commodity over the Churchill Downs surface.
The mighty Godolphin stable is still in search of an elusive Kentucky Derby win and has a fine early prospect in Breeders’ Futurity (G1) romper Maxfield. The homebred has closed from well back to take both of his starts to date, and he is cut out to handle the 1 1/4-mile journey. He, too, already owns a win beneath the Twin Spires.
American Theorem, who is from the first crop of runners by Triple Crown hero American Pharoah, could evolve into a serious sophomore with more seasoning. The gray was a clear second behind Eight Rings in his second lifetime showing, and he receives stamina from through his sire.
Champagne (G1) third Big City Bob might be a few lengths behind the top runners in the field this season, but the dark bay colt should have no trouble with added distance going forward. By champion Shanghai Bobby, the $140,000 purchase is from the same female line as 1994 Kentucky Oaks (G1) heroine Sardula as well as the fantastic Imperial Gesture.
The path to Kentucky Derby glory has not gone through the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile in recent seasons. Nyquist, who won the 2016 Run for the Roses, is the lone Kentucky Derby winner in the past decade to have raced in the Juvenile in the previous year.
However, the last four Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners did go on to run well in the Kentucky Derby the following campaign. And I think that trend will continue with this fine group.