Future Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders will take center stage in the Nov. 6 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Keeneland, a $2 million race that frequently determines the champion 2-year-old male of the season.

A total of 15 talented juveniles have been pre-entered in the 1 1/16-mile event, with a maximum of 14 allowed to start. By far the most accomplished is Jackie’s Warrior, who looks like a star in the making after rattling off victories in the Saratoga Special (G2), Hopeful (G1), and Champagne (G1) on the New York circuit.

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Trained by Steve Asmussen, Jackie’s Warrior is undefeated and unchallenged in four starts. A speedy front-runner with the ability to craft his own racing luck, the son of Maclean’s Music set a stakes record in the Hopeful and clearly ranks as the fastest horse in the Juvenile field. They’ll have to catch him to beat him.
Reinvestment Risk, runner-up in both the Hopeful and Champagne, hasn’t been able to match strides with Jackie’s Warrior so far. But the longer distance and two-turn configuration of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile could potentially change the dynamics, giving Reinvestment Risk an opportunity to close the gap. It wouldn’t be the first time trainer Chad Brown has won the Juvenile with a Champagne runner-up; the four-time champion conditioner turned the trick with future Kentucky Derby runner-up Good Magic in 2017.
California frequently produces some of the best young dirt horses in training, with American Pharoah (G1) runner-up Rombauer leading their Breeders’ Cup charge from an accomplishments perspective. But the biggest threat from the West Coast might be Classier, a stoutly-bred son of Empire Maker sold for $775,000 as a yearling. Trained by Bob Baffert, who has won the Juvenile four times, Classier is slated to run back just two weeks after dominating his debut at Santa Anita by four easy lengths.
The local Kentucky circuit will be strongly represented as well, with undefeated Breeders’ Futurity (G1) winner Essential Quality looming as perhaps the greatest threat to Jackie’s Warrior. Undefeated in two starts for ultra-hot trainer Brad Cox, the Godolphin homebred has won both his starts by a minimum of 3 1/4 lengths and already boasts a Grade 1 win over the track and distance of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
The Kentucky contingent runs deep in both quality and quantity. Keepmeinmind, Calibrate, and King Fury—second, sixth, and eighth in the Breeders’ Futurity—will attempt to turn the tables on Essential Quality in the Breeders’ Cup. King Fury in particular warrants respect after rebounding to claim the Street Sense S. at Churchill Downs with a fast finish from off the pace.

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The powerful stretch-runner Sittin On Go also looks like a serious Breeders’ Cup threat after powering to victory by 2 1/2 lengths in the Iroquois (G3) on the Road to the Kentucky Derby. Recent Keeneland allowances winners Dreamer’s Disease and Next will be joined by sharp maiden winners Camp Hope and Smiley Sobotka to round out the local challengers.
If there’s a wildcard in the Juvenile field, it’s surely Likeable, who ships in from New York after romping to an 8 1/4-length maiden win racing a mile at Belmont Park. Purchased for $350,000 as a yearling, the son of Frosted blends tactical speed with a stamina-oriented pedigree, always a dangerous combination.
Rounding out the pre-entries is Hot Rod Charlie, a gritty maiden winner racing a mile at Santa Anita. The improving colt will need one defection before final entries are drawn in order to gain a spot in the field.
2020 Breeders' Cup Juvenile Contender Information
Horse Trainer Owner Breeder
Calibrate Steve Asmussen Winchell Thoroughbreds Don Alberto Corporation
Camp Hope Kenny McPeek Walking L Thoroughbreds Bret Jones
Classier Bob Baffert SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables,
Golconda Stables, Siene Farm, and Robert E. Masterson
Mary A. Sullivan
Dreamer’s Disease Robertino Diodoro Cypress Creek and Arnold Bennewith Southern Equine Stables
Essential Quality Brad Cox Godolphin Godolphin
Jackie’s Warrior Steve Asmussen J. Kirk and Judy Robison J & J Stables
Keepmeinmind Robertino Diodoro Cypress Creek & Arnold Bennewith Southern Equine Stables
King Fury Kenny McPeek Three Chimneys Farm and Fern Circle Stables Heider Family Stables
Likeable Todd Pletcher Repole Stable, St. Elias Stable, and Stonestreet Stables Stonestreet Thoroughbred Holdings
Next Wesley Ward Silverton Hill Silverton Hill
Reinvestment Risk Chad Brown Klaravich Stables Aschinger Bloodstock Holdings
Rombauer Michael McCarthy John and Diane Fradkin John and Diane Fradkin
Sittin On Go Dale Romans Albaugh Family Stables Wynnstay
Smiley Sobotka Dale Romans Albaugh Family Stables Track West Racing
Hot Rod Charlie Doug O’Neill Roadrunner Racing, Boat Racing, and Strauss Bros Racing Edward A. Cox Jr.

Feature image of Jackie's Warrior by Coglianese Photos/Chelsea Durand