People refer to it as a “jinx,” but I'm not sure that's really the case any more. I think it's more of an established pattern.
Since the creation of the Breeders' Cup in 1984, as just about every serious horse racing fan knows, only one horse that's won the Breeders' Cup Juvenile went on to victory the following spring in the Kentucky Derby. That was Street Sense, 10-length winner of the 2006 Juvenile at Churchill Downs and 2 1/4-length Derby winner.
Of the 27 Kentucky Derby winners since 1984, only five of them even competed in the Juvenile: Spend a Buck (third in 1984), Alysheba (third in 1986), Sea Hero (seventh in 1992), Street Sense, and Mine That Bird (12th in 2008).
Of the 27 Juvenile winners from 1984-2010, 14 of them ran in the Kentucky Derby, but only Chief's Crown (third in the 1985 Derby), (Timber Country, third, 1995), and Street Sense finished in the top three.
Where will the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner and 2-year-old male champion Hansen fit on that list? The odds, clearly, are not in his favor to join Street Sense as a Juvenile-Kentucky Derby winner.
Those odds may have gotten even longer after Hansen's return to the races in Sunday's Grade 3 Holy Bull Stakes. The near-white son of Tapit was obviously not fully cranked up for his first start since the Nov. 5 Breeders' Cup, and it didn't help matters that he stumbled coming out of the gate before moving up to take early control of the one-turn mile race.
But Hansen had no response when second choice Algorithms ranged up alongside him at the top of the stretch and then drew away to an authoritative, five-length victory.
Hansen did manage to hold second in the Holy Bull after setting all the fractions, and that is something trainer Mike Maker can look to with encouragement. However, Maker can't be thrilled with the internal fractions of the race: after an opening quarter-mile in :23.64, Hansen went his next quarter in :22.03. That's not going to get it done when he stretches back out around two turns and aims for the mile and a quarter distance of the Kentucky Derby. If he gets there, and it's a big if.
Algorithms, a Bernardini colt owned by the Starlight Racing partnership and trained by Todd Pletcher, is now unbeaten in three starts. As Frank Mitchell pointed out in his latest Lane's End Weekender Pedigree analysis, the Holy Bull winner comes from an exceptional producing mare, Ava Knowsthecode, a daughter of the sound, long-fused Cryptoclearance, who won 12 of 44 starts over a four-year campaign, including eight graded stakes. Cryptoclearance, trained by the late Hall of Famer Scotty Schulhofer, didn't contest the 1986 Breeders' Cup Juvenile but won the G1 Florida Derby the following spring and finished fourth in the Kentucky Derby, third in the Preakness, and second in the Belmont Stakes.
Pletcher unveiled another promising Triple Crown candidate on Sunday's Holy Bull card when El Padrino (by Pulpit) won a two-turn allowance race for his second victory in four starts in very fast time. A cautionary note, however: Sunday's dirt track at Gulfstream Park was sealed due to a rainstorm that hit the area. Some horses loved the track and others didn't. Final times and speed figures, in my opinion, may be dubious.
A trio of 1 1/16-mile races for 3-year-olds is on tap this Saturday in Florida, New York, and California. The War Front colt State of Play, a G2 stakes winner on turf, will be making his dirt debut for the 2011 Kentucky Derby-winning team of Team Valor International and trainer Graham Motion in the G3 Sam F. Davis at Tampa Bay Downs. Alpha, a son of Bernarndini coming off a strong win in the Count Fleet Stakes at Aqueduct, is expected to head the field for the G3 Withers at the same track. G1 Cash Call Futurity Liaison (Indian Charlie) will be the likely favorite in Santa Anita Park's G2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes.
Things will go quiet on the 3-year-old front for a couple of couple of weeks after that until the Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 20.
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