Oct. 30 (UPI) -- The Breeders' Cup World Championships return to Santa Anita on Friday with 2-year-olds featured on the first of two days of racing that will crown early favorites for the 2020 Kentucky Derby and Oaks.
The feature on the five-race Future Champions program is the $2 million TVG Juvenile, a 1 1/16-mile test on the main track that drew an unusually small but exciting field despite the late scratch Maxfield, undefeated winner of the Grade I Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
The scratch left a field of eight youngsters but most of the attention is focused on Dennis' Moment, a son of two-time Breeders' Cup Classic winner Tiznow trained by Louisville-based Dale Romans, and Eight Rings, by Belmont Stakes winner Empire Maker, conditioned locally at Santa Anita by Bob Baffert.
Dennis' Moment and Eight Rings have both started three times and won twice, the former landing the Grade I Iroquois at Churchill Downs Sept. 14 and the latter, the Grade I American Pharoah at Santa Anita Sept. 27. Coincidentally, each also has lost his rider once during a race in traffic tangles shortly after leaving the gate.
Romans, who has never won the Kentucky Derby, and Baffert, who has won the race five times, are friendly rivals and both have confidence in their colts.
"I think these are two superstars in the making, just raw talent," Baffert said in a joint interview with Romans, recorded by multiple Eclipse Award-winning reporter Jennie Rees. "I just hope turning for home that they're right there. That's all a trainer can ask for -- turning for home, you're in the fight and have something to root for."
Romans added: "And may the best horse win. And hopefully we're having this same discussion Belmont Stakes week, if they can go through the winter and be healthy and make it through the Triple Crown run."
Based on their earlier performances, the favorites likely will be found near the early lead heading into the first of two turns.
Of course, anything can happen in a 2-year-old race and, while it's hard to look past the top two, Scabbard has improved steadily through three starts and the More Than Ready colt finished second in the Iroquois. Mike Smith rides Scabbard for the first time.
The Juvenile also has a Japan-based runner, Full Flat. The Kentucky-bred Speightstown colt is a long shot but superstar rider Yutaka Take takes the mount.
The other races on the Friday card:
Like the Juvenile, the $2 million Juvenile Fillies also has a relatively short field and a lot of promising runners. Unlike the Juvenile, there are no hot favorites.
The morning line finds Donna Veloce, an Uncle Mo filly trained by Simon Callaghan, the 3-1 favorite off a single previous start. That one race certainly was impressive -- a 9 1/4-lengths victory at Santa Anita that earned a 91 Beyer Speed Figure. The caution is that it was a one-turn, 6 1/2-furlongs maiden race while the Juvenile Fillies is around two turns at 1 1/16 miles against winners.
After Donna Veloce, the morning line has three fillies at 7-2. Bast, another Uncle Mo filly, won the Grade I Del Mar Debutante and Grade I Chandelier for Baffert. British Idiom, a daughter of Flashback, is 2-for-2 for trainer Brad Cox and won the Grade I Alcibiades at Keeneland Oct. 4. Wicked Whisper, a Liam's Map filly trained by Steve Asmussen, also is 2-for-2 with a win in the Grade I Frizette at Belmont Park Oct. 6.
Lazy Daisy, a Paynter filly who upset the Grade II Pocahontas at Churchill Downs in her last start, is 12-1 on the morning line.
It's tough to draw meaningful conclusions from small samples but Donna Veloce and Wicked Whisper have won after leading most of the way while Bast and British Idiom have won from just off the pace. Donna Veloce drew the rail so jockey Flavien Prat likely will look to take her out quickly.
The other three Breeders' Cup 2-year-old races are on the turf and all feature strong European contenders.
Coolmore America a week ago took the title sponsor role of the $1 million Juvenile Turf and, probably by no coincidence, Coolmore Ireland has the rather solid favorite for the 1-mile turf event. Arizona, a No Nay Never colt, enters the fray off a second-place finish to the highly regarded Pinatubo in the Group 1 Darley Dewhurst Stakes at Newmarket Oct. 12. Ryan Moore will ride for trainer Aidan O'Brien.
Among the better-fancied American runners in the Juvenile Turf are Structor, a Palace Malice colt trained by Chad Brown, winner of the Grade III Pilgrim at Belmont Park in his last outing, and Decorated Invader, a Declaration of War colt from Christophe Clement's barn, winner of the Grade I Summer Stakes at Woodbine in his most recent start.
Should Arizona misfire, however, just about any of the other 13 would have a chance to hit the board.
The $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf also is run at 1 mile and drew a field of 14. The morning line tilts toward Albigna, an Irish-bred Zoffany filly who won the Group 1 Qatar Prix Marcel Boussac on Arc day at Longchamp in Paris. This race, too, seems wide open with graded stakes and group winners from Europe, Canada and across the United States likely to go to the post at relatively long odds.
Noteworthy here is that Moore, O'Brien's go-to rider, will take a leg up on Tango, a No Nay Never filly, while Frankie Dettori is named by O'Brien on Etoile, a daughter of War Front. Neither filly has a convincing record but it's fun to see Moore vs Dettori on Coolmore horses.
The $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint made its debut last year at Churchill Downs and awaits official graded status. The favorites this time around are Four Wheel Drive and Kimari, both American-trained. But A'Ali, with Dettori up, and King Neptune, under Moore, both look like tough competitors.
The festivities continue Saturday with nine more Championship races.