Watch the 2019 Breeders’ Cup at Santa Anita live on Sky Sports Racing (Sky 415 | Virgin 535) on Friday 1st and Saturday 2nd November.
By Peter Fornatale
In contrast to the filly's equivalent, the Juvenile Turf has been something of a European benefit since its inception in 2007, with invaders winning eight of the eleven renewals to date.
Given this, it is no surprise at all to see Arizona head the market with all boxes seemingly ticked. He comes out of the Dewhurst - the best European trial for the Juvenile Turf having provided winners in the shape of George Vancouver, Outstrip and, most recently, Mendelssohn – with his second place the best the best form on offer, while he also has the race's winning-most trainer and jockey in his corner. The only apparent negative is the draw, stall 12, which will need to be overcome in order for Arizona to score. It's worth remembering that he made the running last time and was a sprint winner at Royal Ascot, so may have the early speed to overcome his post.
He will only have two runners on his outer, one of whom will be stablemate Fort Myers, another who likes to go forward and is usually quick from the gate. He is a cool horse who wasn't far behind Arizona at Royal Ascot and has held his form really nicely all year, gaining a deserved win in a Listed race at Dundalk last time. He shapes as though ready for a mile and might be an interesting outsider, as his form level compares favourably with most of his opponents.
Surprisingly, O'Brien's pair are the only European-trained runners in this year's Juvenile Turf field. This gives the home team a significant numerical advantage, but their poor overall record in the race means there are few strong, recognised trials run in North America.
The best is probably the Pilgrim, having successfully been used as a prep by Oscar Performance in 2017. This year's field features the 1-2-3 from the Pilgrim in the shape of Structor, Our Country, and Andesite.
Having come out on top that day, Structor looks to have leading claims of giving Chad Brown a first win in the Juvenile Turf. He was a costly purchase at the sales and has already begun replaying his $850k fee with two wins from as many starts. He was pretty impressive in the Pilgrim, as he could never really get in, having to run three-wide around all of the bends. He found plenty when set down for the drive and showed an excellent attitude all the way down the lane, looking far more straight-forward than the two he beat.
Our Country also had a less than perfect trip, held up off what were not breakneck fractions and having to circle the hold field to challenge. It is not surprising that he got a bit tired and hung in behind, but it would have been nice to see him run a bit straighter. He is generally progressive, however, and hasn't had ideal scenarios in his races to date, so may do better in a truly run event.
Runner-up Andesite had the best trip of all, squirrelled away on the inner, but carried his head very awkwardly when asked for his effort, but for which he may have finished a bit closer. It should be noted that Andesite had also finished a place in front of Our Country in the With Anticipation a month earlier.
Structor and Andesite both ran an 82 Beyer in the Pilgrim and they are currently the only two North American-trained runners to break the 80 barrier. The Beyer par for the Juvenile Turf is 87, which suggests the rest of the field need to find a fair degree of improvement.
Closest to the mark so far is the cheaply-bought Graceful Kitten, who is a perfect three from three having annexed a maiden and two minor Stakes races at his home track of Gulfstream Park. His two 79 Beyers are not far off the best of the home contingent but he steps up markedly in class here and also has to ship for the first time; difficult conditions under which to improve his numbers.
Peace Achieved had four of these rivals behind him, including hard-to-fancy reserve Deviant, as his notched a third successive win in the Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland. He had struggled on his first two trips over sprint distances but has improved significantly for going longer and has quickly made up into a smart performer. He and third placed Gear Jockey, who's still a maiden, looked to get racing a bit soon but Peace Achieved had enough about him to give that rival 2lb and a beating.
Splitting the pair was Vitalogy, who looked desperately unlucky not to win. He ended up three-wide at the rear due to a poor draw and had to circle the field to get into challenging position, so it was a strong effort to sustain his run all the way to the line and only just fail. He has a better draw here and this ex-Joseph O'Brien inmate, who ran well in a Group 3 at York on his second start, could have more to come on quick turf.
That said, he showed himself effective on easier going when third in the Grade 1 Summer Stakes at Woodbine on his US debut. He was always struggling for racing room on the occasion but kept on strongly when in the clear to just miss third behind Decorated Invader, who will re-oppose here.
Decorated Invader looks a nice type physically and was better the further he went last time – unlike fourth-placed Proven Strategies, who looks a short-runner at a mile - coming away to win impressively in the end having initially looked as though he had a fight on his hands. He has got better with every run on the numbers and still looked a bit green, so clearly has a fair bit of talent. Despite having won his maiden on firm turf, quick going is perhaps a slight concern concern for this big-looking sort.
This year's Zuma Beach Stakes could be significant, as it was run over the Juvenile Turf course and distance and again features several runners who will meet again on November 1st.
That race looked set to be a close finish with a furlong to run as five runners were in line across the track, but at the line Hit The Road had well and truly stamped his authority on the contest. He had to come around the field to score, so his effort can be upgraded a little, and it was his first run for three months, so he has plenty of scope to improve on the 76 Beyer he ran there. He floated across the turf in that contest and have the home advantage is not to be underestimated, but he has landed the worst berth in stall 14, even allowing for his hold up style. He has looked well in the mornings and could still surprise.
VERDICT: I’m giving the nod to ARIZONA at 5-2 or higher. An interesting longshot to consider for each-way is Vitalogy.