Hansen earned his first graded stakes win in the 2011 Breeders' Cup Juvenile and was an easy winner of that year's Eclipse Award as champion 2-year-old male. (Photo by Eclipse Sportswire)
When the curtain went up on the very first Breeders’ Cup in 1984, it started in a manner befitting all of the expectations.
The seven-race series was envisioned as a stage for the sport’s greatest stars that would decide its most important championships, and that inaugural afternoon at Hollywood Park did not disappoint.
With the exception of the injured John Henry, the year’s best horses put on a tremendous show that started on a highly auspicious note. The first race of the program, the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, not only clinched an Eclipse Award for the victorious Chief’s Crown, it served as a preview of bigger things to come in the following year’s 3-year-old classics.
Spend a Buck, who was third in the Juvenile, went on to win the Kentucky Derby as well as the Jersey Derby and a $2 million bonus tied to it. He was later named 1985 Horse of the Year.
Tank’s Prospect, who was second, won the Preakness.
Chief’s Crown was second in the Preakness, third in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes and later won the Travers and Marlboro Cup.
The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was a race that was akin to a looking glass into the future, but in future years it all turned into a mirage. In the next 28 editions of the Juvenile, none could match the original for producing future stars. The only horse to win the BC Juvenile and the Kentucky Derby was Street Sense in 2006-2007. Since 1996, the 51 horses who have finished 1-2-3 in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have accounted for a mere seven Triple Crown victories – with only one of them coming in the Derby.
Yet as disjointed as the Triple Crown and BC Juvenile have been, the Juvenile has remained as reliable as ever in one regard. Of the 29 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winners, 23 have been named the year’s champion 2-year-old male – including seven of the last eight winners.
This year those numbers should increase as the BC Juvenile seems a cinch to crown a champion.
In a year in which no 2-year-old has separated himself from the pack, the $2 million Juvenile promises to be the line on the résumé that will be most convincing to Eclipse Award voters.
Of the 14 pre-entrants in the Juvenile, none has won more than a single stakes.
Some of them have an impressive enough win to their credit that adding a Breeders’ Cup triumph would turn the year-end vote into a landslide. Champagne winner Havana, FrontRunner victor Bond Hunter, Hopeful winner Strong Mandate and Breeders’ Futurity winner We Miss Artie all fall into that category.
HAVANA (inside) COULD WRAP UP AN ECLISPE AWARD WITH A WIN
Photo courtesy of Eclipse Sportswire
Yet even if the longest shot on the board stages a stunning upset, that one win should make it game, set and match for a title, much like it was in 2003 when Action This Day followed up a maiden win with a 26-to-1 score in the BC Juvenile.
In the subsequent six races in his career, Action This Day never won again. He never finished better than fourth.
Yet as forgettable as he became, Action This Day had one day that could never be taken away from him.
That day in October 2003 when he pulled out an upset in the BC Juvenile made him a champion.
Now, on Nov. 2, someone else will get that same chance - that grand opportunity to win the BC Juvenile and an Eclipse Award in one fell swoop.