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Blog - GAMBLING

Havana made his mark on the 2-year-old division when he beat Honor Code in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont (Photos courtesy of NYRA).

History can be an important handicapping tool.

Once something happens, well, there’s a pretty good chance it can happen again under similar circumstances.

Understanding how the past can help explain the future looms the key factor in analyzing the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race with overtones of the 2010 edition of the Grade 1 stakes.

Back then, it was the Todd Pletcher-trained Uncle Mo who won his maiden race in dazzling style at Saratoga, then captured the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park before winning the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and clinching the 2-year-old championship.

Now comes Uncle Mo Light, or Havana.

Also trained by Pletcher, Havana is following in the footsteps made famous by Uncle Mo.

He, too, was an impressive maiden winner at Saratoga. Then he won the Champagne.

Now comes the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita on Nov. 2, and like Uncle Mo was three years ago, he looks very much like the horse to beat.

Havana did not win his first two starts as decisively as Uncle Mo. While “Mo” won his debut by 14 ¼ lengths, Havana won by a more modest 2 ¾ lengths. His margin in the Champagne was a diminishing neck, unlike the 4 ¾ lengths that separated Uncle Mo from his nearest rival in the Grade 1 stakes.

Yet in a year marked by slow, mediocre efforts in most of the well-known 2-year-old stakes, Havana seems speedy enough to grab the early lead in the mile and a sixteenth Juvenile and never look back – especially since the only two horses within eight lengths of him in the Champagne, Honor Code and Ride On Curlin, skipped the Juvenile.

Without those two on hand, Havana’s most dangerous rival should be Strong Mandate. A dull seventh in the Champagne, 10 ¼ lengths behind Havana, Strong Mandate previously won the Grade 1 Hopeful by 9 ¾ lengths. If the Champagne was simply a bad day, the Strong Mandate that won the Hopeful will be a highly formidable foe in the final furlongs.

STRONG MANDATE AFTER WINNING THE HOPEFUL STAKES

Strong Mandate Inside

The field also includes a pair of Grade 1 winners in FrontRunner victor Bond Holder, from the same connections who gave us 2012 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another, and Breeders’ Futurity winner We Miss Artie. But neither of them registered a particularly fast final time in their stakes wins, raising questions about their ability to outrun a horse as talented as Havana.

In their place, two recent maiden winners might be ready for prime time exposure – or figure in the exotics.

Tap It Rich won his Oct. 12 debut for trainer Bob Baffert by 4 ¼ lengths in a quick 1:36 3/5 for a mile at Santa Anita. If he can move forward off that effort even slightly, he will be a major threat.

Mexikoma started his career with a seventh-place finish on the turf at Saratoga at 32-1 odds. Switched to the dirt at Delaware Park, made a complete turnaround, winning by 14 ¼ lengths in a two-turn mile.

Since then he was sold to Team Valor International and transferred from the barn of owner/trainer Michael Dilger, a former Pletcher assistant, to Richard Mettee.

He, too, could be a factor with continued improvement, but it won’t be easy.

To win the Juvenile, he’ll have to buck history.

Ehalt’s selections

1. Havana

2. Strong Mandate

3. Tap It Rich

4. Mexikoma

$2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Saturday, Race 8, 5:43 p.m. ET

2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles (dirt)

PP

Horse

Jockey

Trainer

1

Smarty's Echo

E.T. Baird

Anne Smith

2

Dance With Fate

Rafael Bejarano

Peter Eurton

3

Mexikoma

Alan Garcia

Richard Mettee

4

New Year’s Day

Martin Garcia

Bob Baffert

5

Bond Holder

Mario Gutierrez

Doug O’Neill

6

Tap It Rich

Mike Smith

Bob Baffert

7

Cleburne

Corey Nakatani

Dale Romans

8

Conquest Titan

Eurico Da Silva

Mark Casse

9

Rum Point

Edwin Maldonado

Doug O’Neill

10

We Miss Artie

Javier Castellano

Todd Pletcher

11

Medal Count

Robby Albarado

Dale Romans

12

Diamond Bachelor

Julien Leparoux

Patrick Biancone

13

Havana

John Velazquez

Todd Pletcher

14

Strong Mandate

Joel Rosario

D. Wayne Lukas

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

Image Description

Bob Ehalt

Bob Ehalt has been an avid fan of Thoroughbred racing since that day in June of 1971 when he and his father walked from their Queens Village, N.Y., home to Belmont Park to see Canonero II fall short in his bid for the Triple Crown. A veteran sports writer and correspondent for Thoroughbred Times magazine, Bob has covered horse racing for more than 20 years and has won three awards in the Associated Press Sports Editors national writing contest for his coverage of the sport.

Now working at the New Haven Register in Connecticut, Bob has also owned Thoroughbreds since 1995 and was a member of the syndicate that raced Tale of the Cat. He also writes a racing blog for ESPNNewYork.com and is the co-founder of the New York Hot List handicapping service, which is offered at InterBets.com.

His NTRA.com blog received first-place honors in the 2008-09 Breeders' Cup Media Awards, winning in the initial year of competition in the Social Media category.  You can follow him on Twitter at @BobEhalt

 

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