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BC Juvenile Sprint a Potential Stallion-Maker

Earlier this week Breeders' Cup announced a new Juvenile Sprint, thereby expanding its suite of races to 15. The $500,000 race will be run at six furlongs on the dirt and is open to colts, geldings, and fillies. I'll admit my first reaction was "do we really need another Breeders' Cup race?", but considering the race's potential to identify good stallion prospects, I realized that North American breeders were overdue for a championship-level 2-year-old sprint.

Although the Juvenile Sprint will begin ungraded, it will immediately address our lack of options for the best young sprinters. Currently there are only two grade I sprints for 2-year-old colts in North America—the Hopeful and Del Mar Futurity—both at seven furlongs and both on the same weekend. Meanwhile, there's a relative wealth of such races for colts in Europe.

2YO group I sprints in Europe
Race (sex)CountryDist.
Phoenix Stakes (c)Ireland6 f
Prix Morny (c&f)France6 f
Middle Park Stakes (c)England6 f
National Stakes (c&f)Ireland7 f
Grand Criterium (2001-present) (c&f)France7 f
Prix de la Salamandre (to 2000) (c&f)France7 f
Dewhurst Stakes (c&f)England7 f

Below are selected winners of these races who went on to become top sires. Notice that despite their sprint wins at 2, all of these stallions were able to sire good runners at a wide range of distances.

Notable Euro 2YO group I sprint-winning sires, last 25 years
YearWinnerRace
2004Shamardal (TrueNicks,SRO)Dewhurst
2004Dubawi (IRE) (TrueNicks,SRO)National
2002Oasis DreamMiddle Park
2001JohannesburgPhoenix, Prix Morny, Middle Park
2001Rock of GibraltarGrand Criterium, Dewhurst
1999Giant's Causeway (TrueNicks,SRO)Salamandre
1995Danehill DancerPhoenix, National
1993Grand LodgeDewhurst
1992ZafonicPrix Morny, Salamandre, Dewhurst
1991El PradoNational
1989MachiavellianPrix Morny, Salamandre

Juvenile sprints play an important role in Australia as well. The glamour event is the Golden Slipper (gr. I), a six-furlong race for colts and fillies. This year it was worth A$3.5 million, making the Slipper the world's richest race for juveniles. Fillies get a 2-kg weight break, and 10 have won it in the past 20 runnings. Considering that top fillies occupy the winning position about half the time, it's an impressive list of Slipper-winning sires. Also note that top sires Redoute's Choice (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO) and Bel Esprit (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO) won the six-furlong Blue Diamond (gr. I), Melbourne's key 2-year-old race held a month before the Golden Slipper.

Notable Golden Slipper-winning sires, last 25 years
YearWinner
2005Stratum (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO)
1995Flying Spur (AUS) (TrueNicks,SRO)
1994Danzero
1990Canny Lad
1988Star Watch
1987Marauding

The Golden Slipper is run in early April, corresponding with early September on the Northern Hemisphere calendar, so you might draw some parallel to our first grade I for 2-year-olds, the seven-furlong Hopeful Stakes (gr. I) held in early September at Saratoga. Key differences are the Hopeful's current $250,000 purse (one-fifteenth the value of the Slipper), and it almost never sees a filly (the grade I filly equivalent, the Spinaway, is held on the same weekend). An important similarity is sire production.

Notable Hopeful-winning sires, last 25 years
YearWinner
2004Afleet Alex (TrueNicks,SRO)
2002Sky Mesa (TrueNicks,SRO)
2000City Zip (TrueNicks,SRO)
1996Smoke Glacken (TrueNicks,SRO)
1995Hennessy
1993Dehere (TrueNicks,SRO)
1989Summer Squall
1986Gulch

Compare this group to the best Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I)-winning sires over the same period—a nice list with a couple standouts, but perhaps lacking the total sire power of the Hopeful.

Notable BC Juvenile-winning sires, last 25 years
YearWinner
2001Johannesburg
2000Macho Uno (TrueNicks,SRO)
1995Unbridled's Song (TrueNicks,SRO)
1992Gilded Time
1986Capote

Theoretically, the 8.5-furlong Juvenile is supposed to determine the champion 2-year-old and therefore the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby and 3-year-old classics. For that reason its place will always be secure. But if a 2-year-old sprint can be a more consistent barometer of future sire success, then the Juvenile Sprint is a welcome addition to the Breeders' Cup. It's certainly a race I'm looking forward to.

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