While Mike “Saratoga Slim” Spector and Curtis “Magic” Kalleward have a healthy respect for each other as writers and handicappers, that all goes out the window when it comes to their coastal biases. In the weeks leading up to the 2018 Breeders’ Cup, these two will debate which coast is better depending on the division.
Slim represents the east coast and Magic represents the west coast, so they’ll dive into all of the big Breeder’s Cup races over the next few weeks to help you get ready and show how biased they really are towards their favorite local horses.
Today, they debate the Sentient Jet Juvenile division.
Why the East is Beast
Slim: I’m going to make this real simple for you. It ain’t complex. Or maybe it is? Complexity is going to win the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile.
Chad Brown, not only the best trainer on the east coast, but in the whole country based on the Eclipse Award voting the past two years, now has a formula to win the Juvenile. It’s simple: One start at the end of the Saratoga meet, then a start in the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes. Voila! It’s magic! BC Juvenile winner!
Brown pulled the trick last year with Good Magic, who was just a maiden when he entered the BC gate! This time around, Brown’s colt Complexity has won his two lifetime starts by a combined 7 1/2 lengths. The son of Maclean’s Music absolutely ran the Champagne field off its feet, setting a swift pace going 1/4, 1/2, and 3/4-mile fractions of :22.51, :45.31, and 1:09.40. He never looked back while under the best front-end rider in the game, Eclipse winner Jose Ortiz. With many of his regular mounts running at Keeneland last Saturday, it was somewhat peculiar that Ortiz stayed at Belmont, but once Complexity started romping in the stretch, it became apparent that he was keeping the mount on this future star at all costs.
Now, many may question that Complexity has yet to go two turns, and he will need to do so while stretching out an extra 1/16 of a mile at Churchill Downs in the BC Juvenile. Another major question is if he can rate. Brown said in a post-race interview that Complexity has been able to run behind a target working out in the mornings, so even if he doesn’t get the lead under the Twin Spires, he should be able to relax and show that versatility. If front-runners like the Grade 3 Iroquois runner-up Tight Ten or the Grade 1 Breeder’s Futurity winner Knicks Go want to go to the lead in the BC Juvenile, then Complexity should be able to set up shop off the pace. Complexity’s the best on the east coast and will be tough in Friday’s marquee race.
Why the West is Best
Magic: The SoCal juvenile male division is so loaded that, despite missing the country’s indisuptable top dog (Instagrand), I’m still confident that we will see a west coast-based runner in the BC Juvenile winner’s circle. I’m looking at you, Game Winner.
Trainer Bob Baffert is notorious for putting his horses through a strict training regimen, which is why he’s had so much success at the highest level, and Game Winner is the latest to prove his mettle. The son of Candy Ride is undefeated in three starts, including the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity and the Grade 1 American Pharoah (formerly the FrontRunner), and defeated well-regarded horses in the process, including Dueling, Gunmetal Gray, Rowayton (twice), and Roadster. Just as impressive as his record, though, is how he got there.
Game Winner debuted at Del Mar against Dueling, the 4/5 favorite, and ran four-wide in the far turn before drawing off in the stretch to win by 5 3/4 lengths. Baffert has never been one to flip horses around quickly, yet he felt confident enough to bring Game Winner back 15 days later in the Futurity against Roadster, his stablemate and the 3/5 favorite. After getting bumped early, Game Winner was 5 lengths off of a loose-on-the-lead Rowayton and was once again forced to run along the outside in the far turn, yet he rallied strongly in the stretch to win by 1 1/2 lengths. Making his two-turn debut in the American Pharoah at Santa Anita just 26 days later, Game Winner showed that he was not just a one-turn or Del Mar specialist. This time, he sat just off the outside of Rowayton’s early pace before taking over in the far turn and winning easily by 4 1/2 lengths.
Finally, you know as well as I do that luck sometimes plays a factor, and Game Winner’s got the Baffert lucky charm on his side: Eduardo “Lalo” Luna, his groom, provided those same duties to both Triple Crown champions during their careers.
Instagrand’s star power might be missed in the BC Juvenile, but you won’t want to miss out on betting the future winner and 2-Year-Old Champion.
Duke it Out
Slim: Yeah, yeah, yeah, Game Winner is a two-time Grade 1 winner, but he beat four other horses in the American Pharoah and five other rivals in the Del Mar Futurity. He actually beat Rowayton and Sigalert both times in those races, so he’s really only beat seven different horses in his last two races. Complexity beat nine horses alone in the Champagne, including the Grade 2 Saratoga Special winner Call Paul, who won his debut over the eventual Grade 1 Hopeful winner Mind Control. Therefore, Complexity has back class built into his past performances, unlike Game Winner.
Game Winner has one of the greatest, if not the greatest, trainers of our generation prepping him, but he wasn’t even originally Baffert’s top juvenile prospect. Baffert was higher on Roadster at the beginning of the summer, and now he has a slew of juvenile prospects in his barn, including Improbable, Tale of the Union, Magic on Tap, and Much Better. Game Winner may not be even the best juvenile in his own barn, let alone in the country! Plus, Baffert hasn’t won this race since 2013! Come on, Bob! That’s a drought for you!
Magic: Game Winner has faced and overcome much more adversity in his short career. He’s been bumped, forced to run wide, and had to chase down a loose runner in the stretch off of just two weeks’ rest, yet nothing fazes him. Like you said, Slim, he wasn’t even supposed to be the best juvenile in Baffert’s barn – the honor of occupying the primo stall previously held by American Pharoah and Justify went to Roadster. As much as I love Magic on Tap (for obvious reasons), there’s a reason why none of the stablemates you mentioned joined him in that “Win and You’re In” start. Baffert knows who’s his best right now, and that’s the one he’s riding to end his drought.
Let’s talk about your pick, because I have concerns with his pedigree. When’s the last time a Maclean’s Music offspring was consistently good going two turns? Don’t bother bringing up Cloud Computing; he got lucky once against what we now know was a weak field, and he has since spent more time watching horses jog across the Oklahoma training track than you do. Maclean’s Music has a penchant for producing sprinters or milers, which explains Complexity’s two impressive career wins – both at one turn. You should peel your lips off of your Chad Brown bobblehead long enough to rewatch the Champagne because the most impressive horse in that race was actually Code of Honor. After being forced to completely stop right out of the gate, he rallied strongly from last and was the only one making up ground on Complexity in the stretch. That was either a sign of strength for Code of Honor or a sign of distance weakness for Complexity; either way, it doesn’t mean good news for your boy.
On the flip side, Game Winner’s lineage screams distance. Candy Ride took home the 1 1/4-mile Grade 1 Pacific Classic in 2013, and his unraced dam was by the legendary distance runner A. P. Indy. And while there’s a big question mark about Complexity’s ability to handle two turns, Game Winner answered that soundly in the American Pharoah.
Slim: Even though you spend way too much time playing video games, you make some good points, Magic, and when it comes to putting my money down, I won’t get beat by Baffert on BC Friday. I’ll be playing Game Winner defensively in multi-race wagers, but I won’t be playing him to win or as part of my in-race wagers if he’s the short-priced favorite. It’s still early, but I may be looking to key Complexity with some closers like the other possible Brown entry, Standard Deviation, and Code of Honor (based on Magic’s analysis) in exactas and trifectas in order to get some value. Standard Deviation was collared with the far outside 14 post in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity and fanned seven-wide into the stretch, but he showed good energy to get third, missing second by 3/4 of a length. If you really have an east coast bias like me, then there’s no better way to show it by playing the Chad Brown exacta of Complexity and Standard Deviation! As an added bonus, they’re both owned by the Saratoga meet’s leading owner, Klaravich Stables!
Magic: Both horses showed that they were much the best in their respective preps, and I have been known in the past to bet a horse strictly based on having Brown-Ortiz-Klaravich connections. Their showdown should be exciting, and I won’t be shocked to see a Brownie defend his master’s title, but I see the BC Juvenile ending differently. I expect Complexity to be just off of the early lead, but Game Winner will be within range enough that he can grind Complexity down in that long Churchill Downs stretch and win by 2-3 lengths. I’ll play him to win and end ol’ Bobo’s dry spell.
What’s your opinion? Let us know in the comments below and/or on Twitter: @SaratogaSlim, @CurtisKalleward, and @racing_dudes! Be sure to check back daily for more debates and the latest Breeders’ Cup news as we approach the year-end championships.