A day of Breeders’ Cup racing designed to highlight horse racing’s future stars might ultimately bring a familiar face back to Churchill Downs six months from now.
A couple of races before Bob Baffert won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with undefeated favorite Game Winner, another trainer with Kentucky Derby and Kentucky Oaks victories on his resume was in the winner’s circle.
John Servis, who trained Derby champ Smarty Jones in 2004 and won the Oaks with Cathryn Sophia in 2016, took the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies with the impressive Jaywalk on Friday.
Servis hadn’t had a Breeders’ Cup starter in 18 years when he sent Jaywalk to the starting gate at 5-1 odds. She set the pace early, led the field all the way around the track, and drew away in the stretch for a dominant, 5½-length victory.
Jaywalk was coming off three straight wins, two of which came in the same front-running style.
“I was looking for a big effort from her, but I didn’t expect her to go to the lead again,” Servis said. “But, Joel (Rosario) said when she left the gate, he knew right then she had running on her mind. And he just took it from there.”
Rosario, who also won the Juvenile aboard Game Winner, gave all credit to Jaywalk.
“She broke really sharp and wanted one thing — she wanted to go,” he said. “So I dropped my hands and let her be happy and let her do it the rest of the way.”
She could bring Servis back to Churchill Downs in May for another run at the Kentucky Oaks.
“That’s a long way off, but that would be nice, yes,” he said.
Change of plans
Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey was set to have his first Breeders’ Cup Juvenile starter in 17 years Friday, but Code of Honor was scratched the morning of the race due to a slight fever.
“He has a temperature,” McGaughey said. “He left a little of his morning feed and we took his temperature and it was 103. He’ll be fine.”
Code of Honor was the third choice at 5-1 on the morning line. He stumbled badly at the start of the Grade 1 Champagne Stakes four weeks ago but still rallied to finish second.
The Grade 1 Remsen Stakes at Aqueduct on Dec. 1 was mentioned as a possibility for Code of Honor. Breeders’ Cup Classic contender Catholic Boy won the Remsen last year.
A future star?
The opening day of Breeders’ Cup was referred to as “Future Stars Friday” — a nod to all the 2-year-old races on the card — and Bob Baffert might have had yet another future Kentucky Derby contender emerge from the undercard.
Improbable — a colt sired by City Zip with A.P. Indy as the damsire — took over the $100,000 Street Sense Stakes at the top of the stretch under jockey Drayden Van Dyke and ran away from the rest of the field, winning the 1-mile race by 7¼ lengths. It was just the second career start for Improbable, who won his only other previous start: a 6-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita on Sept. 29.
Polydream, the 5-1 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Breeders’ Cup Mile, was scratched after taking a couple of laps around the Churchill Downs track Friday morning. Polydream is trained by five-time Breeders’ Cup winner Freddie Head, who took issue with a veterinarian’s decision to scratch his filly, who arrived from France on Friday night. The examining veterinarian decided Polydream was unfit to race after watching her on the Churchill track.
“It’s a disgrace,” Head told the Daily Racing Form. “You think I’m taking a horse to America that’s not ready to run?”
Head, who trained Goldikova to three victories in the Breeders’ Cup Mile, told DRF that Polydream “trots in an awkward way because she has offset knees.”
A Breeders’ Cup first
The first race of the 2018 Breeders’ Cup was also the first running of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint, which was won by Bulletin, who had only one start going into Friday.
The 2-year-old son of City Zip became the first to win a Breeders’ Cup race with just one previous start in the 35-year history of the championship event.
The announced attendance was 42,249, the largest attendance in three Breeders’ Cup Friday cards since the event moved to two days in 2007. Churchill Downs drew 41,614 fans for the Friday card in 2010 and 40,677 in 2011.
Santa Anita still holds the record for Breeders’ Cup Friday attendance at 45,673 two years ago. The Friday record previously belonged to Keeneland, which drew 44,497 racegoers in 2015.
Breeders’ Cup winners
Juvenile Turf Sprint — Bulletin
Juvenile Fillies Turf — Newspaperofrecord
Juvenile Fillies — Jaywalk
Juvenile Turf — Line of Duty
Juvenile — Game Winner