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Oct 27, 2006

Two-year-olds kick-off Breeders' Cup day

By: By Don Agriss - Horse Racing Editor, SPORTS NETWORK

Louisville, KY (Sports Network) - Let's finish our look at the eight Breeders' Cup races by going back to the beginning. The first two events are for two-year-olds.

Obviously it is difficult to handicap races for lightly raced thoroughbreds. Most of the two-year-old horses have between three and five starts in this, their first years of racing.

The Breeders' Cup race, set for 12:30 p.m. (et), is the $2 million Juvenile Fillies at 1 1/16 miles. This will be followed by the Breeders' Cup Juvenile race at the same distance.

Two-year-olds are a work in progress with even stakes winners relying mainly on pure speed. There is plenty of speed in both of these races. We are looking for two-year-olds more mature than the others and closers that will let the leaders burn themselves out.

Of the 14 entrants in the Juvenile Fillies race there is just one with more than five starts. Satulagi from England has nine starts, but will be making her first start on dirt at Churchill Downs.

Satulagi is 20-1 in the morning line and will break from post 11 with her regular rider John Egan. She has two wins and has been in the money five times. It appears Satulagi likes to be on the lead, but has been inconsistent down the stretch.

Avoiding the favorites in the Juvenile Fillies, another 20-1 longshot jumps out of the group.

Sutra, trained by Michael Stidham, will start from post 2 under jockey Mike Luzzi. The filly has three starts with two wins and a second. Her late closing style could be ideal in this race.

"The post is great, because you can't do anything but save ground around the first turn," said Stidham, "And that never hurts. She can let the speed go and get position around the first turn and save ground."

Sometimes when handicapping major races it's best not to over-analyze. Abstract reasons or sentimental judgments are perfectly fine.

A full field of 14 have been entered in the $2 million Juvenile. Historically the winner of this race is the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby. However, no Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner has ever won the Run for the Roses and recently few have started on the first Saturday in May.

Trainer Todd Pletcher has three horses in the Juvenile and 17 in all eight Breeders' Cup races. The two morning line favorites are his, Circular Quay and Scat Daddy.

It is the third choice in the program that looks the pick. Pennsylvania-bred Great Hunter has two wins and four seconds in six starts. He will be ridden by Corey Nakatani from post 7.

"He'll be able to get away in good shape," noted trainer Doug O'Neill, "His tactical speed should let Corey put him in a good place early."

Great Hunter won his last start at Keeneland in the Breeders Futurity. Nakatani has been aboard the colt twice with two runner-up finishes. Great Hunter is 9-2 in the morning line.

Let's hope that who ever wins the Breeders' Cup Juvenile he will be able to go in the Kentucky Derby and remain healthy.

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