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Breeders' Juvenile: Derby preview

By Compiled from Times wires

© St. Petersburg Times, published November 3, 2000


LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- The first Saturday in May will be on the minds of at least two trainers when their 2-year-old colts race at Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in November.

"The Kentucky Derby winner is in this field," said trainer Bob Baffert, who would like to win a third Derby with Flame Thrower, Arabian Light or Point Given, his three starters in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

Asked if he also thought the Derby winner was in the field, Nick Zito, said: "Oh, yea, I would say so. It looks like an easy bet."

Zito, who also has won the Derby twice, will saddle A P Valentine for the 14-horse Juvenile.

A Juvenile winner never won the Derby.

"If I win, I will face the jinx bravely," Baffert quipped.

Thirteen starters in previous Juveniles, however, have won a total of 15 Triple Crown races. Three were Derby winners -- Spend a Buck (1984), Alysheba (1986) and Sea Hero (1992).

The $1.07-million Juvenile is one of eight Breeders' Cup races worth a total of $15.2-million. The headline race is the $4.77-million Classic, in which Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus will make the last start of his career.

The leading contenders in the 1 1/16-mile Juvenile are Baffert's trio, A P Valentine and Street Cry.

Flame Thrower has won all four of his starts, including the Best Pal at Del Mar, the Del Mar Futurity and the Norfolk at Santa Anita. He is a slight favorite in the early line but drew the No. 12 post.

The colt has led most of the way in each of his starts, a tendency that could hurt him Saturday because of his post position.

"Flame Thrower just goes toe-to-toe with you, but maybe he doesn't have to have the lead," Baffert said. "I'll leave that up to the rider (Victor Espinoza)."

Arabian Light, who will start from the No. 10 post under Shane Sellers, won the Breeders' Futurity at the Juvenile distance on Oct. 8 at Keeneland for his third victory in four starts.

After breaking his maiden in his second start, Point Given won the Kentucky Cup Juvenile at Turfway Park, then finished second, 13/4 lengths behind A P Valentine, in the 1 1/16-mile Champagne Oct. 14 at Belmont Park.

"He's big and rangy and he's just learning how to race," Baffert said of Point Given, who will be ridden from the rail by Gary Stevens.

A P Valentine, who drew the No. 6 slot and will be ridden by Jorge Chavez, won the Champagne after finishing third and first in two maiden races.

"He's doing things unusual for a young horse," Zito said of the colt, who didn't get to the race until September.

Breeding rights to A P Valentine were sold this week for $15-million to Ireland-based Coolmore, but he will continue to be trained by Zito and to race through next year in the colors of Celtic Pride Stable, managed by Rick Pitino, coach of the NBA's Boston Celtics.

Street Cry, trained by Eoin Harty was beaten a head and neck, respectively, by Flame Thrower in the Del Mar Futurity and the Norfolk. He'll start in the No. 9 post.

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