Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Doesn’t Guarantee Kentucky Derby Success

Posted on: Sep 25, 2014

The Breeder’s Cup Juvenile is a race that is supposed to determine the top rising three year old. Winners of that race may get the hype but they haven’t fared very well in the Kentucky Derby the following year.

Horse racing is full of perceptions and superstitions that aren’t validated by reality. One of these involves the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race for the best two year old horses in the country. The BC Juvenile winner almost immediately becomes the presumptive Kentucky Derby betting favorite heading in to the start of his three year old season and will get a ton of media coverage as a result.

Unfortunately, perception doesn’t equal reality in this instance. The reality is that the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile has a very poor record of success in the Kentucky Derby. As of the 2013 race won by New Year’s Day there have been 29 winners of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Only one has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby as a three year old the following year (Street Sense won the BC Juvenile in 2006 and the Kentucky Derby in 2007).

That’s not the only metric by which the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile doesn’t exactly ‘live up to the hype’. Including Street Sense only two Kentucky Derby winners finished ‘in the money’ at the previous year’s Breeders Cup Juvenile (Alysheba and Spend A Buck). Between Alysheba’s victory in 1987 and Street Sense’s win in 2007 horses that finished first, second or third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile went 0 for 19 in the Kentucky Derby. In fact, only 5 other top three horses from the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile have as much as placed at the Kentucky Derby. That means that roughly 90% of the horses that finish in the top three at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile don’t even hit the board in the Kentucky Derby the following year. And if you’re looking for a Kentucky Derby *winner* among the BC Juvenile money horses you might as well be playing the lottery. That translates to roughly 3.5% of horses finishing in the money at the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile going on to win the Kentucky Derby the following year.