ARCADIA, California — Daredevil caught one break when his main rival was withdrawn from the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Saturday at Santa Anita.
He could be in line for another, if rain in the forecast for the drought-stricken Los Angeles area arrives Friday night.
Daredevil's run of good fortune began Tuesday when American Pharoah, the early favorite for the Juvenile, was sidelined with a bruised foot. That defection moved Daredevil, 2-0 in his brief career, into the role of 5-2 favorite in the 1 1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds.
The winner of the Juvenile is traditionally the division champion, and crowned the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby next May.
So far, Daredevil looks the part.
He easily won both races for trainer Todd Pletcher, including a 2 ½-length victory in the Champagne at Belmont Park.
Both victories came on wet tracks. Any additional moisture in the Santa Anita dirt surface would enhance his chances.
"I think he's a horse that does appreciate a sloppy track," Pletcher said.
The Champagne with Javier Castellano aboard set up Daredevil perfectly for this spot in Pletcher's eyes.
"What stood out to me was that Javier took him in hand the last sixteenth of a mile," the trainer said. "They came to the wire with him easing him down a little bit. If he had squeezed him a little more, I don't think he would have bounced out of it as quickly as he has. Hopefully that pays dividends on Saturday."
Pletcher also has another undefeated colt in the Juvenile: Carpe Diem who captured the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland.
Other leading contenders include Upstart, second to Daredevil in the Champagne, and Calculator, second to American Pharoah in both the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita and the Del Mar Futurity.
HOPING FOR A BREAKTHROUGH: Trainer Christophe Clement, 0 for 23 in the Breeders' Cup, sends out a three-horse contingent of Tonalist in the Classic, Irish Mission in the Filly & Mare Turf and Summer Front in the Mile.
Tonalist might be his best hope. The 3-year-old colt is in fine form, having beaten older horses in the Jockey Club Gold Cup most recently at Belmont Park.
Tonalist captured the Belmont Stakes in June, denying California Chrome a sweep of the Triple Crown.
That was a breakthrough dirt win for Clement, known primarily as a grass trainer.
"It would be very, very nice to win my first Breeders' Cup in the same year," Clement said. "It will be tough. He's been a wonderful horse to be around."
Clement has been second five times in the Breeders' Cup, including last year when Za Approval was runner-up to Horse of the Year Wise Dan in the Mile.