Obvious statement is obvious but, the more Jason Loutsch saw of Brad Cox’s Eclipse Award-winning program, the more the racing manager of Albaugh Family Stables wondered how his operation’s color bearers would fit into that mix.
Since they often run on the same circuit – Oaklawn, Churchill, Ellis Park – Loutsch has gotten an up-close view of Cox’s deft hand when it comes to developing talent. So when Loutsch and his father-in-law, Dennis Albaugh, were evaluating the best path forward for some of the young fillies they had purchased, they decided to see if Cox wanted to be an integral part of the equation.
“One thing I’ve always like about Brad is his work ethic. Every time you talk to him, he just knows so much about the game and he really impressed me with his knowledge,” Loutsch said. “(Trainer) Dale (Romans) gets a lot of our colts and I said, ‘Let’s give Brad some of these fillies’. I just love his attention to detail. It’s phenomenal.”
As the field for the $400,000 Darley Alcibiades Stakes (G1) hit the top of the lane at Keeneland on Oct. 8, it became clear the new professional pairing of Cox and the Albaugh team was already a rousing success. Juju’s Map, the first filly Cox started for her owners, ran her ten challengers into submission and booked her connections a trip to Del Mar in the process when she cruised to a 4 ¼-length victory in the 1 1/16-miles test that headlined the opening day of the Keeneland Fall Meet.
The Alcibiades was a “Win and You’re In” challenge race for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) to be run Nov. 5 at Del Mar, thus giving Juju’s Map a fees-paid berth into the contest.
“This is our first runner for (Albaugh Family Stables), it’s the only starter I’ve had for them,” Cox said, before adding in the massive understatement, “I’m glad to get off to a good start with them.”
The Albaugh colors are no strangers to high-level success on Keeneland’s opening weekend, having won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (G1) in 2015 and 2017 with Brody’s Cause and Free Drop Billy, respectively. What has eluded Loutsch and his family is a Breeders’ Cup victory as Brody’s Cause ran third in 2015 Juvenile (G1) and Not This Time fell a neck short of victory in that same race one year later.
In Juju’s Map, the Albaugh’s have a visually-impressive runner who just might have what it takes to challenge divisional leader and expected Juvenile Fillies favorite, Echo Zulu. Purchased for $300,000 out of the 2020 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, the daughter of Liam’s Map has now won two of three career starts with a combined margin of victory of ten lengths.
After running second going 5 ½ furlongs in her career debut at Ellis Park on July 25, Juju’s Map – who is named for Loutsch’s daughter Julianah – went back to the Pea Patch for her next effort, a sublime 5 ¾-length victory in gate-to-wire fashion going one mile on Sept. 3. Given the way the bay filly powered home when she was engaged by stablemate Matareya on the far turn of the Alcibiades, not winning at first asking may go down as a blessing in disguise.
“Of course, you always want to win your first start as a 2-year-old but I was thinking today that maybe that was the best thing that happened to her so she didn’t have to run in a graded stakes or a stakes race in the second race of her career,” Loutsch said. “She kind of grew up a bit after that and broke her maiden almost like in a workout, she did it so easy that day. Brad thought that race was really, really impressive. And two weeks ago when she worked, I called Brad and he said ‘That was really a special work’.
“And Brad doesn’t beat around the bush. He tells it like it is.”
Cox had any number of superlatives to choose from after watching the way Juju’s Map handled her first try against graded stakes company. Sent off as the 2-1 favorite out of post position No. 1, Juju’s Map settled under jockey Florent Geroux in second as Runup darted out to an open-length advantage while cutting fractions of :22.75 and :46 on the front end.
On the far turn, Geroux angled Juju’s Map to the outside of Runup with Matareya, Penny Saver and Dream Lith taking up the chase. At the top of the stretch, Juju’s Map quickly spurted clear to erase any doubt of the outcome, stopping the teletimer in 1:43.52 over a track rated fast.
“I was able to ease her back in the first turn. From there she took a nice breather with me down the backside and from there I knew she was going to be pretty tough,” Geroux said. “Turning for home I saw (Matareya) coming up and she’s pretty talented too, but when I asked her down the lane she gave me another gear, the kind of effort you want to see, and hopefully she’s going into the Breeders’ Cup in the right way.”
Distinctlypossible rallied for second under Tyler Gaffalione and with Sequist finishing another neck back in third under Junior Alvarado. With the win, Juju’s Map improves her earnings to $280,800 and gives Cox his second triumph in the Alcibiades in the last three years. His first win in the race came with British Idiom in 2019, an effort that ended up launching her to victory in the Juvenile Fillies (G1) and the Eclipse Award for divisional honors.
“Obviously (Echo Zulu) is very good. She’s the leader in the division, but I think we’re bringing a filly (to the Juvenile Fillies) that will receive some good numbers out of this race,” Cox said of Juju’s Map. “She’s going to need to move forward but we’ve been there with British Idiom. We took her to Santa Anita a couple years ago so we have some experience. As long as this filly come out in good order, we’ll march to California. I think it was a demanding track today but she showed up and got the job done.”
Special Reserve wins Phoenix Stakes
Paradise Farms Corp. and David Staudacher’s Special Reserve overhauled pacesetting Quick Tempo at the top of the stretch and then held off a late bid from Aloha West to win the Stoll Keenon Ogden Phoenix Stakes (G2) at Keeneland on Friday.
Trained by Mike Maker and ridden by Joel Rosario, Special Reserve covered six furlongs on the fast main track in 1:08.54.
With the victory, Special Reserve earned a fees-paid berth into the $1 million Breeders’ Cup Sprint (G1) to be run Nov. 6 at Del Mar.
Special Reserve broke on top out of the gate but quickly surrendered the lead to Quick Tempo, who led the field through fractions of :21.90. Turning for home, Special Reserve shook off a brief bid from Just Might, opened a daylight margin and had enough left to hold off Aloha West.
“He makes a fabulous first impression. He had a bit of a bleeding issue that we addressed when we got him and he’s responded well to us,” Maker said of Special Reserve. “Rarely in this business does a plan go the way you want it but we’ve been pointing for this since this summer.”
“It wasn’t what I expected. I expected to be laying third or fourth but he broke so sharp, Joel took advantage of it. And turning for home he looked very impressive and he’s the type of horse who keeps finding more.”
The victory was worth $150,000 and increased Special Reserve’s earnings to $638,647 with a record of 22-8-2-7. It is the second graded-stakes victory for the 5-year-old Kentucky-bred son of Midshipman out of the Hard Spun mare Love Spun.
Sent off as the favorite in the field of seven, Special Reserve returned $4.40, $2.80 and $2.20.