December 4, 2021

Pace and running style critical in Breeders’ Futurity

Keeneland (c) Coady Photography

by Dick Powell

The Breeders’ Futurity (G1) will be run at Keeneland on Saturday for two-year-olds going 1 1/16 miles on the main track. The winner of this “Win & You’re In” Challenge series contest is guaranteed a spot in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) on November 2 at Churchill Downs.

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A full starting gate of 14 is entered and there will be a short run into the first turn, with the first finish line utilized. This year’s renewal is especially tough since it looks like the horses drawn on the outside have no choice but to go hard from the starting gate, so we could see many losing ground while others might be bottled up in traffic on the inside.

The field doesn’t really have any need-to-lead types but three of them have done their best racing up near the pace. UNIONIZER (#4) (10-1) broke his maiden two starts back going seven furlongs at Saratoga, then went to Monmouth Park and won the Sapling Stakes going a two-turn mile. The problem with him is that the final time that day was extremely slow and hard to gauge against these.

It took MR. ANKENY (#10) (12-1) three starts to break his maiden, but he did so in a fast time going seven furlongs at Ellis Park last month. The always-dangerous Dale Romans goes for his fifth win in this race. MIND CONTROL (#13) (7-2) broke his maiden in fast time two starts back at Monmouth Park in his second career start, then came back and went gate-to-wire in the seven-furlong Hopeful Stakes (G1) while racing on the best part of the track.

With the short run into the first turn, all three riders of the three speed horses will have to break well and gain some kind of early position. Luckily for them, they have all had three career starts each and plenty of experience.

The pace prompters include SIGNALMAN (#1) (15-1), who breaks from the rail and adds first-time Lasix for Ken McPeek; BORRACHO (#11) (20-1), who broke his maiden going a one-turn mile at Churchill Downs in modest time; and DERBY DATE (#12) (20-1), who ran well two starts back going seven furlongs at Saratoga for six-time race winner D. Wayne Lukas. Any of these could get first run on the leaders on the far turn into the shortened stretch.

Closers with a chance of getting up in time include SOMBEYAY (#2) (5-1), who won a Grade 3 at Saratoga two starts back then raced evenly when stuck on the rail behind the speed in the Hopeful; FLUMINENSE (#3) (10-1), who broke his maiden two starts back going five furlongs and was stuck in traffic last out in a turf sprint at Woodbine; DREAM MAKER (#5) (5-1), who came from way back to break his maiden going 5 1/2 furlongs at even-money in his career debut then made up some ground in the Hopeful when the speed did not come back; EVERFAST (#6) (12-1), the other Dale Romans trainee who could not overcome post 12 going two turns last out; TOBACCO ROAD (#8) (12-1), who won two races in a row at Ellis Park before having a tough trip last out in the Iroquois (G3) going two turns at Churchill Downs; MOONSTER (#9) (10-1), who rallied to break his maiden going a mile second time out; and STANDARD DEVIATION (#14) (10-1), who broke his maiden first time out in an off-the-turf event at Saratoga going seven furlongs but has to overcome the wide draw.

The start will be critical for two reasons. First, the speed horses need to get away smoothly and gain position. Second, a fast pace would insure that the bulky field get spread out a little. A slow-paced race will have major bunching and could cost many in here a chance to go on to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. By all measurements, this is an evenly-matched group and the winner will need a clean trip to get the job done.

Mark Casse and Julien Leparoux won this race two years ago with Classic Empire and I think they have a slight edge over these with Dream Maker. He should improve second start off a three-month layoff and Casse has drilled him since then, including a fastest-of-113 half-mile breeze last week in :47. He draws well and should improve by leaps and bounds as Casse’s runners at Saratoga were terrible.

The son of Tapit is out of a dam by Monarchos who has produced Grade 1-winning full sister Dream Dancing and his second dam is the champion Beautiful Pleasure.

I think Sombeyay can get a ground-saving trip with Luis Saez and be a factor. The two outside horses might have been picked higher with better draws but at least Mind Control has good speed and Standard Deviation should improve second time out for Chad Brown.