May 27, 2024

Locked edges The Wine Steward in Breeders’ Futurity; Yuugiri outfinishes Wicked Halo in TCA

Locked in the Claiborne Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland
Locked wins the Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland (Photo by Coady Photography / Credit John Gallagher)

Keeneland featured a pair of gutsy wins in main track graded stakes Saturday, as Locked established himself as a top contender for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Yuugiri stamped her ticket for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1). The $580,750 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) and $350,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) served as Breeders’ Cup Challenge races, and both proved exciting.

Breeders’ Futurity (G1)

Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm’s Locked overcame a less-than-favorable trip to capture his stakes debut in the Breeders’ Futurity, courageously repelling an inside bid from The Wine Steward in the short stretch to score by a half-length. Jose Ortiz was up on Todd Pletcher-trained son of Gun Runner.

Favored at 0.76-1 among eight rivals, Locked broke slowly from his far outside post and traveled extremely wide most of the way. The chestnut colt was exiting a brilliant frontrunning, 7 1/4-length win the second time out in a one-mile maiden special weight at Saratoga on Sept. 1, but Locked found himself rating off the pace in sixth as the field made its way along the backstretch of the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Futurity.

Locked launched an eye-catching move around rivals on the far turn, striking the front as he straightened for home, but The Wine Steward was advancing along the rail and surged into contention in upper stretch. After a brief duel, Locked got the upper hand late, and he was timed in 1:45.06.

“He’s a colt that we always felt like ‘the further, the better,’” Pletcher said. “He kind of got a little bit of two-turn experience in that sort-of two-turn mile race at Saratoga (his maiden win), which is always a difficult race. But I thought he was super-impressive at Saratoga, and he’s just been a colt that’s done everything right since Day 1.”

Locked gained valuable seasoning in the battle to the wire, and the 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita on Nov. 3 will be next.

“You like to think it moves them forward,” Pletcher of the tight finish. “He was hung out very wide on both turns. He didn’t have a real easy trip, but he’s talented enough to overcome it.”

The Breeders’ Futurity also served as a qualifier on the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, offering points to the top five on a 10-5-3-2-1 scale.

The Wine Steward, who could also be Breeders’ Cup Juvenile-bound according to trainer Mike Maker, held second by 3 3/4 lengths as the 3.96-1 third choice. Generous Tipper closed from last for third at 17-1, a neck better than Northern Flame in fourth at 49-1. Next came West Saratoga, Just Steel, Awesome Road, and Baytown Challenge.

A $425,000 purchase at last year’s Keeneland September sale, Locked was bred in Kentucky by Rosa Colasanti. He’s out of the Malibu Moon mare Luna Rosa, a half-sister to multiple Grade 1 winner Gabby’s Golden Girl and multiple Grade 2 winner Always a Princess.

Thoroughbred Club of America (G2)

Yuugiri never got a breather in the six-furlong Thoroughbred Club of America (TCA), dueling for the early lead before facing a serious challenge from Wicked Halo in upper stretch, but the four-year-old filly proved resilient, winning by a nose in a head-bobbing photo.

After dueling through opening splits in :22.12 and :45.48 with Happy Soul, Yuugiri was hooked by Wicked Halo, who forged past on the outside to take a head advantage with a furlong remaining. Yuugiri responded to the urgings of Flavien Prat, battling back to reengage Wicked Halo and just get up.

“She was really game today. When Wicked Halo went by us and took the lead, it felt like (Yuugiri) wasn’t done yet and was just getting going. So I just kept pedaling and she was very game and brave.” 

Rodolphe Brisset trains the Tsunebumi and Sekie Yoshihara homebred, and Yuugiri stopped the teletimer in 1:10.44. She left the starting gate as the 1.88-1 second choice.

“I don’t have to describe much (about the grit this filly has); I mean, she just showed it,” Brisset said. “She has a big heart and followed it to the wire and got her nose down. This one is sweet, you know? It’s my first stakes (win) at Keeneland. It feels good. We’re home here; we love Keeneland. To be able to win one like this here, it means the world.”

Yuugiri is poised to stretch out to seven furlongs for the Nov. 4 Filly & Mare Sprint at Santa Anita.

“We’ve been in the game long enough,” Brisset said. We know how to act ourselves – I mean, there’s a little pressure – but we’ll take care of her first, make a plan and see what happens. It’s a big one for sure and we may be coming.”

Wicked Halo, off at 7-5, was five lengths clear of Last Leaf, who was followed by Fire On Time, Happy Soul, Static Fire, and Be Like Water under the wire.

A Kentucky-bred daughter of Shackleford, Yuugiri was exiting a four-length win in the Open Mind S. at Churchill Downs on Sept. 18, and she’s now won five stakes, including last year’s Fantasy (G3), from a 14-7-2-1 record. Yuugiri is the first stakes winner from the stakes-winning Medaglia d’Oro mare Yuzuru.