Breeders’ Futurity Draws Nearly Full Field of Breeders’ Cup Hopefuls

In a month from now, a full field of juveniles will race in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (GI) at Del Mar in what will likely be the contest that decides who the division’s Eclipse Award winner will be. The reality, though, is that the race starts the incubation period for full-on Kentucky Derby fever, as the winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile will also likely emerge as the early favorite for the Run for the Roses in six months. We all know there is no cure for Derby fever either.

A year ago, Classic Empire won the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity (GI) at Keeneland and then the Eclipse trophy before meandering down the Triple Crown trail alternating between the favorite and the flunky before regaining enough composure to earn morning line favoritism in the Derby and a troubled fourth-place finish.

Classic Empire won the Breeders' Futurity en route to an Eclipse Award as the nation's top juvenile last year.

Classic Empire won the Breeders’ Futurity en route to an Eclipse Award as the nation’s top juvenile last year (photo by Jordan Sigmon).

This year, a full field of 13 will face the starter in the Breeders’ Futurity, a 1 1/16-mile Breeders’ Cup Challenge “Win and You’re In” event for the BC Juvenile all looking to, at the very least, duplicate Classic Empire’s success a year ago.

The warm weather in central Kentucky will continue through Saturday, so expect a fast track and a firm turf course under mostly sunny skies and highs in the lower 80s.

While Classic Empire is the most recent example of a Breeders’ Futurity victory providing Breeders’ Cup, Eclipse and/or sophomore success, he joins a respectable list of others to have had similar success, including Whirlaway, Round Table, Swale, Tasso, Forty Niner, Dance Floor and Favorite Trick. Though Classic Empire is the standout from the list of recent winners, this year’s field features a group with obvious talent and potential talent to spare.

Free Drop Billy (white blaze) was runner-up in both the Sanford Stakes and the Hopeful Stakes (photo via NYRA).

Free Drop Billy (white blaze) was runner-up in both the Sanford Stakes and the Hopeful Stakes (photo via NYRA).

Dale Romans, who has saddled three previous Breeders’ Futurity winners, sends out Sanford Stakes (GIII) and Hopeful Stakes (GI) runner-up Free Drop Billy. The Albaugh Family-owned son of Union Rags will likely get the quick early pace he likes to run at and if he continues to improve as he has in each start, he will be tough to beat. He’s been training exceptionally well at Romans’ base of Churchill Downs and his go-to jockey Robby Albarado will be back aboard. The handsome white-faced chestnut is making his two-turn debut, but his numbers say he is improving as the distances get longer, so rivals on the front end in the lane better look around for the late-charging Free Drop Billy and pray he runs out of ground before the wire.

Zayat Stables’ $40,000 bargain Ezmosh faces winners for the first time after breaking his maiden in his third start last out by two lengths. What this Oklahoma-bred lacks in stakes experience, he makes up for in potential, as he keeps improving his speed and pace figures with each race. The confirmed early type is definitely getting a class test here, but he has been training well and, with no disrespect to jockey Florent Geroux, the interest from and switch to Hall of Famer Javier Castellano speaks volumes about what he thinks of this son of Tizway.

Ezmosh won easily at a mile last out, so Saturday’s distance isn’t a concern, and his post position of two is ideal for him to get to the lead after a clean break. In a field of good horses, he may offer a price, so if the track is favoring speed, strongly consider using Ezmosh on top of all exotics.

Givemeaminit, a Louisiana-bred son of Cajun superstar Star Guitar, was a neck behind the top two for third in the Hopeful last out after a bad break, rallying nicely in the lane to just miss. One has to wonder if this maiden, who is a mid-pack type with some tactical turn of foot, will benefit from a clean trip here. He’s certainly bred to like the added distance and has a trainer in Dallas Stewart who knows how to get ‘em to route. He’s no morning glory, but hasn’t missed a beat in months; and, yes, this is a jump in class, but the potential he’s shown and his mid-pack running style in a race with a fair amount of early zip makes him an attractive proposition. Brian Hernandez Jr. rides.

Ten City (photo via Coady Photography).

Ten City (photo via Coady Photography).

Bashford Manor Stakes (GIII) winner Ten City had some trouble in his last two races, both stakes, and could only manage a pair of thirds. He’s earned some solid speed and pace figures for owners Tommie Lewis and Magdalena Racing and trainer Ken McPeek, so all he may need is to break clear, get a clean trip and gain position closer to the early pace to be effective late in the game. Watch the tote board on him.

Lone Sailor returns off an 11-length maiden romp at seven furlongs in the slop at Saratoga. The distance surely isn’t the problem, but was the wet track that day the key? Tom Amoss sends out this son of Majestic Warrior, who GMB Racing (owners of the New Orleans Saints and New Orleans Pelicans) paid $120,000 for as a Keeneland September yearling a year ago. He’s a pace stalker, so expect him to be right behind the engine waiting for the pacesetters to come back to him in the lane.

Calumet’s Bravazo hails from the barn of Hall of Famer D. Wayne Lukas, who owns the distinction as this race’s leading trainer with six winners, the most recent in 2004. The well-bred son of Awesome Again was super impressive in his 4 ½-length maiden win last out at Churchill Downs at a route and even though his speed and pace numbers could have been better, the effort was pretty solid. We all know to never leave a Lukas horse out of a prominent juvenile race.

Bourbon Resolution logged some impressive speed and pace figures when he broke his maiden by 2 ½ lengths in his third start at Saratoga last out. The $125,000 son of New Year’s Day hasn’t routed yet, but he is bred to and trainer Ian Wilkes knows how to get a horse ready for the big events, most recently with Triple Crown trail favorite McCraken last year. Bourbon Resolution is another who will be up on the lead early and jockey Julien Leparoux will no doubt do his best to conserve enough energy for the stretch run to put away his early rivals and hold off the late challengers.

Steve Asmussen sends out the maiden Lionite, who will lead the field to post. It’s hard to argue with what a Hall of Famer does, but it’s also hard to imagine this colt winning.

Lone Rock was impressive, breaking his maiden by 10 at Indiana Downs last time out and will certainly be part of the early pace scenario, but this is a huge jump in class and he will be up against it versus some well-bred, well-trained and well-connected rivals.

The well-bred Enticed faces winners for the first time since breaking his maiden at six furlongs first time out at Saratoga a month ago. Kiaran McLaughlin would not run this colt here if he didn’t find him up to the task, so a strong effort can be expected. He’s another who will probably like the predicted quick early pace.

Crea’s Bklyn Law tried to break his maiden in tough New York company three times, but shipped to Delaware to get the job done in early July. He’s coming off a brief layoff and making his first route try, but he will presumably like the pace and may be worth a look in the paddock. The Anstu Stable colorbearer’s last race speed figure isn’t too terrible and Michael Dilger is especially good saddling winners off a layoff.

Captivating Moon makes his dirt debut after a second in the Arlington-Washington Futurity. He’s been training well since, including a nice dirt work at Keeneland last week, and his best from what figures to be the back of the pack early puts him right there for a smaller piece with a clean trip.

Ready Prospector makes a huge jump in class from Evangeline Downs, but his speed and pace figures say he belongs and should be considered for a piece. The stretchout seems to be his most significant question mark.

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