A group of 13 2-year-olds will have their final Breeders’ Cup audition Saturday when they tangle in the Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity at Keeneland, which has emerged as one of the best barometers of success for the TVG Juvenile Presented by Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
Since 2016, the winners of the Breeders’ Futurity have accounted for two wins and a second in the Juvenile. Just last year, Essential Quality won the Breeders’ Futurity en route to a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and his selection as champion 2-year-old male. The Breeders’ Futurity is a Challenge Series "Win and You’re In" race offering the victor an expenses-paid berth in the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 5 at Del Mar.
1. Double Thunder (4-1 morning-line odds): Handled stretching out to two turns and a mile well enough to win the ungraded Sapling Stakes at Monmouth Park. Continued improvement will make him a major player, and breaking from the ground-saving rail is an added bonus.
JOCKEY: Paco Lopez; TRAINER: Todd Pletcher
2. Mr. Bouma (30-1): Showed some speed in a maiden win and will also benefit from an inside post in a big field. His speed figures are bland and he’ll need to step up to be a factor here.
JOCKEY: Corey Lanerie; TRAINER: Dale Romans
3. Stellar Tap (9-2): He looked great in a debut win but then tired and finished fifth when tackling two turns in the Iroquois Stakes Sept. 18 at Churchill Downs. He was bumped in the stretch but appeared to be tiring at the time. Two turns may not be his forte.
JOCKEY: Ricardo Santana Jr.; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
4. Seal Beach (30-1): He’s still a maiden after three tries and lost ground in the stretch of his last two races. Others are more appealing.
JOCKEY: Julien Leparoux; TRAINER: Mike Maker
5. Don’t Wait Up (9-2): Took a big step forward in his second start, showing more speed and winning by a clear margin. That was on a muddy track and at six furlongs, so he still has a lot to prove.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Anthony Dutrow
6. Rattle N Roll (6-1): Had some issues in his first two races, but everything came together in his third try as he overcame a rocky start and won easily. He certainly appears to have a lot of talent and that could be enough to make him a major threat here.
JOCKEY: Brian J. Hernandez Jr.; TRAINER: Ken McPeek
7. American Sanctuary (12-1): He was a game second in the Sapling after enjoying the lead in midstretch. He has to travel a sixteenth of a mile farther here and that may trip him up.
JOCKEY: Sophie Doyle; TRAINER: Christopher Davis
8. King Curlin (30-1): He rallied on turf to finish second at a mile in his debut, so the distance should not be an issue. The speed figure was slow, but as son of Curlin he’s certainly capable of stepping up a notch on dirt. It’s a guessing game with just one moderate workout on dirt, but he could be an interesting longshot.
JOCKEY: Christopher Emigh; TRAINER: Brittany Vanden Berg
9. Great Escape (8-1): He took a big step forward in his second start, winning decisively at seven furlongs. The time was quick and two turns should not be a problem. Much like Captain Hilts of the movie with the same name, Great Escape may be poised for a breakout effort.
JOCKEY: Tyler Gaffalione; TRAINER: Rodolphe Brisset
10. Mac’s Time (20-1): He showed great improvement in his second start and has the kind of speed that should make him a factor here. He seems to have the pedigree to handle the distance and, if he takes another step forward, he’ll be a major contender.
JOCKEY: Joe Talamo; TRAINER: Dale Romans
11. Costa Terra (20-1): Was a close third in a stakes last time and can be competitive in this field but an outside post doesn’t help his cause. Interesting that trainer Steve Asmussen put Ricardo Santana Jr. on Signal Tap instead of him.
JOCKEY: Francisco Arrieta; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
12. Kevin’s Folly (12-1): He was a distant third in the Grade 1 Hopeful Stakes but he may not have appreciated the wet tack. His maiden win was good but not great, and the post will be tough to overcome. Having a top jockey in Flavien Prat helps quite a bit.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Tom Amoss
13. Classic Causeway (5-1): After a dazzling debut win, his stock soared even more last weekend when the horse who was second, Trafalgar, was an impressive winner. He’s the standout in the field, but the post position will be tough to overcome unless he has enough speed to outrun everyone to the first turn and shift over to the rail. Maybe he does.
JOCKEY: Jose Ortiz; TRAINER: Brian Lynch
THE PICK: Great Escape
LIVE LONGSHOT: King Curlin