Saturday, Sept. 19, Belmont Park
The Low-Down: One of America's oldest races for 2-year-olds will be renewed for the 120th time when the Futurity is held Saturday at Belmont. The 7-furlong sprint has not been a huge precursor to Breeders' Cup Juvenile success, but has held its own in recent decades in producing quality victors. All eyes will be on Rick Dutrow's pick-up D' Funnybone, whose first start for his new trainer resulted in a 10-1/2 length win in the Grade 2 Saratoga Special.
Our Eyes: We put in a ton of video and pedigree study on this one. Both figure prominently in the decision-making. First, there's D' Funnybone. It's hard to fault a dominant win like he had at the Spa, but note the walking :25.96 third-quarter fraction and the final sixteenth in a dawdling :6.95. He was hard-ridden through the lane by Edgar Prado while opening up, which means the others behind him were doing absolutely nothing. By the time the horses hit the clubhouse turn in the gallop-out, D' Funnybone was nearly walking, so he did his running to the wire, and not through it. Certainly he can get 7 furlongs off that win and subsequent solid works. But I'm not ready to call him much of a prospect beyond the Futurity's distance.
Steve Asmussen has won the Futurity twice in recent years (Cuvee and Private Vow) and seeks a third trophy with Thiskyhasnolimit. It's interesting to see his go-to rider Shaun Bridgmohan stick in New York to ride this colt when the Asmussen barn has not one, but two leading contenders for the $750,000 Super Derby on the same afternoon. The colt has a fantastic pedigree by 2-year-old star Sky Mesa and out of a half-sister to Travers champ Bernardini. How good was his debut field at Churchill? The field included eventual Saratoga graded stakes winners Backtalk (Sanford) and Dublin (Hopeful). He had to be ridden hard by Bridgmohan after a minor gate mishap in order to keep his rail position, a move the rider probably regrets, as his charge was totally empty late. This one has bounce-back potential at a huge price, but note it took him 18 days to return to the work tab after the Special, so that race may have taken a lot out of him.
Discreetly Mine makes a lot of sense on many fronts. The half-brother to star Discreet Cat, as well as Pretty Wild (who finished second in this race as a juvenile), Discreetly Mine was a dominant maiden sprint winner at Saratoga last time and looked great visually and on the clock. He got his third quarter in a very sharp :24-3/5 and relaxed very nicely after a bullet break from the gate. Runner-up Super Saver already has come back to win a one-mile maiden heat at Belmont in a time that was faster than older allowance horses went on the same-day card. The horse who beat Discreetly Mine on Aug. 1 at Saratoga was none other than eventual Grade 1 Hopeful champ Dublin. The knocks are that Edgar Prado jumps to ride the Dutrow trainee, D' Funnybone, which makes business sense, and that Prado was intent to get him off the rail last time. Discreetly Mine does not appear to enjoy being inside horses, and his rail draw could work against him if new rider Cornelio Velasquez can't get him out.
Successful Score makes his stakes debut with a solid sprinters' pedigree. Dam Big Score was a stakes-winning juvenile for the Asmussen barn in her heyday. While he did win going the Futurity's 7-furlong distance at Saratoga, I'm not sure he wants these kind of horses at that distance as it took :13.41 the final furlong last time and he was visibly trying to drift out through the lane and making Robby Albarado work to keep him straight. Calder shipper Hear Ye Hear Ye comes from a hot Florida sire of babies, turns back in distance and fired a bullet workout here that signifies he might be the x-factor. Top rider Ramon Dominguez rides the interesting exotics threat.
The Bottom Line: I would be all over Discreetly Mine if I was sure he could get off the fence. Instead, I'll take him cautiously on top while using long shots Hear Ye Hear Ye and Thiskyhasnolimit underneath both Discreetly Mine and D' Funnybone in exactas.
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