Picking a Longshot in the Breeders’ Futurity

Bourbon Stakes

By J. Keeler Johnson, courtesy of America's Best Racing

Every year, racing fans look forward to the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, a race that provides an early preview of contenders for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands six months later. On Saturday at Keeneland, 12 lightly raced 2-year-old colts with Sentient Jet Breeders’ Cup Juvenile aspirations will face off in the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders’ Futurity, and the excitement of seeing all these talented horses in action is matched only by the excitement of considering the betting possibilities that the race offers.

The Breeders’ Futurity is a tricky handicapping challenge because it is held over 1 1/16 miles, a distance that many of these young horses have never attempted. Since it’s difficult to predict which runners will thrive at the longer distance, there’s a good chance that we’ll be able to get good odds on contenders that will be overlooked for one reason or another.

One horse that has really caught my eye is Singing Bullet (#3). Trained by Dale Romans, who won this race last year with Brody’s Cause, Singing Bullet has only run once, winning his debut at Ellis Park on Sept. 2 by showing lots of speed and pulling away to win by two lengths, with the third-place finisher another eight lengths behind. Visually, Singing Bullet looked great – he finished fast and seemed to have something left in the tank at the end. Although that race was held over just 6 ½ furlongs, Singing Bullet has the pedigree to run longer. His sire, Hard Spun, was a runner-up in the Kentucky Derby, and his dam, Life at Ten, won the Delaware Handicap at 1 ¼ miles.

With only one race under his belt, Singing Bullet will likely be overlooked in the wagering, but I believe he has a strong chance to win. Dale Romans does very well with horses going from a sprint race to a route (two-turn) race, and Romans used a maiden race at Ellis Park to prep Brody’s Cause for his Breeders’ Futurity victory last year. All signs suggest that Singing Bullet is ready for a big run.

Lookin At Lee (#12) is another major contender. After winning two of his first three races, including the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes, he turned in an admirable performance in the 1 1/16-mile Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs. Racing on the inside of the track on a day when horses running on the outside were enjoying great success, Lookin At Lee put in a nice late rally when guided to the outside and finished second. The fact that he’s already proven at the distance of the Breeders’ Futurity is a positive, and he’s also run well as on fast and muddy tracks, so track conditions shouldn’t be an obstacle. My only concern is that he’s drawn the 12th post position and could lose some ground, but with a good ride from jockey Ricardo Santana, Jr., Lookin At Lee should be right in the mix.

Bitumen (#1) looked great winning the Sanford Stakes at Saratoga during the summer, and while he could only finish fourth in the Hopeful Stakes on Sept. 5, he’s bred to handle longer distances and could be a candidate to rebound. Another to watch is Classic Empire (#11), who beat some very good horses while winning the Bashford Manor Stakes at Churchill Downs. Classic Empire tends to break poorly from the starting gate and actually lost his rider at the start of the Hopeful Stakes, but he’s trained in the gate since then and will be wearing blinkers in the Breeders’ Futurity, which could help him stay focused and leave the gate faster. For the trifecta, I’ll add Gunnevera (#2), who rallied from behind a fast pace to win the Saratoga Special Stakes impressively, and Blame Will (#6), who set the pace in the Iroquois Stakes before tiring to finish seventh.

Wagering Strategy A:
$10 win/place on #3 Singing Bullet ($20)

Wagering Strategy B:
$4 exacta: 3,12 with 3,11,12 ($16)
$2 exacta: 3,12 with 1 ($4)

Wagering Strategy C:
$0.50 trifecta: 3,12 with 1,2,3,11,12 with 1,2,3,6,11,12 ($16)
$0.50 trifecta: 11 with 3,12 with 1,2,3,6,12 ($4)

Good luck, and enjoy the race!