Lone Sailor Steps Up for Breeders' Futurity

Keeneland

By Jeremy Balan, courtesy Blood-Horse

What horses do on the racetrack can pull a trainer into any number of unexpected directions, but when it all comes together, it's a special kind of satisfying to get it right.

Trainer Tom Amoss' plan for GMB Racing's Lone Sailor was never to run him on grass, but he saw an opportunity Sept. 3, a day after the Majestic Warrior colt was left out as an also-eligible in a seven-furlong race on the dirt at Saratoga Race Course.

On that Sunday at Saratoga, Amoss knew a pair of facts. The first was that there was a 100% chance of rain. The second was that, if it rained hard enough and given the way Saratoga is configured, the 1 1/16-mile grass test Lone Sailor was entered in would move to seven furlongs on the main track, which is what he wanted all along.

The rain came, the race moved to the sloppy dirt, and Lone Sailor took it from there. The bay colt dominated a field of eight others to win by 11 lengths under a hand ride from jockey Florent Geroux.

"Of course after the race, you're thinking about the future," Amoss said. "The thing about each race is that it leads you in a direction. You're always setting up your plan based on how they've run and what you need to do for them to run their best race."

Amoss is now hoping all will work out as planned for Lone Sailor's next start in the $500,000 Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland Oct. 7.

"It's going to be about who can be successful going two turns and who is ready for primetime," Amoss said. "Not all 2-year-olds at this time are ready for that, and that might include mine. A lot of times it is too much for them."

Everything was a bit too much for Lone Sailor in his debut but Amoss had plenty of reason to believe his colt could move forward off a fifth-place finish Aug. 12, where he was 7 1/2 lengths behind the winner. He took dirt while others who ran better didn't, he wasn't quite used to the experience in the Saratoga paddock yet, and his trainer knew he had the talent from what he showed in the morning.

"The ultimate improvement in racing is from the first to second start," Amoss said. "Breaking from the gate, getting used to horses alongside them, getting nervous in the paddock—you can't simulate all of that in the morning. If you don't think that horse is quite ready, that first start can be a dress rehearsal. So when he had a race that looked better than it appeared on paper—he learned a lot from that."

If Lone Sailor continues to learn from his romp in the Saratoga slop, he could be right there with other entrants in the Breeders' Futurity who already have run against stakes competition, and could once again fill his trainer up with the pride he felt Sept.3.

"I bought him as a yearling, so it's one of those situations where I've had the opportunity to watch (every step) since we got him," Amoss said of the $120,000 purchase from Gainesway's consignment to the 2016 Keeneland September yearling sale. "It felt really good to win like that with one I bought at the sale. It's a sense of pride for me to get one like that for (owners Gayle and Tom Benson)."

Lone Sailor will have no easy task, however, if wants to return to the winner's circle. Twelve other juveniles are entered in the 1 1/16-mile test, and several have the advantage of stakes experience.

Free Drop Billy and Givemeaminit were only a head apart in the Hopeful Stakes (G1) last time out Sept. 4 at Saratoga—second and third, respectively—and a neck behind winner Sporting Chance. Albaugh Family Stables' Free Drop Billy also came in second in the July 22 Sanford Stakes (G3), which followed a three-length debut win June 15 at Churchill Downs for trainer Dale Romans.

Lothenbach Stables' Captivating Moon also placed in his stakes start, the Sept. 9 Arlington-Washington Futurity on the Arlington International Racecourse synthetic main track, but only two in the field have stakes wins.

Ten City appeared to be a colt on the rise following his 1 1/2-length win in the Bashford Manor Stakes (G3) at Churchill June 30, but has finished third in his last two outings—the Ellis Park Juvenile Aug. 20 and the Iroquois (G3) Sept. 16 back at Churchill.

Invading from the South is Ready Prospector, a two-time stakes winner at Evangeline Downs, who will take a step into significantly deeper water in the Breeders' Futurity.