Head to Head: Handicapping the 2022 Breeders' Futurity

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2022 Breeders' Futurity
Photo: Gary Johnson/Eclipse Sportswire

This year’s $600,000, Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity drew an overflow field. Fourteen 2-year old colts will enter the gate for the 1 1/16-mile affair, with two also-eligible entrants in the event that there are any scratches prior to Saturday morning.

The field is topped by Hopeful (G1) hero Forte. He will face quite the diverse cast. Some in the field are maiden winners only with just the one career start. Others enter with prior stakes experience, while there are a few in here that are trying dirt for the first time.

The Breeders’ Futurity has a long and storied history. In recent years, Essential Quality (2020) and Classic Empire (2016) have completed the Breeders’ Futurity/Breeders’ Cup Juvenile double. Going back further, Favorite Trick (1997) and Boston Harbor (1996) also completed that double. Knicks Go, the 2018 winner, went on to win the Breeders’ Cup Classic last year.

The Breeders' Futurity is also a 2023 Kentucky Derby points race, offering a scale of 10-4-3-2-1 to the top four finishers. It is the ninth race on the card and will go to post at 5:14 p.m.

With a lot to consider, Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and I wade through the field in search of a winner.

LAURIE

ASHLEY

1.   Frosted Departure 10-1

Frosted Departure hung around the Midwest and formed a lose/win cycle. The McPeek trainee set the pace in both victories. However, he was pressed between horses in the Ellis Park Juvenile Stakes, which took its toll as the gray colt backed up in the stretch. Worth an exotics play if you have the cash to spread due to his rail position.

 

Frosted Departure has exhibited a loss-win-loss-win pattern since debuting at Churchill Downs in July. When he wins, he wins by open lengths, but when he loses, he finishes up the track. In his most recent start, the son of Frosted went to the lead and never looked back, winning by 9 1/4 lengths. The 93 Brisnet speed figure he received for that effort is the best number on his otherwise piddling to mediocre record. Pass.

 

2.   Loggins 4-1

I liked what I saw from Loggins in his debut. He was surrounded by horses early in the race while following the pacesetters, and the horses around him gradually dropped back and away, giving him room to make his move. The Brad Cox trainee swept by rivals around the turn and was footloose in the stretch, winning by 8 1/2 lengths. By Ghostzapper out of a Grade 2 winning daughter of Blame, Loggins should love the extra distance. Additionally, he returned with a sharp four-furlong breeze in 47.60 seconds, the day's fourth-best. Contender.

 

Loggins enters on a three-week turnaround after obliterating a maiden field on September 17 at Churchill Downs on the Iroquois (G3) undercard. A son of Ghostzapper, Loggins closely pressed the pace before taking over into the stretch and driving away to win by 8 1/2 lengths. He earned a 99 Brisnet speed figure, which is the best in the field. Jockey Florent Geroux remains aboard for trainer Brad Cox, a duo that has been winning at a 20 percent clip recently. The colt turned in a sharp 4-furlong work to prepare for this spot off the short turnaround. Contender.

 

3.   Honed 12-1

Honed lingered at the back of the pack in the Iroquois (G3) early, then made steady progress down the stretch to gain second place behind Curly Jack. Closers do well in the Futurity, but Honed has no real speed and would need rivals to be softened up by a fast pace. Pass.

 

After a determined but otherwise uninspiring debut victory in an off-the-turf race at Ellis Park, I did not like this son of Sharp Azteca in the Iroquois (G3). He outran all expectations to finish second at 54-1 odds, just a length behind winner Curly Jack. His Iroquois (G3) effort drew an 85 Brisnet speed figure. In that race, he was a bit rank at the beginning and trailed the field. He began making up ground in the back stretch and continued to advance throughout the stretch drive despite racing wide the entire way. Julien Leparoux will remain aboard for Kenny McPeek. This grinder has caught my attention and could very well pull off a similar effort here. Exotics.

 

4.   Confidence Game 50-1

Confidence Game was lacking in two starts against quality rivals. He was a distant third, beaten 13 lengths behind eventual Saratoga Stakes (G2) hero Damon’s Mound in his debut, and was ten lengths behind Curly Jack in the Iroquois. Despite being by Candy Ride and out of Zenyatta’s little sis Eblouissante, I have no confidence in his Futurity performance. Pass

 

Off his maiden breaking win, I thought Confidence Game had a shot of being in the superfecta in the Iroquois (G3) last out. The best the colt could muster was a fifth-place finish, however. I expect to see a similar effort here. Toss.

 

5.   Instant Coffee 5-1

Instant Coffee rode the rail to victory in his debut at Saratoga. He was briefly challenged on the outside; however, the runner-up backed off slightly when he was eyeballed. So far, two rivals have returned, and one won his next start. Instant Coffee got his final furlong in a good 12.40 seconds. His pre-race breeze matches that of stablemate Loggins. By Bolt d'Oro, out of a stakes-placed daughter of Uncle Mo, Instant Coffee should enjoy two turns. Contender.

 

Instant Coffee debuted a winner for Brad Cox at Saratoga last month. The son of Bolt d’Oro launched a sustained move that resulted in a battle to the wire. Despite being brushed in the stretch, Instant Coffee continued to fight, ultimately winning by just 3/4 length. He earned a 90 Brisnet speed figure, one of the better numbers in the field. Exotics.

 

6.   Bourbon Bash 20-1

The first time Bourbon Bash didn’t get the lead was in the Hopeful Stakes. He steadied at the start and just couldn’t get his act together, or maybe the Lukas trainee didn’t like splashing in puddles over the sloppy track. City of Light’s son posted two sharp pre-race works for the Futurity. I usually don’t pass up Bourbon, but I’m going to this time around. Pass.

 

Bourbon Bash had a couple things not go his way in the Hopeful (G1). I don’t think he particularly liked the sloppy surface, and then he had to steady coming out of the gate. He ended up finishing fifth, 24 lengths behind winner Forte. In his debut race, the son of City of Light finished second behind Blazing Sevens, who went on to finish third in the Hopeful (G1) and win the Champagne (G1). I believe a return to a fast track will move this colt back up. Live longshot.

 

7.   Forte 3-1

Forte returned to his maiden form in the Hopeful Stakes after a flat performance in the Sanford. So, was the Sanford just a typical maiden regression, or is this the start of a win/lose cycle? Forte earned a huge 101 Brisnet speed rating in the Hopeful and may regress slightly. Still, who bets against Pletcher and Irad? Contender.

 

Forte was an easy debut winner but for whatever reason did not fire his best shot in the Sanford (G3), in which he finished a non-threatening fourth. Despite encountering trouble at the start, Forte bounced back to facilely win the Hopeful (G1) in the slop. He earned a 101-speed figure despite the muddy track. If that Forte shows up, he is a legitimate contender, but I think the important part for him is that he breaks well and doesn’t end up shuffled too far back. Considering how aggressive Irad Ortiz, Jr. can be and with this big of a field, I expect to see him hustled out to get a position close to the pacesetters. Contender.

 

8.   Newgate 20-1

Newgate searches for softer company after having his tail handed to him in the Del Mar Futurity by his celebrated stablemate Cave Rock. Five of Newgate’s eight rivals from his debut hit the board in their next start, but none won, so his class is suspect. Pass.

 

Newgate ships in from California where he was most recently fourth, beaten by 10 lengths, in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). With John Velazquez aboard, the son of Into Mischief chased the leaders throughout from third before ultimately losing the show placing. Stablemate Cave Rock, who won the Del Mar Futurity, heads the Grade 1 American Pharoah, hence why we’re seeing this colt here rather than in the American Pharoah. Despite finishing fourth, Newgate still earned a respectable 90 Brisnet speed figure in the Del Mar Futurity. Considering this colt comes from the Baffert barn, you have to give him serious consideration. Live longshot.

 

9.   Funtastic Again 15-1

Funtastic Again beat a whole lot of nothing in an off-the-turf maiden race at Saratoga by 6 1/2 lengths, and three of his four rivals finished up the track in subsequent starts. The Wesley Ward trainee traveled his final quarter in 25.26 seconds but received an excellent 98 late pace speed rating for his effort. He’ll have to improve and change his running style to win. Not impossible, but there are others I like more. Pass.

 

Funtastic Again debuted on the turf for Wesley Ward, no surprise there, but finished a dismal seventh. His second start came off the turf, and what a good thing that turned out to be. The Funtastic colt bobbled at the start but still immediately established the lead, and increased his advantage at each call, winning the mile event by 6 1/2 lengths with an 89 Brisnet speed figure. The final time was nothing to write home about, but the colt never had to run hard to best his rivals. John Velazquez was aboard for both starts but will remain with Newgate, so Joel Rosario picks up the mount on Funtastic Again. Worth a look.

 

10. Lost Ark 6-1

After winning his maiden as a pacesetter, Lost Ark displayed tactical speed in Sapling Stakes at Monmouth. After settling on the rail behind the pace in the early going, the Pletcher trainee swung wide and cleared the field by 7 1/2 lengths. Violence’s son is a half-brother to multiple Grade 1 heroine Nest, her full brother, Santa Anita Handicap winner Idol, and multiple stakes placed Dr Jack. Contender.

 

Lost Ark enters undefeated in two starts for Todd Pletcher. In his debut, the son of Violence closely pressed the pace before taking over and drawing away to an easy 5 1/2-length win. He tackled the Sapling Stakes at Monmouth next, where he tracked the pace from fourth. He grabbed the lead in the stretch and powered away to win by 7 1/2 lengths. His Brisnet speed figure improved, albeit not by much, from an 88 to 91. Another step forward sees him hitting the board despite the step up in class; a big step forward sees him potentially winning. Exotics.

 

11. Red Route One 20-1

Red Route One gives dirt a try after an impressive 3 3/4 length score over maidens at Kentucky Downs. Gun Runner’s son settled behind the pacesetters, swung outside for the stretch drive, and opened up while running uphill in the one-mile event, but his final furlong was an average 13.26 seconds. Red Route One is out of an unraced full sister to 2014 Champion Filly Untapable, and the mare's half-brother Paddy O’Prado is a Grade 1 winning turf router. He’s bred on the same Gun Runner/Tapit cross as Cotilion (G1) heroine Society and Grade 2 winner Wicked Halo. Red Route One’s speed figures are on the low side, and he’ll have to improve off his last effort to win it. Worth a lower exotics longshot look.

 

Red Route One tries dirt for the first time after racing over the lawn in his first two starts. In his debut at Saratoga, Red Route One raced evenly throughout to finish fifth. He seemed to really like the European-style course at Kentucky Downs, however, as he raced closer to the lead and took over to win by 3 3/4 lengths. The final times of both races were slow, but trainer Steve Asmussen is winning at a 20 percent clip with turf-to-dirt runners. I think in a different spot, this colt would have a shot, but I am not liking this change of surface with such a big field to also contend with. Pass.

 

12. Good Heart 20-1

Good Heart galloped home an easy 3 3/4 length winner over Kentucky Down’s turf in his debut. Yes, the speed figure was low; however, remember that he was running uphill and got his final furlong in the mile race in 12.25 seconds, faster than many of his Futurity rivals. Good Samaritan’s offspring are winning at nine percent on dirt, and only one of Good Heart’s three half-siblings to run on dirt won. Pass.

 

Like Red Route One, Good Heart is also a first time dirt starter and last raced at Kentucky Downs. He won a mile maiden race by 3 3/4 lengths but only earned a 76 Brisnet speed figure. Brendan Walsh is winning at a 23 percent clip with turf-to-dirt starters, but I don’t see much else to like. Pass.

 

13. Two Phil’s 30-1

Two Phil's dominated Shakopee Juvenile Stakes at Canterbury Park by a widening 9 3/4 lengths. The son of Hard Spun should handle two turns; however, his speed ratings are on the low side, and while I love to see the little guy win, Two Phil’s appears up against it with a far outside post. Pass.

 

Two Phil’s debuted at Churchill Downs and finished fifth. Trainer Larry Rivelli moved the son of Hard Spun to Colonial Downs where a drop in class and a switch to front-running tactics resulted in a 2 1/2 length victory. His next stop was Canterbury Park where he demolished the Shakopee Juvenile field. This colt could continue to cash checks as these lower tier tracks and is seriously out-classed here. Toss.

 

14. Powerful 20-1

Powerful was a stubborn winner in his second start at Saratoga, out-gaming the second-place finisher by ¾ length while racing between horses. The runner-up and third-place finisher won their next starts by a combined 9 1/4 lengths. The far outside is a tough place for Nyquist’s son, but he’s worth an exotics look.

 

Powerful ran a winning race on debut but could just not get past the winner. He came back to win at second asking for Steve Asmussen, but his Brisnet speed figure dropped from an 88 to an 85. This colt likes to closely press the pace, so drawing the far outside post is a disadvantage to this son of Nyquist. Pass.

 

15. Carmel Road (AE) 5-1

Carmel Road conquered a field of maidens at Del Mar by 8 3/4 lengths. One rival returned to win at Los Alamitos. His internal fractions for the mile race were quick early but crawling late. Pass.

 

Like stablemate Newgate, Carmel Road ships in from California. He failed as the favorite in his debut, finishing third as the odds-on choice after racing at the back of the field. Mike Smith hopped aboard for his second start and took the son of Quality Road right to the lead, where he made every pole a winning one, easily triumphing by 8 3/4 lengths. He earned a 92 Brisnet speed figure, and if he should happen to draw into the field, should be heavily considered.

 

16. Jin Tong (AE) 50-1

Jin Tong was outclassed in the Best Pal (G3) and Iroquois (G3). Pass.

 

Jin Tong was a debut winner for Doug O’Neill but was nowhere to be found at the end of the Best Pal (G3) or the Iroquois (G3). Should he draw into the field, he’ll be racing with a new set of blinkers. I doubt that will move him up any. Toss.

 

Final Thoughts

Laurie: The last eight editions of the Breeders’ Futurity were held on dirt, so we’ll go with those stats. Five of the eight winners won a maiden race, four at Churchill. Two were runners up in a stakes, and one, Classic Empire, made a right turn coming out of the gate for the Hopeful and didn’t finish the race.

One pacesetter (Knicks Go, 2018) won. Three pressed the pace (within two lengths) while the rest settled in mid-pack or closed.

Favorites won 40 percent of the time, and only one favorite finished off the board in the last eight years.

Here’s an interesting stat. Five of the last eight runners who exited the rail post in the Futurity placed in the top four.

This is a very tough race. About five or six have a legitimate shot of winning with the right trip. Colts that set the pace in previous races may show new dimensions, and with a field this large, anything can happen.

Ashley: Unless they make the Kentucky Derby (G1) in May, this is the largest field these colts will see. With that said, prepare to play a game of darts. Forte is the tepid 3-1 morning line selection off his victory in the Hopeful (G1). The 101-speed figure he earned in that win is the only triple digit speed figure in the field. Loggins isn’t far behind in terms of speed figures, though, receiving that 99 for his only career start. Honed looks like he could continue to improve, while Newgate cannot be ignored simply because he hails from Bob Baffert’s barn. Lost Ark is another that appears to be improving.

As far as a pace scenario is concerned, it is really difficult to say with this large of a field of lightly raced runners. None of them have a consistent pattern of needing to be on the lead, but I can see Newgate going for it from post eight. There is absolutely nothing guaranteed here.

Selections

                Ashley

           Laurie

#7 Forte (3-1)

#2 Loggins (4-1)

#2 Loggins (4-1)

#7 Forte (3-1)

#3 Honed (12-1)

#10 Lost Ark (6-1)

#8 Newgate (20-1)

#5 Instant Coffee (5-1)

 

 



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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