A full field of 12 will battle through six furlongs on the turf in Sunday's 128th running of the $150,000 Futurity at Belmont Park, a Breeders' Cup "Win and You're In" qualifier for the all-new $1 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on November 2, "Future Stars Friday," at Churchill Downs.
Trainer Wesley Ward will send both Dragic and Fayette Warrior in the Futurity, giving the man with the well-earned reputation for dominating 2-year-old races a strong combination among the loaded field.
Steven Bell's Dragic, the lone filly in the field, will make her fourth career start after debuting on grass last time out in the one-mile Kentucky Downs Juvenile on September 1. After setting the pace, she finished third after being forced to steady in the stretch. Breaking her maiden at Keeneland in her debut, the daughter of Broken Vow returned for a late summer start in the six-furlong Grade 2 Sorrento on August 5 at Del Mar, breaking slow before finishing fourth.
"Prior to going out to California, I breezed her on the grass at Keeneland and it was an eye-opening breeze," Ward said. "Her pedigree suggests no turf at all, but if you watch her moving over the grass, she's certainly taken to it. She had a very valid race in California. It turned out to be a really quality field. She was a little compromised at the break, she got away a step slow, and was down there on the inside, which is something that mine aren't used to, and she still only got beat a length for second.
"She's pretty quick, pretty handy, she's got some nice racing experience and I think with the cut back in distance, she's going to be tough anywhere she goes," he added.
Calumet Farm's colt Fayette Warrior makes his third start after breaking his maiden by 4 ¼ lengths on the grass on September 6 at Kentucky Downs. The son of Exchange Rate shed the blinkers for his return after he chased and tired to seventh in his debut on August 13 at Saratoga.
"He had a decent enough race first time out," said Ward. "He's a nice colt, but he was a little green at Saratoga. And firing back, he just blitzed them at Kentucky Downs. He's had some very nice breezes on the dirt at Keeneland since, so I'm looking forward to it. It's a stern test and we'll see what he's made of, but he's certainly a talented little horse, that's for sure."
Dragic will break from post 8 with Hall of Fame rider John Velazquez in the saddle. To her outside in post 9 will be stablemate Fayette's Warrior with Hall of Fame jockey Javier Castellano aboard.
Amerman Racing's Joyful Heart contends to be a speedy pest for his foes after setting the pace in all three starts on the grass. Now the Kitten's Joy colt will cut back after his third-place finish in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 3 With Anticipation on August 29 at Saratoga. The Brian Lynch-trained Joyful Heart debuted at Belmont with a runner-up finish on June 17 after getting caught by Swamp Rat. He returned to go gate to wire and win by 2 ¼ on July 8.
"He broke his maiden impressively in his second start here, and was third in the With Anticipation, but he's probably better off sprinting, so we'll take a crack at that," Lynch said.
Joyful Heart will break from post 2 under jockey Jose Lezcano aboard for the first time.
Bryan Hilliard's Swamp Rat will make his fourth consecutive start on grass for trainer Phil Gleaves and returns to Belmont Park after finishing second in the Skidmore at 5 ½ furlongs on August 17 and fourth in the With Anticipation.
The Florida-bred by Hat Trick debuted at Belmont on June 17 and closed strong to win by 2 ¾ lengths after rival Joyful Heart blazed a quick five-eighths before being caught.
Swamp Rat drew post 3 and will be rejoined by Dylan Davis, who was aboard for the maiden victory.
Phoenix Thoroughbred's British-bred Neverland Rock debuts for Hall of Fame trainer Steve Asmussen. He makes his first start in the U.S. after three turf sprint starts in his native England. The son of No Nay Never was third in his debut against Group 2 company on July 14 at Newmarket then failed to close and settled for sixth in the Group 2 Richmond on August 2 at Goodwood. The colt then finished a disappointing seventh in a listed stakes on August 27 after being sent off as the favorite in his last start.
Neverland Rock will run from post 4 and gets Joel Rosario in the irons.
Completing the field in the Futurity is Veterans Beach, gelding Bizzee Channel, Credit Swap, Uncle Benny, Real Money, Backtohisroots, and Stole E.