2017 Futurity Stakes Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
All summer and fall we have been previewing major prep races for the Breeders' Cup weekend. With that even just three weeks away, this is the last race we will look at. We turn to the juvenile category this week (with one exception) with the Futurity Stakes from Belmont. It's a small field, and there won't be anything close to a Breeders' Cup favorite coming out of here, but these six horses are vying for their shot at glory on the opposite coast in three weeks. And predictably it's a pretty stellar trainer showdown at the top of the race.
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The Futurity Stakes is a race that, frankly, is far more interesting for what it has been in the past than for what it is now. This race hasn't been hugely relevant on the Breeders' Cup front for the last decade, but the winners of this race in the past are just stunning. In the 1990s future champion Lemon Drop Kid, Maria's Mon and Holy Bull all won here. Triple Crown winners Affirmed, Secretariat and CItation are all Futurity winners. And Man o' War won this race, too. The winner of this race this year isn't likely to go down in history, but he certainly joins impressive company. Here's how the top four runners in this six-horse field set up (horse, jockey, trainer, morning line odds):
Engage, Jose Ortiz, Chad Brown, 2/1: I just don't get why this horse is the favorite. Or, more correctly, I guess, I don't get why anyone would want to bet him at this kind of a price. He's only run twice, and both were in maiden races at Saratoga. He was second the first time and won the second time. The horse he beat in that second race came back on turf next race, so obviously it wasn't a stellar win. He's taking a step up in class here, and I don't think the price rewards us enough for that. The connections are just stellar, and that has a lot to do with the price, but I will happily look to beat this favorite.
Happy Like a Fool, Tyler Gaffalione, Wesley Ward, 5/2: Remember at the outset how I said this was about the juvenile division with one exception? Well, that's what we have here. This is a rare two-year-old filly going up against the boys. She broke her maiden in April at Keeneland in a field that hasn't really come back to amount to much. Then, with much of Ward's stable, she headed to England for the summer. She was second at Ascot and then sixth at York. Both races were against a high level of competition, but both were also on grass. Now she is back to the dirt, and it remains to be seen how she handles that. Given her gender, the surface change, and the travel she has done, I would need a better price than I am likely to get here.
Mojovation, John Velazquez, Todd Pletcher, 3/1: Before he ran, this was talked about as one of Todd Pletcher's better two-year-olds. Now we get to see if he can live up to that hype. It's been an odd career so far. He made his debut at Saratoga on the undercard of the Jim Dandy. The rail bias was strong that day, and he capitalized on it to win. Then he came back in the Grade 1 Hopeful at the beginning of September and had just a dismal day, never firing. The Hopeful was a good field, and the track was off, but he was just awful. He's a horse that seems to need a trip, but I liked his speed figure in that debut, and the field is small enough he should be able to get what he needs here. Ultimately, he's fast, and I don't like the rest of the field, so I'll take a shot. He's the top pick here.
Barry Lee, Joel Rosario, Horacio DePaz, 5/1: This horse had a big win in his debut at Laurel. Then he was a total disaster when they jumped him up in class for the Saratoga Special. It was ugly. They took the somewhat odd step of trying him on the synthetic next at Arlington, and he got a solid win there. Now they are putting him in blinkers for the first time in this race. I'm not crazy about all the changes and experimentation they have tried here, but if they decide to send this horse to the front he'll be interesting. He'll be in an exacta box with Mojovation on my ticket.
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