Patrick Biancone has won stakes races at tracks on three different continents, but Del Mar is not on the list. Biancone, 60, has been successful running females against males and did so, most notably, when All Along won the 1983 Prix de l'Arc de Triomphe (Fr-I) in his native France, en route to Horse of the Year honors in both the U.S. and France.
So it shouldn't be all that surprising if Biancone got his first stakes victory at the track in the closing-day $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) Sept. 5. He sends out the filly Switch to the Lead against 11 males in the traditional closing day feature which determines the meeting's 2-year-old champion.
Switch to the Lead is 12-1 on the morning line for the Futurity. Best Pal Stakes (gr. I) winner Know More is the favorite at 5-2.
The Kentucky-bred daughter of Songandaprayer −Dressed for Success owned and bred by Kona Stable, won her racing debut at Del Mar July 29. Ten days later she finished third, beaten 3 3/4 lengths by Executiveprivilege in the Sorrento Stakes (gr. III).
The Sorrento was the major prep for the Sept. 1 Del Mar Debutante (gr. I), also won by Executiveprivilege in the 2-year-old filly counterpart to the Futurity. It was an option for Switch to the Lead.
"She was not nominated to either race, so we had to pay (a $10,000 supplemental fee) to run," Biancone explained. "And the colt race (Futurity) looks easier than the filly race. We hope we've made the right choice."
Switch to the Lead's performances suggested she could be competitive in either event.
"She was supposed to run the week before, but she didn't make the race," Biancone said in reference to Switch to the Lead's debut. "But she won the first time quite easily and the horse that was second to her (Scarlet Strike) won (Sunday), so it was a good race.
"So the second time (Sorrento) I had to run her back a little bit quickly. She had only 10 days to make the race but I wanted to give her two runs before we attack the grade I."
Switch to the Lead was ridden by Yuichi Fukunaga in her first two starts. Biancone's French compatriot, Julien Leparoux, is coming in from his East Coast base to ride her in the Futurity.
"She ran all right (in the Sorrento)," Biancone said. "She was wide but finished well to get third. So she'll run (Wednesday) again and we'll see how good she is. These horses have run one time, maybe two times maximum and made a good impression. But we think she'll contend and we'll see what happens. It's a baby race, you know."
Considerable thought went into the Futurity decision.
"One reason was that, if you look at the numbers, and we're all looking at something to measure, she was maybe the fourth number (highest speed figure) in the filly race and second in the colt race," Biancone said.
"Of course, that's what happened before and we don't know what they're going to do on Wednesday. But she has trained very well and looks in good form. Cross fingers."
Reddam Racing's Know More won the Best Pal Stakes in his racing debut Aug. 5 to earn favoritism over a field with little experience against winners.
The Futurity, to be run for the 65th time, is a “Win and You’re In” event for the $2 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 3 at Santa Anita Park.
The field, from the rail out with jockeys and odds in parentheses:
Gabriel Charles (Joe Talamo, 6-1), Capo Bastone (John Velazquez, 3-1), Switch to the Lead (Julien Leparoux, 12-1), Yankee Rebel (Victor Espinoza, 20-1), Know More (Garrett Gomez, 5-2), Heir of Storm (Martin Garcia, 8-1), The Whole Deal (Alonso Quinonez, 30-1), Pure Loyalty (David Flores, 30-1), Caballo Del Cielo (Mike Smith, 12-1), Rolling Fog (Rafael Bejarano, 6-1), Scherer Magic (Corey Nakatani, 8-1), Ive Struck a Nerve (Jose Valdivia Jr., 30-1).