Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland came up very contentious. The 1 1/16-mile event on Polytrack has attracted an overflow of 16 two-year-olds, but only 14 will be allowed to start and favoritism could fall to Pataky Kid following his victory in the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity. Other legitimate contenders include Grade 2 With Anticipation Stakes winner Balance the Books; Grade 2 Summer runner-up Are You Kidding Me; Sunday Silence Stakes victor Java's War; and Tizracer, a recent 10 1/2-length maiden scorer for Todd Pletcher.
The Grade 2, $200,000 Thoroughbred Club of America Stakes, which will take place a couple of races earlier on the stakes-packed program, features a standout in Groupie Doll, who should be heavily favored as she attempts to stretch her winning streak to four in advance of the November 3 Breeders' Cup Filly & Mare Sprint.
Pataky Kid dropped his career debut on dirt, finishing third in a July 1 maiden special weight at Churchill Downs, but the Tom Proctor pupil broke his maiden when trying Polytrack in his second outing, rallying from far back to win by nearly a length at Arlington Park. He moved forward off that performance last time, splitting rivals to win the Arlington-Washington Futurity going away by three lengths, and the Rockport Harbor colt will make his two-turn debut Saturday with new rider Paco Lopez.
Balance the Books can challenge for trainer Chad Brown if he handles the transition from turf to Polytrack. Julien Leparoux retains the mount. Joha finished a neck second to Balance the Books in the With Anticipation and captured the Colin Stakes on Woodbine's Polytrack two starts back for Mike Maker. He receives a rider switch to Rajiv Maragh. Charming Kitten finished third as the With Anticipation favorite for Pletcher and the son of Kitten's Joy shouldn't be dismissed from consideration with Javier Castellano. Jose Lezcano will pick up the mount on uncoupled stablemate Tizracer, who will make his synthetic debut following his superb maiden tally on Belmont Park's dirt.
Are You Kidding Me, a maiden scorer on Woodbine's Polytrack, invades from North of the Border for Hall of Fame conditioner Roger Attfield. The bay colt recorded a fast-finishing second in the grassy Summer, beaten only a half-length, and will be re-united with jockey Alex Solis. Java's War, a Kenny McPeek-trained colt from the first crop of champion juvenile War Pass, broke his maiden on the turf at Ellis before stepping up to defeat stakes rivals in the September 8 Sunday Silence at Louisiana Downs. Richard Erama gets the return call.
A total of nine fillies and mares will square off in the six-furlong TCA and Groupie Doll looks extremely difficult to beat. The four-year-old filly rolled to a three-length score over Keeneland's Polytrack in the Grade 1 Madison Stakes last April and followed it with a smashing, track record-setting victory in the Grade 1 Humana Distaff at Churchill Downs. Trainer Buff Bradley freshened her four months off that win and Groupie Doll returned with a nice 3 3/4-length win in the Grade 2 Presque Isle Masters on September 8. She can handle any kind of surface and the classy chestnut will keep Maragh in the saddle.
Her main rivals include Emma's Encore, winner of the Grade 1 Prioress two back at Saratoga; stakes heroine Strike the Moon; and Presque Isle Masters third-placer Sally Sally.
Keeneland will also offer the Grade 3 Woodford Stakes, a 5 1/2-turf sprint that serves as a prep for the Breeders' Turf Sprint four weeks later. Chamberlain Bridge returns to Keeneland in good form, recording a head second in the Grade 3 Turf Monster on September 3, and the venerable eight-year-old gelding captured the 2008 Woodford. Lopez will retain the mount on the Bret Calhoun-trained millionaire.
Other challengers in the seven-horse fields include Turf Monster third-placer Great Mills, who finished a nose second in the Grade 3 Shakertown over the course in April; Bridgetown, winner of the August 15 Troy Stakes at Saratoga in his last outing; and Kentucky Turf Dash runner-up Icon Ike.