Futurity Winner Cuvee Only Gets Better

The knock on Cuvee is that he has a sprint pedigree, but so far, the longer the distance for the standout chestnut colt, the bigger his margin of victory.

The Verne Winchell-bred Carson City colt drew off to win Sunday's $200,000 Belmont Futurity (gr.I) for 2-year-olds by 8 1/4 lengths over Value Plus, who rallied to press Cuvee at the top of the stretch but was left in the dust. Cuvee, with Jerry Bailey in the irons for the second straight race, completed the one-turn mile in 1:35 3/5. El Prado Rob, 42-1, was 5 1/4 lengths farther behind in third place.

"It was a good effort," Bailey said. " Equally impressive was when he got to the leader he put his ears up and waited for me to ask him to run. I'm impressed. He's a nice horse."

The Steve Asmussen-trained Cuvee has now won four of five starts, most recently taking a 7 1/2-length romp in the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special (gr. II) Aug. 13. Cuvee's only loss came in a third-place showing in the Bashford Manor (gr. III) two starts back on July 6. His four victories, which included the Kentucky Breeders' Cup (gr. III), have come by a combined margin of 30 1/4 lengths.

"We're very pleased with his race today," said winning trainer Steve Asmussen. "He won going a mile and he looked as brilliant today as he did at Saratoga on a different track."

Flushing Meadows set the early pace of :23 and :45 2/5 with Cuvee tracking in second. On the turn, Bailey took Cuvee in hand to press on the outside and they were soon in command as they hit the stretch. Value Plus, ridden by John Velazquez, threatened briefly but could not match the winner.

Value Plus hit the gate at the start and came away slowly, rallying nicely while wide to get into contention before tiring.

"Right as they popped the gate he put his head up and got off a little awkwardly," Velazquez explained. "He still made a good run at the winner. I think there's a lot of room for improvement with him. He'll only get better from the experience."

"We gave the winner a five-length head start at the beginning and he got beat seven," trainer Todd Pletcher estimated. "He ran a big race. He made a big middle move and flattened out a little bit. You can't spot horses with that much experience five lengths at the break."

Asmussen said the goal with Cuvee has long been the 1 1/16-mile Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita on Oct. 25.

"After his second race, we decided if you have something good enough for the Breeders' Cup, this is it and we spaced the races accordingly from there. We 've been very fortunate that we've been able to stay on track."

Cuvee earned $120,000 for owner Ron Winchell, who recently sold a half-interest in the colt to Spendthrift Farm. Cuvee has career winnings of $360,704.

Sent off as the 13-10 favorite in the field of six, Cuvee paid $4.60, $2.80 and $2.10. Value Plus, the second choice at 19-10, returned $2.80 and $2.10. El Prado Rob, ridden by Javier Castellano, paid $2.30.

(Chart, Equibase)