The step up into graded stakes company proved an easy transition for Woodford Racing's Engage, as the son of Into Mischief busted through an outside seam in the stretch en route to a visually impressive 3 1/2-length victory in the $150,000 Futurity Stakes (G3) Oct. 14 at Belmont Park.
Off all the youngsters that touted themselves during the Saratoga Race Course meeting, Engage was one of the more workmanlike members of trainer Chad Brown's group. After he finished second in his debut Aug. 5, the bay colt notched a half-length win going six furlongs Sept. 4 to break his maiden after he raced off the pace in third under Jose Ortiz.
With Ortiz at the helm again, Engage showed he had some versatility during the six-furlong Futurity. As Red Peril cut fractions of :22.52 and :45.76, Engage rated last in the five-horse field but was just a few lengths off the leader. Coming off the final turn, he accelerated between Smooth B to his outside and Mojovation and finished well clear of runner-up Barry Lee.
"He's shown quite a bit of improvement in each of his starts," Brown said. "I was telling his owners in the paddock how much he's filled out since his last race. This horse is in a growth spurt right now and I like the fact we've kept him sprinting for now. Hopefully he continues to develop physically and we'll stretch him out as we go.
"He strikes me as a one-turn horse, but I think there is room for improvement, and we are going to try to stretch him out gradually. Speaking with Jose just now, he feels the same way."
With Ortiz giving him light urging, Engage hit the wire in 1:10.09, which left his pilot impressed with the gears he felt beneath him.
"(He's a) really nice horse. The first time he ran, I knew he was a good horse that day, and he came back and won, and last week he worked tremendous," Ortiz said. "With the post that I had today, I knew he was going to be tough. When I asked him to go at the three-sixteenths, I got the hole and I went outside Johnny (Velazquez, aboard Mojovation, and) he really exploded. He gave me a great turn of foot."
Mojovation finished third behind Barry Lee, with Red Peril and Smooth B completing the order of finish. Sent off at 1-2 odds, Engage paid $3.10, $2.30, and $2.10 across the board.
Bred by Woods Edge Farm, Engage was purchased by Woodford Racing for $550,000 out of this year's Ocala Breeders' Sales March 2-year-olds in training sale. He is out of the stakes-placed Speightstown mare Nefertiti.
"I think the (grade 2) Nashua Stakes makes sense (at one mile), if we choose to bring him back in that time frame and keeping him (at) one turn for now," Brown said. "Going around two turns, we'll see how he develops."