Undefeated Salute the Sarge, winner of the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) for 2-year-olds over the Polytrack three weeks ago, faces the biggest test of his brief career when he takes on 12 challengers in the $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) on the final day of the 2007 season Sept. 5.
If all 13 go in the seven-furlong event, it would be the largest Futurity field since 1967 when Baffle won over a dozen rivals. The Futurity, in its 60th running, was returned to grade I status this year after being dropped to a grade II in 1990.
Salute the Sarge defeated just three rivals in the Best Pal, so the big Futurity field could present traffic issues for a colt who likes to run slightly off the pace. He breaks from post six.
Salute the Sarge, who preceded his Best Pal win with a victory in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III), will carry high weight of 123 pounds. He gains the services of Hall of Fame rider Kent Desormeaux. The bay son of Forest Wildcat, named for trainer Nick Hines, would give trainer Eric Guillot his first try at the Futurity. Michael Moreno's Southern Equine Stable owns Salute the Sarge.
While unbeaten in his three starts, Salute the Sarge is yet to be favored. In the Best Pal at 6 1/2 furlongs, Salute the Sarge wore down odds-on choice Georgie Boy close to home to win by one length.
Desormeaux, who returns from his New York base after a successful season at Saratoga, replaces Michael Baze aboard Salute the Sarge. The jockey will be seeking his third win in Del Mar's top race for colts and geldings. He won with the Ron McAnally-trained Future Quest in 1995 and with Worldly Manner for Bob Baffert in 1998.
The California-bred Georgie Boy, who broke his maiden on the Del Mar Polytrack with a three-length triumph in the Cal Graduation Stakes July 25, also returns in the Futurity for trainer Kathy Walsh. He carries 121 pounds in the Futurity.
McAnally, who also saddled winner On Target in 1994, will send out Arnold Zetcher's E Z's Gentleman in search of his third Futurity score. Multiple Eclipse riding champion John Velazquez comes from Saratoga to ride for Hall of Famer McAnally.
Another Hall of Fame conditioner, Richard Mandella, will take two shots to register his third Futurity win in the past five years. He's hopeful that Kanan Dume or Dixie Chatter can repeat the success of 2003 winner Siphonizer or 2006 champ Horse Greeley. Kanan Dume drew the rail and Dixie Chatter drew the outside post.
Meet-leading trainer Doug O'Neill will tighten the girth on a pair of hopefuls, Good Man Dan and Overextended, who enters the race as one of only two non-winners in the field, though he has started three times.
Also coming out of the Best Pal is third-place finisher Sky Cape for trainer Kristin Mulhall. A victory by either Georgie Boy or Sky Cape would make Walsh or Mulhall the first female trainer to win the Futurity.
Leonides, trained by Vladimir Cerin, finished second by a nose to Salute the Sarge in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship and was primed to face that one again in the Best Pal. But he was scratched after spiking a fever.
Drill Down, an impressive maiden winner at Del Mar, will represent trainer Mike Machowsky in the Futurity. Peter Miller will saddle Whatever Whenever, who comes to the race from a victory in the Cavonnier Stakes at Santa Rosa. Rafael Becerra sends out Drewthegentleman, whom he claimed for $80,000 Aug. 3 at Del Mar. Trainer Jose DeLima will saddle the other non-winner, Ford Island, who finished third in a Del Mar maiden claiming race Aug. 17.
$250,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I, Race 9, 6 p.m.), 2-Year-Olds, 7 Furlongs (All Weather)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Kanan Dume (KY), 117, Victor Espinoza
2. Good Man Dan (KY), 117, Tyler Baze
3. Overextended (NY), 115, David R. Flores
4. Drill Down (KY), 117, Michael C. Baze
5. Ford Island (KY), 115, Joel Rosario
6. Salute the Sarge (KY), 123, Kent J. Desormeaux
7. Leonides (KY), 117, Joseph Talamo
8. E Z's Gentleman (KY), 117, John R. Velazquez
9. Whatever Whenever (FL), 119, Corey S. Nakatani
10. Sky Cape (KY), 117, Jose Valdivia, Jr.
11. Georgie Boy (CA), 121, Garrett K. Gomez
12. Drewthegentleman (KY), 115, Alex O. Solis
13. Dixie Chatter (KY), 117, Richard Migliore