An overflow field of 12 sophomore trotters will head postward in Sunday’s $430,000 Kentucky Futurity at The Red Mile in Lexington, Ky., a race that has played a key role in divisional honours in recent years.
Marcus Melander-trained stablemates Periculum and Temporal Hanover are the top choices in the Futurity, at 4-1 and 9-2, respectively. Seven of the 11 horses in the field are at morning-line odds of 10-1 or less, including Canadian Trotting Classic winner Slay.
Slay, trained by Tony Alagna, has won five of 12 races this season and earned $594,397 for owners Crawford Farms Racing and James Crawford IV. He has four wins and a third in his past six starts, with a triumph in a division of the Stanley Dancer Memorial joining the Canadian Trotting Classic during that span.
“He’s been sharp for a couple months now, racing really well,” said driver Joe Bongiorno, who will sit behind Slay for a sixth consecutive start in the Futurity. “This horse has won some major stakes; he might be a little underrated. I think he’s a very good colt and I don’t think we’ve even seen his best.”
Slay briefly went off stride at the top of the stretch in the Canadian Trotting Classic but recovered to win by a length over Pretender.
“I don’t think the footing was quite the same, and he just caught a boot,” Bongiorno said. “He spotted them a few lengths in the stretch and still beat those horses. Obviously, I’m not going to disregard any of those horses (in the Futurity). They’re all a bunch of top horses. A couple of them look like they’re stepping up right now. Both of Melander’s horses are very good horses. It’s a very competitive field.”
Slay, a son of Chapter Seven-Swinging Royalty, will start the Futurity from post two. He is 10-1 on the morning line.
“I’m fine with our post, it’s just about giving the little guy a trip and hoping it’s his day,” Bongiorno said. “He’s probably not a front-end horse. That might have a little bit to do with his size, but as long as you save a little bit for him, he’ll give you a big run in the stretch. He tries hard for you.”
Each of the past four Kentucky Futurity winners, and six of the past seven, have gone on to receive the Dan Patch Award for best three-year-old male trotter.
With Yonkers Trot winner Joviality S competing in the Kentucky Filly Futurity, there will not be a Trotting Triple Crown winner this year but Hambletonian Stakes champ Cool Papa Bell will try to join the list of horses to capture two jewels.
Nine trotters have won the Triple Crown, with an additional 20 winning two legs. The most recent horse to get two jewels of the Crown was Six Pack, who won the Yonkers Trot and Kentucky Futurity in 2018.
Cool Papa Bell, who enters the Kentucky Futurity off back-to-back wins in the New York Sire Stakes final and Phil Langley Memorial, will start Sunday from post nine with Todd McCarthy driving for trainer Jim Campbell. He is 12-1 on the morning line.
The Futurity will have a full field of 12, with spots secured by seasonal earnings. Two horses, Justice and Keg Stand, will start from the second tier.
“He didn’t get much favour with the post position, but that’s out of our control,” Campbell said. “It’s (a disadvantage) when there are two trailers, but he’s pretty versatile in the way you can race him, so he has that going in his favour.
“It all depends how the race shapes up. If they happen to go real hard in the beginning and he’s laying back behind some cover, then I think that gives him his best shot. It’s a pretty wide-open race.”
Cool Papa Bell, a son of Chapter Seven-Blk Thai Optional owned by Runthetable Stables, has won six of 11 races this year and earned $796,225.
“He came out of the (Langley) really good,” Campbell said. “He’s had a good week, he feels good. So far, everything is good.”
The Kentucky Futurity is race 12 on Sunday’s 12-race card, which begins at 1 p.m. (EDT). The race will be preceded by the $276,000 Kentucky Filly Futurity (race 10) and $153,000 Allerage Open Pace featuring harness racing’s fastest-ever performer, Bulldog Hanover.
For complete entries, click here for Sunday's program pages.
(with files from USTA)