December 8, 2023

Locked, Timberlake top draws in Breeders’ Futurity; Wicked Halo seeks rebound in TCA

Wicked Halo wins the 2022 Raven Run Stakes at Keeneland (Photo by Coady Photography)

Keeneland will feature a pair of main track stakes with Breeders’ Cup implications on Saturday’s 11-race program.

Along with guaranteeing a free berth to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), the $600,000 Breeders’ Futurity (G1) will award points on a 10-5-3-2-1 scale to the top five finishers as a Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifier. The $350,000 Thoroughbred Club of America (G2) serves as a “Win & You’re In” for the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint (G1).

Breeders’ Futurity (G1)

Locked must overcome the far outside post among nine two-year-olds, but the Todd Pletcher-trained son of Gun Runner promises to take some beating in the 1 1/6-mile Breeders’ Futurity following a 7 1/4-length thrashing of maiden rivals at Saratoga. A troubled third the first time out, the promising chestnut colt easily registered a field-best 105 Brisnet Speed rating when graduating over a mile last time. Jose Ortiz retains the mount.

Timberlake, a smashing 9 1/4-length maiden scorer at Ellis Park two back, rates as the main rival off a troubled second in the Hopeful (G1) at Saratoga. Off as the 2.15-1 favorite, the Into Mischief colt broke poorly, encountered traffic trouble on the backstretch, and had to steady in upper stretch, eventually winding up second. Brad Cox removes blinkers, and Timberlake will look to make a serious impact with a clear journey under Florent Geroux.

Cox will also send out Awesome Road, a convincing debut winner at Ellis Park in late August. By Quality Road, the bay colt is bred to relish the stretch out to two turns – his dam is a sister to Pulpit – and Awesome Road will add the services of Flavien Prat.

West Saratoga will look to back up his upset win in the Sept. 16 Iroquois (G3) at Churchill Downs. Kenny McPeek has a pair of last-out maiden winners in Generous Tipper and Northern Flame. Multiple stakes winner The Wine Steward will stretch to two turns for Mike Maker. Just Steel, a nice maiden scorer two back for D. Wayne Lukas, will seek to bounce back from a seventh in the Hopeful, and stakes winner Baytown Chatterbox is also part of the mix.

Thoroughbred Club of America (G2)

Third in last year’s Filly & Mare Sprint, Wicked Halo will look to reinvigorate her Breeders’ Cup hopes in the six-furlong TCA. The four-year-old daughter of Gun Runner recorded top-class seconds in the Derby City Distaff (G1) and Bed O’ Roses (G2) prior to a convincing stakes winner at Ellis two back, but the gray filly came up flat when third in the Sept. 16 Open Mind S. at Churchill Downs last out.

Wicked Halo showed an affinity for Keeneland last fall, recording a four-length win in the Raven Run (G2) prior to the Breeders’ Cup, and the Steve Asmussen trainee will break from the rail against six rivals with Tyler Gaffalione.

Yuugiri, a three-length romper in the Open Mind, figures to show speed with Prat. Open Mind runner-up Fire On Time is also back for the TCA. Other runners include Keeneland allowance winner Static Fire and last year’s TCA runner-up Happy Soul.