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West Saratoga to Get 'Good Test' in Breeders' Futurity

Locked is the 7-5 favorite, followed by Awesome Road (3-1) and Timberlake (7-2).

West Saratoga wins the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs

West Saratoga wins the Iroquois Stakes at Churchill Downs

Coady Photography

Unlike multiple Eclipse Award-winning trainers Brad Cox and Todd Pletcher, Larry Demeritte has largely been absent from grade 1 races at Keeneland, but on Oct. 7, he has his chance. The locally-based trainer, whose modest stable has been part of the Keeneland racing community for decades, runs Harry Veruchi's West Saratoga in the $600,000 Breeders' Futurity (G1).

West Saratoga is among nine 2-year-olds entered in the 1 1/16-mile race, which, as part of the Breeders' Cup Challenge Series: Win and You're In, provides a berth into the $2 million Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Santa Anita Park Nov. 3. He is a 20-1 shot on the morning line in a race in which the Pletcher-trained Locked is the 7-5 favorite, followed by Cox trainees Awesome Road and Timberlake at odds of 3-1 and 7-2, respectively.

"It means a lot to be in this race because Keeneland is like my second home," Demeritte said. "I enjoy training horses here, and it would mean a great deal to win because it would mean he is the kind of horse I think he is."

Compared to his counterparts in Saturday's race, West Saratoga is already a graded stakes winner, having won the Sept. 16 Iroquois Stakes (G3) at Churchill Downs to give Demeritte the most significant victory of his career. The gray previously scored in the maiden ranks Aug. 5 at Ellis Park in a race that, like the Iroquois, came at a mile.

The bargain $11,000 purchase from the Hidden Brook consignment to the 2022 Keeneland September Yearling Sale, West Saratoga, a son of Exaggerator, has earned a race-best $276,815 with a 2-3-0 record in six starts. 

At least several of his rivals appear to have considerable promise.

"You have to be around good horses to have something to compare them to," Demeritte said. "The Breeders' Futurity is a good test for him because a lot of these horses are going to wind up (next year) in the Kentucky Derby (G1)."

Locked has yet to race outside the maiden ranks but does have experience at a route, having rolled to a 7 1/4-length victory at Saratoga Race Course for Pletcher in a mile race in the Gun Runner  colt's second career start. He races for owners Eclipse Thoroughbred Partners and Walmac Farm.

Pletcher is a three-time winner of the Breeders' Futurity, with his most recent victory coming in 2022 when eventual champion Forte took the race before a Breeders' Cup Juvenile triumph. 

Other notable entrants in Saturday's race include Paradise Farms and David Staudacher's dual stakes-winning The Wine Steward, trained by Mike Maker, and the Kenny McPeek-trained maiden winners Generous Tipper, owned by Walking L Thoroughbreds, and Northern Flame, who races for partners John Oxley, Harold Lerner, and AWC Stables.

McPeek'S Thoughts On HIS COLTS

  • Of Generous Tipper, McPeek said: "His last race was a big, big run; a wake-up performance. He has been wanting two turns as a Street Sense. We gave him time as well and spaced his races. I'm excited about his chances and his future."
  • "Northern Flame is another where the light bulb came on. He was begging for two turns," McPeek added, saying the Flameaway colt has "all the parts in the right places that a good horse needs."
  • "The next several months, and even the next year, is going to be interesting for both these colts. It is a fun time of year to have a young horse with talent, and we're sitting in a good position," he noted.

Entries: Claiborne Breeders' Futurity (G1)

Keeneland, Saturday, October 7, 2023, Race 9

  • Grade I
  • 1 1/16m
  • Dirt
  • $600,000
  • 2 yo
  • 5:14 PM (local)
PPHorseJockeyWgtTrainerM/L
11The Wine Steward (NY)Luis Saez122Michael J. Maker8/1
22Timberlake (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlorent Geroux122Brad H. Cox7/2
33Awesome Road (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateFlavien Prat122Brad H. Cox3/1
44Baytown Chatterbox (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJane Elliott122Paul McEntee50/1
55West Saratoga (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateGerardo Corrales122Larry W. Demeritte20/1
66Generous Tipper (KY)Brian Joseph Hernandez, Jr.122Kenneth G. McPeek15/1
77Just Steel (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJoel Rosario122D. Wayne Lukas12/1
88Northern Flame (KY)Julien R. Leparoux122Kenneth G. McPeek20/1
99Locked (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateJose L. Ortiz122Todd A. Pletcher7/5