Saturday, a field of seven colts looks to take a step toward stardom when the Grade 2, $250,000 Futurity is run for the 119th time, while nine fillies go postward in the 102nd edition of the Grade 2, $250,000 Matron, both at seven furlongs.
“I am hoping they both run well,” said Hall of Fame trainer Shug McGaughey, who will send out the Phipps Stable’s Gone Astray, a son of Dixie Union, in the Futurity and stablemate Persistently, a daughter of Smoke Glacken, in the Matron. “Gone Astray is more of a ‘now’ horse but Persistently might be something good, looking ahead. She’s a big, gangly thing and from her first two races, she looks like two turns might be more to her liking. She seems to take more after her mother’s side (she is out of the Deputy Minister mare Just Reward) than her father’s.”
Trainer Larry Jones, who won last year’s Matron with this year’s three-year-old standout, Proud Spell, is back with On the Menu, a Canadian Frontier filly owned by former Kentucky governor Brereton C. Jones who broke her maiden at Delaware Park in August.
“At this point, Proud Spell was already a stakes winner,” said Jones, who also will be bringing Russell Welch’s High Mesa, a son of Sky Mesa, and Vinery Stable’s Friesan Fire, a son of A.P. Indy, to compete in the Futurity.
“They’re all pretty inexperienced, but they’re also high-quality horses, and we need to find out if they are Breeders’ Cup kinds of horses. We got a little later start than we wanted with them, and found ourselves all dressed up with no place to go, so we’re coming to Belmont.”
Waiting for them will be a pair of two-year-old maiden winners from Kiaran McLaughlin’s barn, Darley Stables’ Girolamo and Mr. and Mrs. William K. Warren Jr.’s Charitable Man.
“No doubt, it’s exciting, exciting, to have a promising two-year-old at this time of year,” said McLaughlin, who won his first training title at Saratoga thanks in part to the performances from his youngsters. “It’s very exhilarating to run back two-year-olds after breaking their maidens. We all learn a lot whether it’s good or bad, next time out, or next couple of times out.”
Both Charitable Man and Girolamo won within days of each other, with Charitable Man, a son of Lemon Drop Kid, kicking things off with a rousing 11½-length victory going 6½ furlongs on August 10, and Girolamo, a son of A.P. Indy, coming back six days later for a 3¼-length score going seven furlongs. Jockey Alan Garcia, who won the riding title at Saratoga for the first time, was aboard for both wins, but elected to stay aboard Charitable Man for the Futurity. John Velazquez will ride Girolamo.
“It was tempting to run Charitable Man back in three weeks for the Hopeful but we thought it better to wait for more time,” said the trainer. “In one respect, Girolamo is a little more experienced because he had it all in one race – he broke slow, took the dirt, circled wide and went on to win. Charitable Man won on the lead, but his problem is we haven’t found anyone to put dirt in his face in the morning. He’s very fast.”
The field for the 119th running of the Grade 2 Futurity:
PP Horse Jockey Trainer
1 High Mesa Gabriel Saez Larry Jones
2 Kensei Shaun Bridgmohan Steve Asmussen
3 Flying Pegasus Cornelio Velasquez Ralph Nicks
4 Friesan Fire Terry Thompson Larry Jones
5 Gone Stray Garrett Gomez Shug McGaughey
6 Girolamo John Velazquez Kiaran McLaughlin
7 Charitable Man Alan Garcia Kiaran McLaughlin
All starters will carry 120 pounds.
The field for the 102nd running of the Grade 2 Matron:
PP Horse Jockey Trainer
1 Doremifasolatido Eibar Coa Jimmy Jerkens
2 On the Menu Terry Thompson Larry Jones
3 Vegas Wedding Mike Luzzi Lisa Lewis
4 Miss Ocean City John Velazquez Nick Zito
5 Argyle Pink Cornelio Velasquez Eddie Kenneally
6 Heavenly Vision Edgar Prado Bob Baffert
7 Obsequious Garrett Gomez Elizabeth Gray
8 Persistently Alan Garcia Shug McGaughey
9 Saintly Rose Corey Nakatani Richard Vega
All starters will carry 119 pounds.