Breeders' Futurity: By The Numbers

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October 6th, 2021

A key qualifying race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the Kentucky Derby (G1), the Breeders’ Futurity is a worthy Grade 1 prize in itself. Here is a look at the race by the numbers.


The number of Breeders’ Futurity winners owned by a rap superstar. After the success of songs like "U Can’t Touch This," MC Hammer began investing on a significant scale in racehorses in the early 1990s. Among them was Dance Floor, who arrived at the 1991 Futurity as an 11-1 chance after just one victory, the most recent of his four starts. But after stalking the early pace, he hit the front in the stretch and won by three lengths. Dance Floor finished sixth in Arazi’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) but then won the Kentucky Jockey Club S. (G3) and returned the following year to win the Fountain of Youth S. (G2) and finish third in the Kentucky Derby (G1).


Breeders’ Futurity winners to subsequently win the Kentucky Derby is the remarkably small number of three. In the race’s early years at Keeneland it looked like it would be much more, and two of the first three Keeneland winners – Johnstown (1938) and Whirlaway (1940) went on to win the Derby, the latter as part of the Triple Crown. Both became Hall of Famers, as did 1941 Futurity winner Devil Diver. But though a number of top horses won the race in later years, only 1983 Futurity winner Swale has emulated Johnstown and Whirlaway as a Derby winner since. The race does form part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, with 10 points for the winner, four for second placing, two for finishing third and one for fourth.


The number of Breeders’ Futurity winners that subsequently took out the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1). The connection goes right back to the second Breeders’ Cup in 1985, when the Juvenile was won by Futurity victor Tasso. Boston Harbor completed the double in 1996, and Favorite Trick repeated the feat the following year. The remaining two horses to complete this double were in the past five years: Classic Empire in 2016, and Essential Quality last year. The Breeders’ Futurity is one of four races whose winner earns automatic entry to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.


The tally of Breeders’ Futurity victories for Hall of Fame trainer D.Wayne Lukas, the most successful trainer in the race’s history. Amazingly, five of those came in an eight-year span in the 1990s: Dance Floor (1991), Mountain Cat (1992), Honour and Glory (1995), Boston Harbor (1996), and Cat Thief (1998). The sixth victory came six years after the fifth when Consolidator took the 2004 edition. Boston Harbor was the only one of these to subsequently win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, though Cat Thief returned to the end-of-year championship meet the year after his Breeders’ Futurity victory to win the biggest of them all, the Breeders’ Cup Classic, in 1999.


The number of editions held on an artificial track. Keeneland installed a Polytrack surface in 2006 and the Futurity was staged on that surface until 2013. Not surprisingly, the two winners who subsequently did best in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile were Square Eddie, second to Midshipman in 2008, and Noble’s Promise, third to Vale of York the following year. Both those Breeders’ Cup races were at Santa Anita in years that it had an artificial surface. The best of the Polytrack winners on dirt in the Juvenile were Great Hunter, third in 2006, and Dullahan, fourth in 2011.


The astonishing number of races won over his career by the 1956 Breeders’ Futurity winner Round Table – arguably the best-ever winner of the race. The Breeders’ Futurity was one of five juvenile wins for the son of Princequillo, and he improved further at three to finish third behind Iron Liege and Gallant Man in the Kentucky Derby – one place ahead of Bold Ruler, before going on an 11-race win streak. He then had a dominant four-year-old season, being named Horse of the Year, before returning at five to win nine of 14 starts. Round Table was especially dominant on turf, winning 14 of his 16 starts, and is widely regarded as the best turf horse in U.S. history. He later became an important stallion.


The year the Breeders’ Futurity was first staged at the Kentucky Association course in what is now downtown Lexington, Kentucky, and won by the good Broomstick filly Housemaid. The final winner of the race at the Kentucky Association track in 1930 was Mate, who the following season won the Preakness S. before finishing third in the Kentucky Derby. For the following three years it was staged at Latonia in Covington, and its final winner there was the filly Mata Hari. After four years when it was not staged, the race was relocated to the new Keeneland track in 1938.


The last year that a Breeders’ Futurity winner won the Kentucky Derby. The horse to achieve that was Swale, who had shown himself one of the best juveniles of his year when winning not only the 1983 Futurity, scoring by a head, but also the Futurity at Belmont Park, then a Grade 1 on dirt. The son of Seattle Slew returned the following year to win the Florida Derby and finish second in the Lexington S. prior to the Run for the Roses. After a convincing win in the Derby, Swale disappointed when seventh in the Preakness (G1) before rebounding to win the Belmont S. (G1). Eight days after that, he tragically collapsed and died.