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Balance the Books out finishes Joha (inside) and Charming Kitten (behind) to win the With Anticipation Stakes (G2) on August 30 at Saratoga Race Course (Photos Courtesy of

Keeneland’s opening weekend program is being promoted as “FallStars Weekend,” which certainly applies when looking at the field for the 99th running of the $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1). With 16 2-year-olds entered and 14 permitted to run and with an automatic entry in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) in four weeks on the line, many of these well-bred and talented freshmen could be stars in short order. Eight of the 14 entrants in the race have won or placed in stakes races in their most recent starts, that group led by With Anticipation Stakes (G2) winner Balance the Books and runner-up Joha, both running on the synthetic Polytrack surface (Balance the Books for the first time) after running on grass last time out. Summer Stakes (Can-G2) runner-up Are You Kidding Me is another in top form, with two victories prior to his recent second-place effort, while Arlington-Washington Futurity (G3) winner Pataky Kid has experience on a similar Polytrack surface at Arlington Park that should serve him well in this situation. Java’s War, like Balance the Books, recently won a race on grass, the Sunday Silence Stakes, and could be competitive in this feature, while Simcoe Stakes winner Dynamic Sky may only need to run as well in his first attempt around two turns to have a say in the outcome.



Barretts Juvenile Stakes winner Tree of Life is going long for the first time, but he has run around two turns as the 6 1/2-furlong distance of the Barretts Juvenile is a two-turn race at the five-eighths of a mile oval at Fairplex Park. With Anticipation third-place finisher Charming Kitten is another that may just need to continue a logical pattern of progression to be competitive, while impressive 10 1/2-length maiden winner Tizracer hails from the barn of North American leading trainer Todd Pletcher and could make the step up to this level as many 2-year-olds have been known to do. Bashford Manner Stakes (G3) runner-up Positively is another who is trying two turns for the first time but, as he is proven capable at this level, should run well once again. He’s So Fine finished second in the Saratoga Special Stakes (G2) in early August before a fifth-place finish behind some of these in the With Anticipation and will try to rebound to competitive form. The rest of the field consists of recent maiden winners Craving Carats, Dipsy Drew, He’s Had Enough as well as also-eligibles Hightail and Zoloto.

Note: An also-eligible is a horse officially entered for a race but not permitted to start unless the field is reduced by scratches below a specified number. If the also-eligible horse does not draw into the race, he officially is listed as scratched.

Tizracer ran the fastest of any horse in this year’s Breeders’ Futurity field last month when breaking his maiden (winning for the first time) by more than 10 lengths at Saratoga Race Course. That 100 Equibase Speed Figure is five points higher than the next best figure (a 95 by Balance the Books) earned by any horse in the field, which is the equivalent of about three lengths. With 2-year-olds, vast improvement can come from one race to the next but it is reasonable to assume that with horses at this level they might all improve at about the same rate and that is why Tizracer should run even better in this situation and should continue to run faster than any of the other Futurity entrants. Additionally, considering that victory came at a mile, Tizracer is being asked to run just an additional 110 yards farther in the Futurity and, as a son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow, should have no issues with the added distance or the fact he’s trying two turns for the first time. Particularly as he is trained by Todd Pletcher, the top trainer in North America by earnings and the trainer with the most graded stakes wins this year, Tizracer appears to be the one to beat in the Futurity.

Java’s War has won two races in a row since finishing fifth in his career debut in June, both wins coming at a mile on turf. Those both being two-turn races, Java’s War has experience some of the other Futurity entrants lack, and the fact he just won a stakes, the Sunday Silence, is another reason to believe Java’s War can run competitively in this situation. With a 93 Equibase Speed Figure to improve upon as well, Java’s War must be taken very seriously as a contender in this race.

Dynamic Sky also earned a 93 speed figure in his most recent start, winning the Simcoe Stakes on the Polytrack surface at Woodbine in Canada in only the second start of his career. Although he is running around two turns for the first time, Dynamic Sky is a son of Sky Mesa, who won the Breeders’ Futurity in 2002. Dynamic Sky should run just as well or better and, as this is only the third start of his career, improvement can be expected as well, so he is yet another 2-year-old within reach of an important stakes win in the Breeders’ Futurity.

Balance the Books closed fast for second in his career debut at the beginning of August, running 1 1/16 miles on grass without benefit of a prep (shorter) race first. In his second start, Balance the Books improved markedly to break his maiden in a stakes race, taking the With Anticipation Stakes by a head and earning a career-best 95 speed figure in the process. With a graded stakes and two-turn victory under his belt, the only question may be whether this well-bred colt can transition from turf to the main track in order to run as well, and we certainly will witness the answer to that question in real time in this race.

Joha missed by a head to Balance the Books in the With Anticipation, so I would be remiss if not considering him a contender as well. Running two turns for the first time, Joha took the lead from the start and relaxed in nice fashion to hold a commanding lead of three lengths in the stretch, only to be run down right near the finish line while earning a competitive 94  speed figure. Still, Joha demonstrated a lot of gameness that suggests from the ground-saving rail he might be even tougher to catch in the Futurity. 

The rest of the field, with their best representative Equibase Speed Figures: Are You Kidding Me (85), Charming Kitten (92), Craving Carats (81), Dipsy Drew (80), He’s Had Enough (91), He’s So Fine (86), Hightail (89), Pataky Kid (93), Positively (89), Tree of Life (80) and Zoloto (90).



My Selections:


Java’s War

Dynamic Sky

Balance the Books


$400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity (G1)

Oct. 6, Keeneland Race Course, Race 8, 4:49 PM EDT

1 1/16 miles, 2-year-olds







Rajiv Maragh

Mike Maker


Are You Kidding Me

Alex Solis

Roger Attfield


He’s So Fine

David Cohen

Kenny McPeek


Java’s War

Richard Eramia

Kenny McPeek



Jose Lezcano

Todd Pletcher


Pataky Kid

Paco Lopez

Tom Proctor


Craving Carats

Kent Desormeaux

Dale Romans


Dipsy Drew

Jon Court

William Fires


Charming Kitten

Javier Castellano

Todd Pletcher



Calvin Borel

Pat Byrne


Balance the Books

Julien Leparoux

Chad Brown


Dynamic Sky

Luis Contreras

Mark Casse


He’s Had Enough

Mario Gutierrez

Doug O’Neill


Tree of Life

Victor Espinoza

Craig Dollase



Joe Rocco Jr.

D. Wayne Lukas



Junior Alvarado

Darrin Miller

All runners carry 121 pounds

AE-denotes also-eligible to race if another entrant is scratched

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

Image Description

Ellis Starr

National Racing Analyst for Equibase, Fan Education Specialist, Bettor, Magister of Equine Prognostication (Handicapper).

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