Columbine Stable's J. B.'S THUNDER (Thunder Gulch) entered Saturday's $400,000 Breeders' Futurity (G1) at Keeneland off an easy Saratoga turf maiden score and exited a Grade 1 winner following yet another front-running victory. The Al Stall Jr. trainee took the lead from the start and, after setting fractions of :24, :48 3/5, 1:13 2/5 and 1:37 4/5, drew off in the stretch under Shaun Bridgmohan to be four lengths clear on the wire in a final time of 1:44 for 8 1/2 Polytrack furlongs.
"He's a versatile horse, smart head on his shoulder," Bridgmohan praised the Breeders' Futurity winner. "It just happened that he inherited the lead, and we just nursed it around there.
"I've been working him all summer, and he's a nice horse. Just like I said, push-button, he'll do anything you ask him to do and still find more at the end for you."
"I just told (jockey) Shaun (Bridgmohan), 'Take what they give you.' I had a feeling he'd leave on his toes today. He had been so sharp," Stall said. "He had a chance to school around here and get comfortable. Obviously he did, and Shaun just took it to 'em. When he cut the corner a little bit on that other speed horse in the first turn and he threw his ears up it looked like a replay of the Saratoga race (in which he broke his maiden)."
Even though J. B.'s Thunder earned an automatic berth in the November 6 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs with this win, Stall said running in that event "is very much 50-50 at best."
"We'll probably go to Fair Grounds and point for the (November 20) Delta Jackpot ([G3] at Delta Downs) or the (January 22) Lecomte (G3) at (Fair Grounds)," he explained.
Sent off the 5-1 second choice in the 11-juvenile field, J. B.'s Thunder paid $13.60, $7.20 and $5 while keying the $80 exacta, $545.20 trifecta and $6,841.80 superfecta (3-2-4-11). Santiva (Giant's Causeway) steadied after bearing in and bumping with Conservative Value (Value Plus) at the start, was outrun on the backstretch, but came with a five-wide rally to be second at 6-1. He gave back $7.80 and $5.20 for nosing out Willcox Inn (Harlan's Holiday) for second. Show was worth $5.60 at 6-1, and it was another 1 1/4 lengths back to Typhoon Slew (Stormy Atlantic).
"My horse missed the break a little bit, so I didn't have a choice (but to be farther back)," said Javier Castellano, who piloted Santiva. "He only has one style, you know -- a come from behind horse. But he handled himself well and finished very, very strong. When I asked him he passed a lot of horses at one time and he finished so good today."
Despite finishing third, Willcox Inn's connections were happy with his effort.
"Our horse turned in a huge effort in just his second start," trainer Michael Stidham said. "He made a big move, but the track bias was against us. But even with the speed bias, he still closed well and was passing horses at the end. We may send him to Churchill for the (Breeders' Cup) Juvenile Turf (G2), but nothing definite has been decided yet."
Major Gain (More Than Ready), the 5-2 favorite, followed in fifth.
"I don't have too much excuse with my horse," said Junior Alvarado, who rode the public's choice. "He broke real sharp and took up a real nice position all the way. When I started asking he just responded. He went steady all the way, but it wasn't enough."
Rough Sailing (Mizzen Mast), Silver Medallion (Badge of Silver), Maybesomaybenot (Sunday Break [Jpn]), Lou Brissie (Limehouse), Conservative Value and Brickyard Fast (Sharp Humor) completed the order under the wire.
J. B.'s Thunder is now two-for-two in his career and boosted his earnings to $270,600 with Saturday's winner's share, more than earning back his purchase price of $42,000 as a Keeneland September yearling. Bred by Coffeepot Stable in Kentucky, he is out of Grade 2-placed stakes winner Rebridled Dreams (Unbridled's Song), whose first registered foal is multiple Group 3-placed listed scorer Doncaster Rover (War Chant). The 10-year-old mare also has an unnamed yearling filly by Tale of the Cat.
Rebridled Dreams is herself a daughter of dual stakes victress Key Cents (Corridor Key), and this is the same family as multiple Grade 3 queen Highland Penny (Highland Blade) and, farther back, 1944 Horse of the Year and multiple champion Twilight Tear (Bull Lea).