Bluegrass Equine Blookstock's Joha captured the Grade 1, $400,000 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland on Saturday in wire-to-wire fashion.
The Breeders' Futurity is part of the new "Road to the Kentucky Derby" scoring system.
"It was a tough beat last time (finishing second by a head to Balance the Books in the Grade 2 With Anticipation on turf at Saratoga on August 30), but I'm grateful for today," trainer Mike Maker said.
The dark bay colt broke straight to the front along the rail, never relinquished the lead and was able to hold off a late-charging Dynamic Sky in the stretch. Joha posted fractions of :23 4/5, :48 2/5 and 1:12 4/5 along his way to a one-length victory.
"He was the best horse in the race but he runs very green," said Mark Casse, trainer of Dynamic Sky. "He showed he could step up in class. I'm very pleased with him. If we ever get him to run straight he's going to be really, really tough. We will give the Breeders' Cup Juvenile serious consideration."
The BEC Bloodstock Kentucky-bred colt covered the 1 1/16 miles on the Polytrack in 1:44 2/5 with Rajiv Maragh aboard. Joha returned a healthy $19.40, $10.80 and $7 to his backers at 8-1. With this first graded win on Saturday, he boosted his bankroll to $425,767 and now has a career line that reads 6-3-2-1.
"This horse broke well from the gate," Maragh said. "I got the lead and I got to slow it down going down the backstretch. He had a lot in the tank. He just kept on fighting when they came to him. He had a lot of power today. He seemed like once he got relaxed on the lead that he was going to give me more once I asked him. Once I did, he did kick on."
Joha was pressured around the track by 3-1 post time favorite Tizracer, who fell back in the stretch to finish in next to last place. Coming in third was Java's War, who was three-quarter lengths behind Dynamic Sky. Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity winner Pataky Kid finished fourth.
Are You Kidding Me, Hightail, Positively, He's So Fine, Charming Kitten, Tree of Life, He's Had Enough, Tizracer and Craving Carats rounded out the order of finish. Balance the Books, Dipsy Drew and Zoloto all were scratched.
"My horse did break very good and I got in position. When I asked him (to run), I don't think he handled the ground good," said Jose Lezcano, rider of Tizracer.
Joha broke his maiden in his third start while making his turf debut at Belmont. The son of Johar followed up that performance with a second-place finish in the With Anticipation at Saratoga, also on the turf. As the Breeders' Futurity was a "Win and You're In" race, he earned an automatic berth in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile on November 3.
Joha's dam is the Mujadil mare Mujado and he comes from the same female line as English champion Sandford Lad.