Sixteen juveniles were entered in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Breeders' Futurity on Keeneland's Fall Stars Weekend, but only 14 will be allowed to line up in the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack contest. And of those 14, Solitary Ranger stands out following a 5 1/2-length romp in the Arlington-Washington Futurity on September 7.
The Breeders' Futurity is part of the "Prep Season" portion of the "Road to the Kentucky Derby" series, awarding points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to the first four finishers.
The Wayne Catalano pupil actually began his career at Keeneland during the spring, running second in a pair of 4 1/2-furlong maiden special weights. Not until he stretched out to a mile last out at Arlington did the U S Ranger colt earn his first win, but the time off between that and his earlier starts obviously did him good.
Solitary Ranger has been working fabulously at Keeneland since his initial score, recording a pair of bullet moves the last couple weeks. Jockey Florent Geroux was aboard for the Arlington-Washington Futurity and retains the mount on Saturday.
While Solitary Ranger will be drawing much of the attention, Conquest Titan could be overlooked a bit by the betting public.
Trainer Mark Casse is no stranger to shipping in his Woodbine-based runners and winning at Keeneland. Conquest Titan is just the latest, having posted a 5 1/4-length victory in the Swynford to break his maiden on August 24. The dark bay son of Birdstone didn't seem to like the conventional dirt at Churchill Downs in his debut on June 30, but flourished over Woodbine's Polytrack in the seven-furlong Swynford.
Casse is going for a unique double this weekend, as he will also send out My Conquestadory in Friday's Grade 1 Alcibiades. No trainer has swept the Alcibiades and Breeders' Futurity in the same year since Pat Byrne accomplished the task in 1997 with Countess Diana and Favorite Trick, though Casse came close last year when saddling Alcibiades winner Spring in the Air and Breeders' Futurity runner-up Dynamic Sky.
"I was confident coming into both races last year and I am more confident this year," Casse stated before adding about Conquest Titant, "He trains like a superstar. After his first race at Churchill Downs, we took him back to Woodbine, where he was training so well that we put him in a stakes. He won that in complete control."
Eurico Da Silva was aboard for that first victory and ships in to keep the mount on Conquest Titan in the Breeders' Futurity.