10/08/2009 11:00PM

Breeders' Futurity overflows with possibilities

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Barbara D. Livingston
Backtalk has done much of his training on synthetic surfaces, but races on one for the first time in the Breeders' Futurity.

LEXINGTON, Ky. - In the old days, Keeneland and other racetracks might split a stakes race into two divisions in the case of too many entries. That type of scenario presented itself with the 96th running of the Grade 1 Dixiana Breeders' Futurity on Saturday, but things are not as simple as they once were. Keeneland's racing secretary, Ben Huffman, as per standard practice, chose to keep the field intact, citing purse money, the race's graded status, and Breeders' Cup Win and You're In provisions as complicating factors.

The concept comes to mind because, even if the 16 2-year-olds were separated into divisions, handicapping either would be a brutal task. As it stands, the $500,000 Breeders' Futurity is a beautiful mess begging for some clarification . . . and good luck with that.

"It's an extremely deep race, and like a lot of races for young horses, there's a lot of opportunity for them to step forward," said Tom Amoss, who will saddle Backtalk, a two-time graded stakes winner who will be one of the favorites when he stretches out for the first time around two turns in the 1 1/16-mile Polytrack race.

Backtalk, with Robby Albarado to ride, will be seeking to rebound from the first loss of his four-race career when he breaks from post 2 in the Breeders' Futurity, a Win and You're In event toward the Nov. 7 Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita.

A striking chestnut colt by Smarty Jones, Backtalk was raised on an Ocala, Fla., farm that utilizes a synthetic training track, then was sent to train extensively over the Polytrack surface at Arlington Park before making his career debut. He has never raced on a synthetic surface.

"He ought to be able to handle the synthetic as well as he's handled dirt," said Amoss. "We're very comfortable with the transition."

The Breeders' Futurity field is limited to 14 starters, meaning the also-eligibles, Looks Purrrfect and Raging Wit, can make the race only in case of early raceday scratches. As it is, there is no shortage of viable contenders in the main body.

Dixie Band is unbeaten in three starts, all on the Arlington Poly, and comes favorably drawn in post 1 with David Flores. Noble's Promise ran off to win a $100,000 sprint stakes on the synthetic surface at Presque Isle Downs two Saturdays ago. Make Music for Me and Hurricane Ike were the second- and fifth-place finishers in the Sept. 7 Del Mar Futurity behind Lookin at Lucky, who wheeled back to win the Grade 1 Norfolk last weekend at Santa Anita.

And there's more. Aikenite closed well to be third in the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga, hinting at a desire for more distance. Roman Invasion and Wildcat Nation enter off highly impressive victories in maiden company, as does Stately Victor, a Mike Maker-trained colt whose two-turn turf score on closing weekend at Saratoga suggested a bright future in longer races.

The Breeders' Futurity, first run at the old Kentucky Association track in 1910, is the eighth of 10 Saturday races. All 1 1/16-mile main-track races at Keeneland begin and end at what otherwise is the sixteenth pole.