10/04/2012 3:21PM

Byron King: McPeek can spring another Breeders’ Futurity upset with Java’s War

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Lou Hodges Jr./Hodges Photography
Java's War (left), winning the Sunday Silence Stakes, will be racing on a synthetic surface for the first time in the Breeders’ Futurity.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. – Three years ago trainer Ken McPeek raced a colt in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity who few thought had the class to compete. Matched against horses coming out of graded stakes races and facing a full field, his horse, with just a maiden win at Ellis Park and a minor stakes win to his credit from three starts, was dismissed at 12-1.

Of course, the horse won – why else take this trip down memory lane? And the colt, Noble’s Promise, could go on to run third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile that year and eventually become a millionaire.

This Saturday, McPeek starts a horse with nearly identical credentials. And this time, unlike in 2009, I don’t plan to overlook his entrant. I’ll be betting his horse, Java’s War, with confidence that he has what it takes.

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The similarities to Noble’s Promise are numerous. Both won maiden races on the grass at Ellis Park, and each scored an ungraded stakes victory before the Breeders’ Futurity, though Java’s War did so at Louisiana Downs in the Sunday Silence Stakes, while Noble’s Promise did so in the Presque Isle Juvenile.

McPeek is also giving an out-of-town jockey an opportunity, just as he did for Willie Martinez aboard Noble’s Promise in 2009. This time Richard Eramia, one of Louisiana’s top riders, gets a return mount.

Naturally, no two horses are the same, and there are differences between Noble’s Promise and Java’s War.

Java’s War is racing on a synthetic surface for the first time in the Breeders’ Futurity, while Noble’s Promise had already shown a liking for such surfaces after winning on the similar Tapeta surface at Presque Isle.

But Java’s War is proven in a way that Noble’s Promise was not at the time, and for that matter, in a way in which none of his opponents on Saturday are – he has twice won two-turn routes.

Furthermore, his breeding, particularly on his dam’s side, suggests a small stretchout from a mile to 1 1/16 miles in the Breeders’ Futurity should further assist him.

As for the colt’s inexperience on synthetic tracks, a glance at McPeek’s stats in DRF ’s Formulator database provides confidence. According to Formulator, McPeek has won at a 27 percent rate with turf-to-synthetic runners at Keeneland, with an average return of $2.11 on a $2 bet.

Time to bet.

First Lady

Oftentimes it is easier for an outsider to steal a stakes race on the lead than it is for a favorite, who is typically closely tracked by the opposition.

Saturday, I plan to bet that angle by supporting Summer Soiree in the First Lady at Keeneland. Based on current form and her one-dimensional style, it’s easy to envision opposing riders not wanting to be in any hurry to tackle her early. To do so would only leave their mounts fatigued, and vulnerable to the kick of the favorite, Hungry Island.

Instead it seems more likely to expect Jose Lezcano on Tapitsfly and James Graham on Daisy Devine to be content to largely ignore Summer Soiree early, hoping she isn’t ready to return to her peak form of last year.

So that leaves Summer Soiree as a lone speed play under Gabe Saez, who has been up for all five her victories, including when she won the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks last summer.

My advice: Forget that Saez is not a “name” jockey. It seems apparent his connections chose to go back to a winning combination.

Woodford Stakes

Also worthy of play Saturday at Keeneland is Chamberlain Bridge in the Woodford. Sharp in his last three starts, showing glimpses of his banner 2010 form, he figures to get a favorable stalking setup behind front-runners Bridgetown and Great Mills.

The fact that the field came up relatively small with just seven entrants should lessen the traffic difficulties that can sometimes impede an stalker/closer like Chamberlain Bridge.

His current form also suggests he is as good as the opposition, anyway – at least if the Sept. 3 Turf Monster at Parx is an indication. That day he ran second, beaten a mere head by Ben’s Cat, an earner of over $950,000 who has three wins and a second in four starts over a Parx turf course he adores.