09/11/2003 11:00PM

Cuvee eyes Futurity on road to BC


ELMONT, N.Y. - Last month, Cuvee looked super when he won the Grade 2 Saratoga Special by 7 1/2 lengths and set a stakes record. On Sunday at Belmont Park, Cuvee will be required to carry his speed a mile in the $200,000 Futurity, a race his connections are using as a stepping-stone to the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The Grade 1 Futurity shares the card with the Grade 1 Matron for 2-year-old fillies. Both races will be shown live during an espn2 telecast that begins at 3:30 p.m. Eastern.

Cuvee, the likely and deserving favorite, faces six in the Futurity.

Steve Asmussen, Cuvee's trainer, said the colt's front-running win in the slop in the 6 1/2-furlong Saratoga Special was "dynamite." The victory was particularly satisfying, Asmussen said, because it came on the heels of Cuvee's third-place finish in the Grade 3 Bashford Manor at Churchill on July 6. Cuvee, a son of Carson City, had a nightmare trip and was beaten 6 1/2 lengths by the winner, Limehouse. The Bashford Manor was Cuvee's only loss in four starts.

"He's a very fast horse with a pedigree that goes towards sprinting, but he's a tremendous athlete and I believe the mile will be well within him," Asmussen said. "He has a very good state of mind."

Jerry Bailey rides Cuvee, who drew post 4.

Value Plus concedes experience to the rest of the field, but he looked professional winning his maiden in his career debut at Saratoga on July 26. Value Plus, a son of Unbridled's Song, set the pace in the 6 1/2-furlong race and won by 8 3/4 lengths.

"It's a big jump going from a maiden race to a Grade 1, but he's trained like he's capable of stepping up and running well," said Todd Pletcher, trainer of Value Plus. John Velazquez rides Value Plus from post 6.

Flushing Meadows, whose sire, Grand Slam, won the Futurity in 1997, adds more speed to the mix. Flushing Meadows set the pace when he won a maiden race at Hollywood Park and an allowance race at Saratoga. He breaks from the rail.

Tumblebrutus, a full brother to Giant's Causeway, arrived from Ireland on Monday. Trainer Aidan O'Brien said the Storm Cat colt has natural speed but was slow to get his act together. Tumblebrutus has won one race in four starts and has never raced on the dirt.

Distressed Debt won his maiden with the addition of blinkers in his last start. El Prado Rob and Tabacchi complete the field.