10/22/2009 11:00PM

A day to celebrate New York-breds

Barbara D. Livingston
Future Prospect, the likely favorite for the featured Empire Classic, has won 6 of his last 8 starts.

ELMONT, N.Y. - The economic and political climate in New York has made these difficult times for breeders in the state. Politicians continue to stall on getting a slots parlor up and operating at Aqueduct. A recent sale of New York-breds in Saratoga proved grim, with 88 of 145 cataloged horses failing to sell.

For one weekend, at least, New York breeders will have something to smile about. The annual New York Showcase Day program is here at Belmont Park, featuring seven stakes worth a collective $1 million for New York-breds. However, there is a twist this year. Thanks to that practical joking, horse-racing un-enthusiast Mother Nature, the New York Showcase will be played out over two days.

Originally scheduled as a one-day event, two of the seven stakes scheduled for Saturday have been postponed to Sunday. With a significant amount of rain forecast for Saturday, the Mohawk and Ticonderoga - both scheduled for 1 1/8 miles on turf - have been moved to Sunday.

There will still be a 10-race card Saturday featuring five stakes, highlighted by the $250,000 Empire Classic at 1 1/8 miles.

"Unfortunately, right now there are a lot of breeders that are really having it tough - one, because of the economy, and two, the lack of slots or government movement on slots,'' said trainer James Bond, who is also a breeder. "The program has come a long way if you see the pedigrees today. It's great for New York. It truly is a showcase-type thing.''

Bond will send out Ruffino in the Empire Classic against probable favorite Future Prospect and 10 others, including the filly Weathered. Ruffino, a 6-year-old gelded son of Raffie's Majesty, has won four consecutive races, a streak that began on Nov. 30, 2008. Ruffino has only run 11 times in his career, but has won seven of them.

"He has numerous problems, he's just so big - he's probably 17 hands high, - and he's hard on himself,'' said Bond, who trains Ruffino for his wife, Tina. "He's a tough-training horse, but if you get him right, you can lead him over there. I never thought we'd get to this point to lead him over to a spot like this. He deserves the chance.''

In 2009, Future Prospect has come to run, winning 6 of his last 8 starts, with two second-place finishes. He is 3 for 4 at Belmont, including a 3 3/4-length victory in the here on Sept. 26, in which he rated off a fast early pace. Rajiv Maragh, who had ridden Ruffino to his last four victories, will ride Future Prospect. Maragh has won with Future Prospect the last five times he has ridden him.

"The horse can't be doing any better as his form shows,'' trainer Mike Maker said. "My only concern is a wet track.''

Among the dozen entered in the Empire Classic was Haynesfield, who has made only one start since March, that being a second-place finish in a . The one-turn, 1 1/8-mile Empire Classic could be more than Haynesfield wants at this time.

Slevin, a 3-year-old who finished second in all three stakes races that make up the Big Apple Triple, could be an upset contender. There appears to be plenty of pace to set up his late kick. At 115 pounds, he gets nine pounds from Future Prospect.

The Empire Classic is the final race on the card and the last leg of a pick-four wager with a guaranteed pool of $350,000.

Here's a look at the other stakes on the card:

* The stakes action begins in the sixth with the for juvenile fillies at a mile. Mineralogist, a daughter of Mineshaft out of the stakes-winning Seeking the Ante, won the Joseph A. Gimma for Chester and Mary Broman and trainer John Kimmel. Mineralogist looms a short-priced favorite against eight rivals, including Sugar Trade, whom she defeated soundly in the Gimma.

* The undefeated Ibboyee heads an 11-horse field in the for juvenile colts and geldings. Ibboyee, a son of Medallist, won the Aspirant and New York Breeders' Futurity - both at Finger Lakes - by more than six lengths each. The Futurity was run over a wet surface. Make Note, Come From Behind, and City Trooper - the top three finishers from the Bertram Bongard - head the competition.

* The , which drew a field of 13 female sprinters, looms the most wide-open race on the program. Sapphire Sky moves up big-time on a wet track - she's 4 for 5 over such a surface - and has recorded three of her four wins at seven furlongs. Silvercup Baby, Rightly So, and R Betty Graybull are also contenders.

* The for male sprinters at six furlongs features the speedy Driven by Success, who breaks from the rail, against the late-running Law Enforcement. Law Enforcement beat Driven by Success in the John Morrissey Stakes at Saratoga before both ran in the Grade 1 Forego with Driven by Success finishing eighth and Law Enforcement checking in last.

Be Bullish, Legal Consent and Too Tough Pete, who is 2 for 2 over a set track, head the list of potential upsetters in the 11-horse field.