11/09/2006 1:00AM

Father John's title on the line

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Father John can secure his spot as the leading Indiana-bred 2-year-old Saturday night if he can beat eight rivals in the $40,000 Indiana Futurity at Hoosier Park.

A deceptively easy 1 1/4-length winner of the Hillsdale Stakes at Hoosier last month, Father John figures to be odds-on in the Futurity, a level of support he had from bettors in both the Hillsdale and in his maiden debut, which he won by nearly 10 lengths.

Father John has shown the ability to lead all the way or rally from slightly off the pace, but since most of the other speed types will break inside of him, a pressing or stalking trip appears likely.

The most logical upset candidate is B. B. Mancini, the runner-up to Father John in the Hillsdale. B. B. Mancini has won just once in five starts, taking a maiden claimer at Churchill in July. But he has been competitive in most of his races since. He ran a close second against entry-level allowance foes at Woodbine in the summer.

Mo Faster, a distant third in the Hillsdale, has the inside track to complete the trifecta once again. Another runner of interest is the front-running Smarty Smith, who recently won by six lengths in his third attempt. That win followed two finishes in which Smarty Smith shut down in the final furlong, losing by a combined margin of 46 1/2 lengths.