01/02/2009 1:00AM

Future is now for Leestown's offspring


LEXINGTON, Ky. - In the late 1800s, one of the most exciting elements of American racing was the origination of a race for unborn foals that became known as the Futurity Stakes and offered enormous prizes for 2-year-olds who had been kept nominated. Although the conditions of a true futurity largely have been eliminated in such well-known races as the Futurity Stakes at Belmont and Hollywood's version in California, futurities for which breeders nominate their unborn foals and then get to run for the accumulated pools are strikingly popular in regional markets.

An example is the Louisiana Futurity at Fair Grounds in New Orleans, which was run with both a colts and geldings and a filly division on New Year's Eve. Both provided competitive sport and intense excitement for the participants, which include not only the owners, trainers, jockeys, and fans, but also the breeders who nominated the young horses and earned breeders' awards.

One of the successful nominators for both divisions in the Louisiana Futurity was Jay Adcock, who had nominated a pair of runners in each race. This does not indicate that he can foretell the future. Instead, Adcock said, "I nominate every pregnant mare on the farm. It only costs $10 for the first-stage nomination, and if she's not worth that, then why am I feeding her?"

After the initial nomination fee, foals must be kept eligible with payments of $50 by July 1 of their weanling year and continuing payments of $50 and $100 in their yearling and 2-year-old seasons.

Naturally, some of the foals are not kept eligible because they don't seem to be progressing, but from a modest series of payments, breeders generate a pair of sizable pots for their young horses to compete for each year.

Before the slot machines came and enlarged purses in Louisiana racing dramatically, Adcock said that the Louisiana Futurity "was the premier 2-year-old race in Louisiana for statebreds. Twenty years ago, it was the only race restricted for Louisiana-breds that was run for good money. And there was so much interest they would split it because there would be 20 to 25 horses in the race. Joey Bob won it for my dad in 1970 and went a second and a fifth faster than the winner of the other division."

The purse for the Louisiana Futurity has expanded over the decades since Joey Bob ran for a purse of less than $30,000, and this year each division competed for a purse of more than $100,000. Not bad for an original nomination fee of $10.

Adcock, as co-breeder or breeder of four starters, had a good day. Juveniles that he bred included the first- and the third-place runners in the colts and geldings division of the futurity, as well as the second-place and third-place runners in the filly division.

The winner of the colts and geldings division of the Louisiana Futurity was the gelding Leestown Gift, who won by a neck over the Kimberlite Pipe gelding Silent Pipe, with Lee City Slew third.

Adcock had sold Leestown Gift off the farm and sold Lee City Slew at the Louisiana Thoroughbred Breeders' October yearling sale in 2007 for $22,000 to Valene Farms.

These two, as well as the second- and fifth-place runners in the filly division, are by Leestown, the syndicated Seattle Slew stallion who died in a freak paddock accident at Adcock's Red River Farms late in 2008.

A stakes-winning half-brother to Grade 1 winner Grand Slam, who stands in Kentucky at Ashford, Leestown had stood his entire stud career at Adcock's farm in Louisiana, and the dark bay horse was the leading sire in the state.

Leestown has sired 14 stakes winners and has lifetime progeny earnings of more than $11.2 million. This year alone, the stallion's runners have accumulated more than $2.5 million.

Leestown stood for a fee of $4,000 at the time of his death and offered amazing value to breeders at that figure.

The stallion's last crop of foals will be born in the next few months, and juveniles by Leestown will be eligible for the Louisiana Futurity through 2011. Although Leestown was a graded-stakes-placed runner at 2 and he had good success with racers in some of the Louisiana juvenile stakes, his runners have tended to improve with age, show plenty of versatility in distance capacity, and frequently have the toughness to race until they are 5 or 6.