10/07/2010 2:55PM

J. B.’s Thunder looks versatile


Trainer Al Stall Jr. was surprised to hear his colt, maiden winner J. B.’s Thunder, had been made the 4-1 morning-line favorite for Saturday’s Grade 1, $400,000 Dixiana Breeders’ Futurity – a 1 1/16-mile race on Keeneland’s Polytrack that serves as a Win And You’re In race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

Just don’t expect him to be surprised if J. B.’s Thunder wins it.

He holds J. B.’s Thunder, a 2-year-old son of Thunder Gulch owned by Andrea Pollack’s Columbine Stable, in high regard, while acknowledging the obvious challenges of the colt competing against 10 promising opponents, including graded stakes winners Lou Brissie, Maybesomaybenot, and Major Gain.

His high opinion of J. B.’s Thunder is well deserved based on the colt’s single performance. Racing Aug. 21 in a 1 1/16-mile turf race on the grass at Saratoga, he overcame a slow start to make the lead easily, and spurted away from his opponents in the stretch to win by 1 3/4 lengths over fellow Breeders’ Futurity starter Santiva.

Stall doesn’t view his runner as strictly a turf horse, and expects J. B.’s Thunder to transfer his form to Polytrack, and later, to dirt.

He is hopeful a home-track advantage can work to J. B.’s Thunder’s advantage in the Breeders’ Futurity. In contrast to most of his opponents, the colt has worked regularly at Keeneland this fall, recording five works over the Keeneland Polytrack since his maiden score, including a bullet five furlongs in 59 seconds Sept. 27.

Asked how J. B.’s Thunder performs on the Polytrack, Stall didn’t hesitate in answering, “He loves it.”

Yet even if J. B.’s Thunder wins or runs very well in the Breeders’ Futurity, Stall said the colt would be unlikely to race in the Juvenile or even the Juvenile Turf.

In discussions with Pollack, Stall said, the focus is on developing J. B.’s Thunder as a 3-year-old, and races in 2011 are being targeted, with perhaps a less demanding start than the Breeders’ Cup in the Grade 3, $1 million Delta Jackpot Nov. 20 at Delta Downs being an option to end the year.

Shaun Bridgmohan, up for the colt’s maiden win, returns in the irons for the Breeders’ Futurity.

Major Gain, winner of the Grade 3 Arlington-Washington Futurity, and Maybesomaybenot, the Grade 2 Sanford winner, are among J. B.’s Thunder’s primary opponents and are among a trio of runners at 5-1 on Mike Battaglia’s morning line, along with Santiva.

Maybesomaybenot, one of two entrants from trainer Mike Maker, has a front-running style similar to that of his uncoupled stablemate, Typhoon

Slew, but will likely employ stalking tactics in the Breeders’ Futurity.

He is the more ratable of the two horses, Maker said. Typhoon Slew, in contrast, is a free-running speed horse.

Rough Sailing, the Arlington-Washington Futurity runner-up who was cross-entered in Sunday’s Bourbon Stakes at Keeneland, appears all but certain to run in the Breeders’ Futurity after landing on the also-eligible list in an oversubscribed Bourbon.

Although the Bourbon, on grass, had been trainer Mike Stidham’s first preference among the two races, he believes racing two turns, the conditions under which the Breeders’ Futurity is run, will suit his colt better than the Arlington-Washington Futurity’s one-mile distance around one turn.