10/06/2012 6:14PM

Keeneland: Joha's speed holds in Breeders' Futurity victory


LEXINGTON, Ky. -  Capitalizing on his inside post position and utilizing his early speed, Joha spurted to the lead in Saturday's Grade 1, $400,000 Breeders' Futurity at Keeneland Saturday and gamely repelled all comers to earn a date in the Breeders' Cup.

In contrast to his last race, when he set the pace in the Grade 2 With Anticipation on turf at Saratoga before being caught late in the final strides, Joha showed improved staying power in the Breeders' Futurity. This time, after setting moderate fractions of 48.41 and 1:12.86, he had spurted away when the field came to him in the stretch to win by a length.

"Tough beat last time, but grateful for today," trainer Mike Maker said after the race.

Those racing behind Joha didn't enjoy such a favorable trip. Runner-up Dynamic Sky, who rallied from seventh, was hung wide throughout, while third-place finisher Java's War was buried in traffic for much of the race, and bumped in the stretch.

That bumping incident sparked a claim of foul by Richard Eramia, who rode Java's War, against Dynamic Sky and Luis Contreras, alleging interference in midstretch, but stewards did not alter the order of finish.

Winning jockey Rajiv Maragh, who rode Groupie Doll to victory in the Thoroughbred Club of America earlier in the day, credited his mount's courage for the victory.

[Breeders’ Cup Challenge 2012: Replays of all the Win and You’re In races]

"He just kept fighting when they came to him," he said. "He had a lot of power today."

By virtue of winning the Breeders' Futurity, a Win and You're In challenge race for the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, Joha earned an all-expense paid berth in the Breeders' Cup.

Joha he has never raced on dirt, the surface on which the Juvenile will be contested, having raced exclusively on Polytrack and turf in his six-race career.

That would make a race such as Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf perhaps a more appealing option for Maker and owner Wade Wacker of Bluegrass Equine Bloodstock -- although competing in the Juvenile Turf instead of the Juvenile would likely leave Joha out of the picture for year-end championship honors, even if he won the Juvenile Turf.

"We'll enjoy this win, and think about that tomorrow," said Maker. "Those options are there, and we've got plenty of time."

In winning the Breeders' Futurity, Joha raced 1 1/16 miles on Keeneland's Polytrack in 1:44.52, paying $19.40. The victory also earned him 10 qualifying points for the 2013 Kentucky Derby, the new system to determine the field for the Derby.

Under this points system, Dynamic Sky earned 4 points, Java's War 2 points, and fourth-place finisher Pataky Kid 1 point.

Favored Tizracer, up close early, offered no finish in the lane, running 12th of 13.