09/13/2009 11:00PM

Where's the breakout juvenile star?

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Benoit & Associates
Lookin at Lucky earned a modest Beyer Speed Figure of 82 for winning the Del Mar Futurity, more than 11 points below the par for the stakes over the last 18 years.

NEW YORK - Beyond their storied histories, the Hopeful Stakes at Saratoga and the Del Mar Futurity are important mileposts in the 2-year-old season because these Grade 1 races at seven furlongs in late summer - this year both were on Labor Day - rarely are won by precocious juvenile flashes. Although there's not much early juvenile racing anymore, even in the old days the Hopeful and Del Mar Futurity were really the first stakes that asked a bit more of their winners than just speed. You needed some substance to win these races, the kind of substance that can uncover a potentially important player at 3.

And since the Hopeful and Del Mar Futurity winners more often than not are ranked at the top of their class, it's worthwhile scrutinizing this year's winners. When you do, you might come away wondering about this group.

Both Dublin and Lookin at Lucky were clearly best in their respective Hopeful and Del Mar Futurity scores, and they deserve to occupy the first two spots in anyone's list of ranking 2-year-old males. It is quite possible that it's a feather in the caps of Lookin at Lucky and Dublin that they have done as well as they already have. Lookin at Lucky is by Smart Strike, sire of two-time Horse of the Year Curlin, and Dublin is by Afleet Alex, winner of the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. These two may only be getting warmed up at seven furlongs and may realize their potential once they get a chance to go two turns.

Let's hope so, anyway, for one other thing Dublin and Lookin at Lucky have in common is that their Hopeful and Del Mar Futurity wins were slow. Alarmingly slow.

Lookin at Lucky earned a Beyer Speed Figure of only 82 winning the Del Mar Futurity, which, was 3 points below his career-best of 85 two starts back in his victory in the Best Pal Stakes. Lookin at Lucky's 82 fell more than 11 points below the Beyer average of 93.11 for the Del Mar Futurity over the 18 years the Beyers have been published. In other words, Lookin at Lucky fell 12 percent below the average Beyer, an enormous gap. In fact, he tied Siphonizer (2003) for the lowest Beyer in the Del Mar Futurity.

This was only the third Del Mar Futurity run on a synthetic surface, not that that should have significant bearing because surface does not affect the validity of a Beyer Figure. But for the record, Lookin at Lucky fell 6 and 3 Beyer points short of the first two Del Mar Futurities run on Polytrack.

For his victory in the Hopeful, Dublin earned a Beyer Figure of just 89, more than 5 points below the Hopeful Beyer average of 94.28, and 1 point below his career best of 90 in his maiden victory two starts back. Only three of the 18 Hopefuls for which Beyers have been published came up slower than Dublin's: Lucky Roberto (85) in 1998; the City Zip-Yonaguska dead-heat (86) in 2000; and Vineyard Haven (84) last year.

As mediocre as the Beyers were for Dublin and Lookin at Lucky on Labor Day, there have been, through Sunday, only a dozen juveniles who have run faster than Dublin's career top of 90, and four of them are fillies. Of course, one of those fillies is Spinaway and Schuylerville winner Hot Dixie Chick, who already owns two triple-digit Beyers and who at this moment is probably the best 2-year-old of either sex.

Of the eight juvenile males who have earned a Beyer of 91 or better, only three of them - Sidney's Candy, Western Smoke, and Jackson Bend - look like they might be more than one-hit wonders. Even then, there are questions. Sidney's Candy earned his 99 in a maiden win Aug. 22 but hasn't worked since. Western Smoke (92 and 94 two and three starts back) and Jackson Bend (93 most recently) might have had optimal conditions to earn big Beyers as they faced questionable company in small stakes.

Maybe Dublin and Lookin at Lucky will get faster when they get the chance to go long. Maybe one of their contemporaries will soon jump up with some genuinely fast and compelling performances. Or maybe the stage is set for another Triple Crown season next spring highlighting once again the increasing disconnect between major 2-year-old and major 3-year-old racing.

Quick thoughts

I get the Breeders' Cup taking one last shot at getting Rachel Alexandra to face Zenyatta in the Breeders' Cup Classic by adding $1 million to the winner's share of the purse. And at least the Breeders' Cup was up front about the attempt being a longshot. But given the repeated insistence by owner Jess Jackson that Rachel Alexandra would not race on a synthetic surface in this Breeders' Cup, and considering that after an obviously draining victory in the Woodward that Rachel Alexandra's season was all but over, the proposition had the scent of grandstanding.

* It looked on paper that the only way Swift Temper could beat Seventh Street in Saturday's Grade 1 Ruffian at Belmont Park was if Seventh Street had a bad day. In actuality, Seventh Street had a good day and ran her usual race. Swift Temper simply outran her. And that, folks, is why they run them.

* I know Gozzip Girl had a world of trouble early in the Grade 1 Garden City, also Saturday at Belmont. But taking the way she performed in total, I'm not sure Gozzip Girl would have overcome having to run on very deep turf off a two-month layoff even with a clean trip.