ELMONT, N.Y. – Bryan Hillard’s Second of July came out of his victory in Sunday’s Grade 3, $100,000 Futurity at Belmont Park in good order, trainer Phil Gleaves said. The 2-year-old son of Jack Milton improved to 2-for-2 to start his career with a second consecutive victory at long odds, besting a seven-horse field as a 15-1 longshot to win the 130th Futurity, a prestigious race that awarded Second of July an automatic entry to the Grade 1, $1 million Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint on November 6 at Keeneland.
“He’s home from Belmont and is in good shape and we’ll make our decision, but obviously we are leaning towards going to the Breeders’ Cup as long as the horse is OK,” Gleaves said.
Second of July won at 68-1 in his debut in a six-furlong maiden sprint on September 20 at Belmont. Gleaves said he’s confident the Kentucky homebred can handle shipping in for a race at a different track for the first time in his career should he go to Kentucky for his Grade 1 bow.
“It’s hard to say with any 2-year-old, it’s always different going into new surroundings. But we’ll get there well ahead of the race and familiarize him with the surroundings and the paddock and we’ll see what happens from there,” Gleaves said.
Gleaves praised his charge’s ability to close strongly.
“His turn-of-foot, especially for a sprinter, has impressed me; he really quickens-up well,” Gleaves said. “In his first start, he came home very fast. He did it again Sunday.”
Second of July would be Gleaves’ fourth career starter in a Breeders’ Cup race and first in 11 years, where Mambo Meister ran fifth in the 2009 Dirt Mile. Gleaves said the industry has undergone major changes since he saddled his first Breeders’ Cup contender when Happy Jazz Band ran fourth in the 1990 Juvenile and Devil On Ice followed with a 10th-place effort in the Juvenile the following year.
“It’s very exciting,” Gleaves said. “We had relocated to south Florida to raise our son and after he want off to college, we wanted to get back to the big time, so to speak, and here we are. A lot has happened since the first time. My hair was a lot darker at that point. But the game has changed drastically but top-class racing is always going to be what it is.”
Thin White Duke, who Gleaves co owns with Steve Crist, Ken deRegt and Hillard, won his second consecutive stakes when capturing the Aspirant on October 6 at Finger Lakes, which followed his win in the Funny Cide on September 4 at Saratoga. The juvenile son of Dominus could be on target to face fellow New York breds again in the $150,000 Sleepy Hollow going one mile on October 24 as part of Belmont’s Empire Showcase Day or return to Finger Lakes for his next start.
“The Duke is doing super,” Gleaves said. “He came out of his race in excellent order.”
Photo: Second of July wins Futurity at Belmont. Credit: Janet Garaguso