Slim pickings for Futurity Stakes

Melbourne Racing Club will be relying late entries to boost numbers after only five horses were nominated for the time-honoured Futurity Stakes (1600m).

Weekend Hussler (red and black, white cap) winning the G1 Newmarket Handicap, at Flemington on Saturday 8 March 2008, ridden by Brad Rawiller, trained by Ross McDonald.  Photo by Bronwen Healy The Group One weight-for-age feature provides another chance for Weekend Hussler to get his career back on track while Mick Price-trained duo Light Fantastic and Alamosa, along with last year’s winner Niconero and 2007 Cox Plate winner El Segundo were the only other horses nominated on Monday.
Entries have been extended until Tuesday morning but it is shaping as the smallest Futurity field since the race became part of the Asian Mile Challenge in 2006.
Last year there were 12 runners while eight competed in 2007, and 15 in the inaugural year.
The small field presents a dilemma for the connections of all horses with no natural leader – as the race stands.
"It is going to be a battle of tactics, that’s for sure," Mick Price said.
He said Weekend Hussler and Light Fantastic seemed most likely to lead.
"Regardless of what happens there is only going to be four lengths between all of them if there are only five runners," Price predicted.
With the jury still out on Light Fantastic as a miler, the small field could be a blessing for the grey.
Price said the tempo of the race would help Light Fantastic who, despite having won last year’s Australian Guineas (1600m), is yet to convince his trainer that he is a genuine weight-for-age horse at 1600 metres.
"I’m not saying he can’t win," Price said. "It is more a matter of what it takes out of him in the context of his preparation and in the context of his career.
"I know the horse and I just don’t think he appreciates tough, grinding preparations."
Light Fantastic has won five of his nine starts but has been beaten at his last four runs including defeats in the Makybe Diva Stakes (1600m) and Underwood Stakes (1800m) last spring.
This campaign he was second to Lucky Secret in the Carlyon Stakes (1200m) and fourth to Maldivian in the Orr Stakes (1400m).
"The Futurity will tell us where we go with him after this," Price said.
"He is primed and ready to go for the mile and his gallops have been spot on."
Light Fantastic is nominated for the Doncaster Mile (1600m) at Randwick on April 18 which will be the last race for Alamosa before he goes to stud next season.
Price said Alamosa was "flying" and is hopeful that there will be give in the ground on Saturday to help his chances.
He ran a slashing second in the Orr Stakes when resuming and won the Toorak Handicap (1600m) at Caulfield last spring.
Price will use the Group Two Autumn Classic (1800m) on Saturday as Pre Eminence’s lead up run to the Australian Cup (2000m) at Flemington on March 7.
The Alister Clark Stakes winner is among only 10 entries for the feature.
"He has trained on well from the Alister Clark and is going to be a strong chance over 1800 metres," Price said.