Bert Firestone has owned a succession of champion throughbreds over the past decade, but yesterday in the winner's circle at Laurel he declared excitedly, "This could be the best horse we ever had."
Not many people who saw Cure The Blues win the $159,360 Laurel Futurity would dismiss that as a hasty or emotional judgement. The unbeaten 2-year-old, facing what was supposed to have been the first serious challenge of his career, demolished his opposition by 6 1/2 lengths and probably earned the championship of his age group.
Exiled earlier this year to Maryland with the second string of Firestone's operation, Cure The Blues had won all four of his starts by a combined total of 32 lengths. But he was beating only other Maryland horses, and never had faced high-class rivals. Skeptics doubted his class, and Jose Martin, trainer of his principal foe Noble Nashua, predicted, "Cure The Blues will be singing the blues after this race."
But it is the owners and trainers of the nation's other promising 2-year-olds who will be singing the blues now. Cure The Blues established that he is more than the superior member of his generation; he seems to be in a class by himself. Not only did he win under wraps by a convincing margin, but he scored by 13 1/2 lengths over Noble Nashua, who was considered the second-best 2-year-old in New York.
Trainer Bernie Bond and jockey Rudy Turcotte had only one serious concern before the Futurity: the Laurel racing strip. Rain had left the track very sloppy and had made the inside part of it especially disadvantageous. This figured to hurt Cure The Blues, who had drawn post position No. 1. So in the paddock Bond instructed Turcotte, "Ordinarily I wouldn't rush him, but today we have no choice. We've got to go for the lead."
Cure The Blues needed a few strides to get into gear, then accelerated quickly and opened a two-length lead, enabling Turcotte to steer him off the rail. This was an important move, because cagey Angel Cordero Jr., aboard Noble Nashua, would surely have liked to pin him on the inside if he could.
Cure The Blues maintained a two-length lead down the backstretch, with Noble Nashua stalking him. On the turn Cordero started pumping on his mount, trying to make a challenge, and got no response. The race was over. Cure the Blues cruised to the wire, covering the 1 1/16 miles in 1:44.2, as another Maryland-based horse, Matching Gift, rallied to finish second. Kan Reason was another six lengths back in third place, with Noble Nashua fourth.
Cure The Blues returned $3, $3 and $2.20. Matching Gift returned $13.40 and $4.60 while Kan Reason paid $3.20 to show. The exacta returned $50.80.
Firestone said that this victory probably would mark the end of Cure The Blues' 2-year-old campaign. He said the colt will go to Florida this winter to prepare for next season's 3-year-old classics, and indicated that Bond and Turcotte would remain his trainer and jockey.
Cure The Blues now must be considered the long-range favorite for the 1981 Kentucky Derby, even though he still conceivably could lose the balloting for the 2-year-old championship. He still has not raced outside of Maryland, and a colt named Lord Avie has been winning the major stakes in New York where titles usually are determined.
"Lord Avie beat Noble Nashua by 2 1/4 lengths," Firestone pointed out. "This horse beat him by 13.If I were voting, I'd vote for Cure The Blues."