Deputy Minister thrust himself into the 2-year-old championship picture yesterday when he nosed out Laser Light after a long stretch duel in the 59th running of the $191,000 Laurel Futurity.
Cagey Cougar finished third, nine lengths behind the top pair, but was disqualified and placed fourth behind Majesty's Prince. Cagey Cougar was taken out of the money for bearing out through the stretch and bumping Majesty's Prince.
Deputy Minister, a $7,500 supplemental nominee who was favored in the field of eight 2-year-olds, was content to stay in fourth position going into the backstretch.
New Discovery showed the way down the backstretch with Cagey Cougar second on the inside, Irish Martini half a length back in third and Deputy Minister racing fourth another neck back. Deputy Minister began passing rivals rounding the turn, took the lead with an eighth of a mile to go and was a driving winner by a nose.
Trainer John Tammaro, the trainer of the Canadian-bred son of Vice Regent, said in the winner's circle, "He will win the 2-year-old title if he wins either the Remsen or the Young America. We haven't decided yet which it will be."
Owner Marjoh A. Levy of Toronto said, "Our colt is the best in the country. He has won seven of eight and his only loss came in the Champagne. He was dead short (in that race) due to a temperature."
The Futurity at Laurel has become a reliable yardstick for measuring 2-year-old champions. Since 1970, such colts as Secretariat, Protagonist, Affirmed, Honest Pleasure and Spectacular Bid have taken top honors after victories in the 1 1/16-mile race.
Jockey Donald MacBeth said of the winner, "He tried to pull himself up a bit. But I kept after him, taking several different holds and one, last desperate swing with the whip right-handed as we approached the wire. He is all horse. He's all heart."
Timely Writer, the colt who defeated Deputy Minister by eight lengths in the Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park, now is the favorite for the 2-year-old title. But should Deputy Minister take either the Young America (Nov. 5) or the Remsen (Nov. 14) in impressive fashion, the Canadian contingent believes that its colt could be awarded the Eclipse Award.
Deputy Minister's victory brought his earnings to $236,956. The bay ran the 1 1/16 miles of the feature in 1:44 3/5 and paid $5.20, $3.20 and $2.60.
In the $20,000-added Silver Ice Stakes, run shortly before the Futurity, Lady Dean upset the heavily favored Veiled Look, who finished fourth. Lady Dean was ridden by Ken Black and registered a 1:12 clocking for the six furlongs.