“My mind was blank”: Future Is Now… really

A little after 5pm ET on Friday afternoon, R. Larry Johnson answered the phone at his Virginia home, a bit surprised to hear from a reporter from Saratoga Springs. 

Alone in his family room, he’d just watched his four-year-old Maryland homebred Future Is Now win a tight photo finish in the Intercontinental Stakes (G2) at Saratoga Race Course to earn her first graded stakes win.

“I was screaming as loud as I could,” he said. “My mind had gone completely blank.

 This is amazing. Wow.”

His voice bubbled with a mixture of awe, laughter, and what might sound like disbelief if he didn’t clearly have confidence in the bay daughter of Great Notion.

Under jockey Paco Lopez, Future Is Now stalked the early pace with favored Roses for Debra a length behind, taking aim at the pacesetting Kaufymaker coming into the stretch as the favorite began her challenge. None of the three would give way, and they hit the wire separated by less than a length, Future Is Now in front by a head, followed by Roses for Debra with Kaufymaker a neck behind.

Future Is Now went off a little over 10-1, paying $22.80, which both surprised and mildly irritated Johnson.

Future Is Now is trained by Maryland-based Michael Trombetta, and Johnson thinks a little New York bias played into the wagering.

“I thought that she should have been the second choice, five or six to one,”  he said. “I think that people are going to bet Wesley Ward, they’re going to bet Christophe Clement, but they’re not going to bet a trainer and a rider from out of town. She should never have been 10-1, whether you’re looking at Beyers or the Sheets.”

He also admitted, “But if you asked me if I thought she could realistically beat Roses for Debra, I’d have said probably not. But that’s why we run.” 

Bred in Pennsylvania, Roses for Debra completed a Midlantic-bred exacta that paid $25.80 for a $2 bet. 

Johnson has bred four generations of Future Is Now’s family. By Great Notion and out of Past as Prelude (Bernardini), the filly is a half-sister to two runners that have earned more than $200,000: the graded stakes placed Call Another Play (Audible) and multiple stakes placed Continentalcongres (Constitution).


Johnson had considered making the trip to Saratoga for the race, but found the logistics too complicated, with limited seating and hotel availability. Had he known another horse that he’d bred would be running in the Belmont Stakes, he said, he’d have definitely made the trip.

Future Is Now
Future Is Now (#5) held off Roses for Debra to win the G2 Intercontinental. Photo by Walter Wlodarczyk.

But Mindframe, the colt that Johnson sold for $600,000 at the 2022 Keeneland September yearling sale, appeared late on the stage, with trainer Todd Pletcher and owners Repole Stable and St. Elias Stables on the fence about running him in the Belmont or in the Pegasus Stakes at Monmouth Park. 

“If I’d have known earlier that he was running, I might have tried to plan better,” he said. “But we’ll have a party on the farm to watch him.” 

His exuberance over Future Is Now’s win combined with anticipation for Mindframe’s graded stakes debut in one of the country’s biggest races would, said Johnson, probably keep him up all night. 

He’s also adjusting to life as an in-demand interview from racing media outlets.

“I got a call from London to do Nick Luck’s international podcast,” he said. “I said, ‘Wait a minute– this is Larry Johnson. You must have the wrong number.”

But they did indeed have the right number, and if Mindframe runs to his odds–he’s the 7-2 second choice on the morning line–Johnson’s phone is going to start ringing even more frequently.

“It could be an incredible weekend,” he said. “I wish I were there, but the horse doesn’t know that I’m not.”