[Author’s note: For the past two months I’ve been absent from race previews and recaps on account of hand injuries suffered from an October car accident. As I’m now recovered I’ll be back in action. Feedback during the time with the video previews was less than favorable, and we at Picks & Ponderings responded as best we could given the medical limitations. We at Picks & Ponderings thank you for your patience with the video previews, and for the solid readership you’ve given pre-injury and during it. –PM]
This week’s headline race is the Grade One, $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity for two-year-olds on the dirt going a mile and a sixteenth. For what started in 1981 as the Hollywood Futurity has now become a pivotal puzzle piece in the Kentucky Derby picture. In 2007, the race gained the sponsorship of loan company CashCall and became the CashCall Futurity. Up until 2013, Hollywood Park played host to this race that’s become a mid-to-late December fixture. With Hollywood Park now a memory, the race relocated to Los Alamitos while carrying along all the plot and history. The purse does take a trim without CashCall funds, now only three hundred thousand dollars for this year’s renewal. From 1985 to 1990 the race was at a one-turn mile over at Hollywood Park; all other runnings have been at a mile and a sixteenth, this year’s inclusive. From 2006 to 2013 this race was contested on Cushion Track, it moves to dirt, where it was from 1981 to 2005 and in 2014. It will be contested on dirt for the 2015 renewal.
Although only one horse has ever won this race and the Kentucky Derby, that being Real Quiet in 1997, this race’s notable winners are still among racing’s best. Snow Chief (1985) took the following year’s Preakness and has a California-bred stakes in his namesake. Best Pal (1990) won the first Pacific Classic as a three-year-old and has a stakes in his honor at Del Mar. A. P. Indy (1991) won the Belmont and Breeders’ Cup Classic at three before becoming a seminal sire. Real Quiet (1997) is the only one to take both the Hollywood Futurity and the Derby, and missed the Triple Crown by the scantest of margins. Point Given (2000) took down the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers at three. Lookin at Lucky (2009) won the Preakness and Haskell as a sophomore. And a good finish in the Hollywood/Cashcall Futurity also can serve as a boon to success. Horses like Alysheba, Thunder Gulch, Giacomo, and Oxbow all hit the board in this race and later went on to win at least one leg of the Triple Crown.
The race this year provides Kentucky Derby points. The winner will earn ten points, the runner-up five, the third place finisher two, and the fourth place runner leaves with one.
Real Quiet winning the 1997 Hollywood Futurity. Video courtesy Youtube.
Also this weekend, check out Nicolle’s preview of the Grade Three Mr. Prospector Stakes from Gulfstream Park.
Morning line odds were not available at original publish time for this race scheduled on Saturday December 19th. Edited on December 17 to add morning lines.
Los Alamitos Race Course (Thoroughbred/Daytime) — Race 8 — G1 Los Alamitos Futurity — 1 1/16 Miles on Dirt — post time 4:00 pm PT
The path to the 2014 Los Alamitos Futurity win ran through Stars of Tomorrow II Day at Churchill Downs. Dortmund won an allowance and then won the 2014 renewal, the first at this oval. Stars of Tomorrow II provides us the same clues and potential path again in MOR SPIRIT. The Bob Baffert trainee has Gary Stevens to ride. He graduated at second asking two back going a two-turn mile at Santa Anita. The connections saw it fit to take him cross country for the G2 Kentucky Jockey Club, where he reported home second behind Airoforce on a wet afternoon. MOR SPIRIT was on the lead but didn”t have his head in front at every call, and settled into a stalking trip. Perhaps that trip helps against the stretchouts in this field, as he’s at least shown he’s not a need-the-lead type. He’ll perhaps also carry a bit more price on the tote, as TOEWS ON ICE has a better chance to be favored. TOEWS ON ICE looked fine winning the G3 Bob Hope Stakes downstate at seven-eighths. The G1 Los Alamitos Futurity is the first two-turn start for TOEWS ON ICE. While he”s shown gameness on the lead and did pull back a touch off the lead two back at Santa Anita, he must still handle first-time two turns in a field where he’s not the only one doing it. While named for the Chicago Blackhawks’ captain (and as such, his name does not rhyme with “goes”), he’s going to be favored because of the humans involved (the jockey/trainer teamed up on Dortmund), and off his G3 win. Yet this space is going to take the longer-priced and on paper more-ratable of the Bafferts in the top spot. Beyond the Baffert pair, this space won’t make further allegories to Chicago athletes (sorry, URLACHER) and instead goes to the far outside and I’MALREADYTHERE. He turned back to seven panels last time at Del Mar in the G3 Bob Hope won by TOEWS ON ICE. He ran evenly that day, reporting him third, and goes back to two turns in this spot. At two turns he was close to the pace in a more honest-paced affair two back and was pulled back off it three back when the early fractions were quicker. Such two-turn experience and rating/closing ability could be useful here for I’MALREADYTHERE, given these are frosh runners on the stretchout and some might show unusual pace scenarios.
#5 MOR SPIRIT (8/5)
#4 TOEWS ON ICE (9/5)
#7 I’MALREADYTHERE (8/1)
Longshot: #3 HOLLYWOOD DON (6/1) would benefit most if all the stretch-out speed in this event gets together and roasts (like chestnuts on an open fire). Winner three back of a listed stakes on the Del Mar greenery, he’s the field’s most dyed in the wool closer who brings his swing-em-wide approach each time. Victor Espinoza and Peter Miller get together on this runner, and the jockey/trainer pair have united five times in the last two months with three wins, an additional top three finish, and doing so at generous odds. In the race flow, he’ll benefit if someone tackles TOEWS ON ICE early, as rail-drawn URLACHER might face off with the speed on the front. Should the pace collapse, here’s your “come from the clouds” type. A credible third two back in the Front Runner on dirt, his odds will be square thanks to the poor finish in the BC Juvenile Turf that was as much due to traffic and high class as it and can be overlooked in this spot.
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