J. Keeler Johnson ("Keelerman") Twitter: @J_Keelerman
may be entering the final weeks of 2016, but there's still some top-notch
racing left to be run! This Saturday, Los Alamitos will hold a pair of Grade 1
races for two-year-olds, including the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I),
an official prep race on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
the Futurity and the $300,000 Starlet Stakes (gr. I) have drawn intriguing
fields full of up-and-coming young runners, and it would be no surprise to see
a few of these horses achieve major success down the road. Let's take a look at
Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I)
before Bob Baffert's Mastery made
his debut, there was excitement about his talent and potential. Videos on the
XBTV website showed him out-working a couple of his talented stablemates,
including the Grade 1 winner Klimt. With a solid pedigree (by Candy Ride out of
an Old Trieste mare), Mastery looked like a Kentucky Derby contender before
he'd ever run in a race, and he delivered on those big expectations by winning
a six-furlong maiden special weight on October 22nd by 4 ¼ lengths,
stopping the clock in a sharp 1:09.56.
was an impressive performance, but Mastery was arguably even better in the
seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes (gr. III) on November 19th. While he
got a great setup leading the way through fractions of :23.23 and :47.07, he
showed a strong turn-of-foot in the homestretch, running the final furlong in
:11.61 under a fairly light ride to defeat the four-time stakes winner
California Diamond by 1 ¼ lengths.
Baffert has won this race eight times, including the last two years with
Dortmund and Mor Spirit. Facing just four rivals, Mastery will surely be
favored at odds-on, and over the last five years, Baffert has compiled an
incredible 10-for-13 record with odds-on favorites in graded stakes races for
two-year-olds. Furthermore, Mastery's two Beyer speed figures so far have been
93 and 87; the highest figure earned by any of his four rivals is a 75. Taking
all of this together, it's difficult to envision Mastery losing this race, and
a decisive win could thoroughly stamp him as California's leading contender for
the Kentucky Derby.
stablemate Show Me Da Lute also
warrants respect, although it's noteworthy that he made his debut going 8.5
furlongs. Baffert doesn't often debut his young runners in a route race, and
historically, those that have debuted in a route have not gone on to big
success down the road. Add in the fact that Show Me Da Lute got a great setup
in his maiden win, leading the way through very slow fractions of :48.50 and
1:13.14, and I think Show Me Da Lute could be vulnerable on Saturday.
better alternative for the runner-up spot might be Bobby Abu Dhabi, who won a 6 ½-furlong maiden special weight on
November 19th at Del Mar. The margin of victory was only a head, but
he ran well to out-sprint the other pacesetters and still hold off a late
charge from Adorned. He has a promising pedigree for stretching out in distance
(by Macho Uno out of a Saint Ballado mare), and from post two, he might be able
to secure the lead and take this field a long way on the front end.
Starlet Stakes (gr. I)
Bob Baffert sweep Los Alamitos' two Grade 1 races for two-year-olds? If Mastery
does his part, than Baffert should have a big chance at completing the double
with either American Gal or Fact of Life, his two representatives
in the Starlet Stakes.
Gal looms as the horse to beat after compiling an excellent record in her first
three starts. She began her career with an easy 2 ¼-length win in a 5 ½-furlong
maiden special weight at Del Mar (in which she beat Fact of Life and next-out
maiden winner Partyinthepaddock), and after missing some training time, American
Gal came back to score a big win in the six-furlong Anoakia Stakes at Santa
Anita, triumphing by 6 ½ lengths after tracking a fast pace.
of that big win, American Gal contested the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies (gr.
I) less than two weeks later and ran a tremendous race in defeat. After
breaking slowly from post position twelve, the usually speedy American Gal
found herself racing well off the lead and was forced to go seven wide around
the first turn, a scenario that would spell disaster for most horses. Instead,
American Gal recovered and made an eye-catching move during the middle of the
race, moving up to within 1 ½ lengths of the lead as the field approached the
homestretch. Since the leaders had carved out slow fractions of :48.19 and
1:13.01, American Gal had little chance to catch the pace-tracking winner
Champagne Room, and she had every excuse to flatten out after her big mid-race
move. But while she lost some ground in the homestretch, she fought on with
determination to finish third, beaten just four lengths.
fact that American Gal didn't throw in the towel when faced with adversity says
a lot about her ability, and if she can get off to a better start in the
Starlet Stakes, she should return to her front-running/pace-pressing style and
deliver another big run. If she stays at her morning line odds of 5-2, I think
she would be a significant overlay, as I believe American Gal will be difficult
the runner-up spot, I would consider Abel
Tasman, who has won two straight races for trainer Simon Callaghan. She
broke her maiden going a mile at Santa Anita on September 30th, then
cut back in distance to seven furlongs and defeated Fact of Life in an
allowance race at Del Mar. Abel Tasman has a solid late run, and with a win
going two turns under her belt, she should be closing ground in a race that
appears to have a fair amount of speed.
it's your turn! Who do you like in the Los Alamitos Futurity and Starlet
A Pair of 2yos to Watch
you're like me and have already started looking for up-and-coming Kentucky Derby
contenders, I've got two more names for you to keep an eye on!
first is American Anthem, a son of
Bodemeister trained by Bob Baffert (click here to view his pedigree.) After
turning in an eye-catching series of workouts at Santa Anita, American Anthem
made his debut on December 3rd in a six-furlong maiden special
weight at Del Mar, and while he was outsprinted early on by Little Juanito (who carved out
fractions of :21.96 and :44.99), American Anthem closed ground relentlessly in
the homestretch, gaining 3 ½ lengths in the final furlong to win by a neck.
should be noted that American Anthem got a very good setup running down a
tiring leader, but his final time was fast (1:10.37, which translated to an 86
Beyer), and he certainly wasn't running out of steam in the homestretch.
American Anthem appears to have a bright future, and I'm looking forward to
seeing where he runs next!
other colt that I would like to mention is Cavil,
who broke his maiden in impressive fashion on December 2nd at
Aqueduct. Owned by Godolphin Racing and trained by Kiaran McLaughlin, Cavil was
facing nine rivals in a one-mile maiden special weight but was never
challenged, sprinting to the lead through fractions of :23.10 and :46.13 before
extending his advantage in the second half of the race to win by 5 ½ lengths in
the quick time of 1:36.67, which earned a Beyer of 88. (VIDEO)
time will tell if Cavil can become another Frosted, but his pedigree has
"Kentucky Derby" written all over it (click here to view his pedigree), and it
would come as no surprise if Cavil wins a graded stakes race during the coming
months to launch himself firmly on to the Derby trail. Stay tuned!
J. Keeler Johnson (also known as "Keelerman") is a writer, blogger, videographer, handicapper, and all-around horse racing enthusiast. A great fan of racing history, he considers Dr. Fager to be the greatest racehorse ever produced in America, but counts Zenyatta as his all-time favorite. He is the founder of the horse racing website www.theturfboard.com.