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Mastery Rolls in Record-Setting G1 Futurity Win, Abel Tasman Upsets G1 Starlet

CYPRESS, Calif. – Heavily-favored Mastery easily passed his first two-turn test, rolling to a record-setting victory in the Grade 1, $300,000 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity Saturday.

The third win for Mastery, an undefeated 2-year-old son of Candy Ride and the Old Trieste mare Steady Course added to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s record in the Futurity, which has been run at Los Alamitos since 2014 after 33 renewals (1981-2013) at Hollywood Park.

Mastery’s 7 ¼ length score – the largest margin of victory in race history, eclipsing the seven lengths Matty G won by in 1995 – was the ninth in the Futurity for Baffert, including all three at Los Alamitos. He won with Dortmund in 2014 and Mor Spirit last year.

Owned by Everett Dobson’s Cheyenne Stables, Mastery battled through rapid fractions (23.37, 45.65 and 1:09.53 for six furlongs) while perched outside pacesetter Bobby Abu Dhabi, took over the lead early in the stretch, repelled a mild challenge from Irap, a maiden and the longest shot in the field at nearly 24-1, before accelerating away under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith.

With the blinkers returning that he had worn in his Santa Anita debut Oct. 22, Mastery completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.56, not far off the track record of 1:40.86 set by Uncle Lino in the California Chrome Stakes earlier this year (April 30). The $180,000 payday boosted his bankroll to $271,200.

A $425,000 purchase at the 2015 Keeneland September sale, Mastery paid $2.40 and $2.10. There was no show wagering.  Irap, who was making his first start on dirt after finishing third and fourth in two races on turf, returned $9.40.

Dangerfield, Bobby Abu Dhabi and the Baffert-trained Show Me Da Lute, who was the 9-2 second choice, completed the order of finish.

The win price was the shortest in Futurity history. The previous low was $2.60 by the Baffert-trained Point Given in 2000.

“You don’t know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it,’’ said Baffert. “Turning for home he hit a bit of a lull and I didn’t know if he was going go on or flatten out. (Smith) said it was a good thing I put the blinkers back on him because he hit the brakes when he made the lead.

“The last part he threw it in another gear. I thought we would be up pretty close, but I knew (Bobby Abu Dhabi) was a fast horse and he looked fast in the paddock. I was worried when I saw the fractions, but then he looked like he handled it pretty well. He withstood it and kicked on again at the end.’’

Smith, who earned his initial Futurity victory with Lion Heart in 2003, was impressed with the dark bay, who he rode for the first time in a Grade III victory in the Bob Hope Stakes Nov. 19 at Del Mar.

“He relaxed and I think the key was (Baffert) putting the blinkers back on,’’ he said. “He started looking around a little when he made the front in the stretch, but after I gave him a reminder he re-broke and was strong. His gallop out was also very good.’’

Jockey Quotes

MIKE SMITH (Winner, Mastery): “He relaxed great today and I think the key was (trainer) Bob (Baffert) putting the blinkers back on. He started looking around a little when he made the front in the stretch, but after I gave him a reminder he re-broke and was strong. His gallop out was also very good.’’

Trainer Quotes

BOB BAFFERT (Winner, Mastery): “You don’t know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it. Turning for home he hit a bit of a lull and l didn’t know if he was going to go on or flatten out. (Jockey) Mike (Smith) said it was a good thing I put the blinkers back on him because he hit the brakes when he made the lead. The last part he threw it in another gear. I thought we would be up pretty close, but I knew (pacesetter Bobby Abu Dhabi) was a fast horse and looked fast in the paddock. I was worried when I saw the fractions (45.65 for the opening half and 1:09.53 for six furlongs), but then he looked like he handled it pretty well. He withstood it and kicked on again at the end.’’

DOUG O’NEILL (Trainer, Second , Irap and Third, Dangerfield): “We’re happy. I thought they both ran great.’’

Starlet Recap

Abel Tasman posted a 12-1 surprise in the Grade 1, $301,380 Starlet, wearing down 9-10 favorite American Gal in the closing yards. She took advantage of a quick pace and a ground-saving trip from jockey Joe Talamo to win her third in a row for owner-breeder Clearsky Farms and trainer Simon Callaghan.

A 2-year-old Quality Road filly out of the Deputy Minister mare Vargas Girl, Abel Tasman, who was seventh after the opening quarter of a mile, won by one length in 1:42.25 for the 1 1/16 miles.

Supplemented to the Starlet for $10,000 a few days earlier, Abel Tasman paid $27.20, $7.60 and $5.60. She increased her earnings to $247,860. Her lone loss in four starts came when she was fifth in her sprint debut Aug. 20 at Del Mar.

“We thought she would definitely be more forwardly placed, but (Talamo) went to Plan B and it worked out,’’ said Callaghan. “He saved ground and gave her a real chilly ride.

”I think the distance is the key for this filly. We decided to supplement because she was getting good at the right time and I thought she had the stamina for this race.’’

The victory was the second in the Starlet for Talamo, who captured the race in 2011 at Hollywood Park with 14-1 outsider Killer Graces.

“(Abel Tasman) is improving with every start and I knew she was going to run big today because she came home great in her last workout (Dec. 3),’’ said Talamo. “The added distance was in her favor and it looked on paper like there was a lot of speed to help set things up.’’

Victimized by a slow start and an extremely wide trip when third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Nov. 5, American Gal was wide again Saturday. The lost ground took its toll late as she squandered a 1 ½ length lead in the final eighth of a mile.

“She had more or less the same kind of trip as she did in the Breeders’ Cup,’’ said Smith. “I couldn’t get behind them to get over and I couldn’t get in front of them to get over. The long stretch got to her. I think with a normal trip maybe I win.’’

American Gal, who finished 3 ¼ lengths in front of  33-1 shot Mopotism, paid $2.60 and $2.20 while the show price on Mopotism, a maiden making her third start, was $6.40.

Friday’s early Pick 4 return of $11,832.10 was a Los Alamitos record. The previous high payoff in the Pick 4 – which is a 50-cent minimum bet and offered each racing day on races 2-5 and the final four – was $5,973.50 on races 6-9 July 6, 2014, the fourth day of the inaugural Summer Thoroughbred Festival. Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time is 12:30 p.m.

Jockey Quotes

JOE TALAMO (Winner, Abel Tasman):  “She’s improving with every start and I knew she was going to run big today because she came home great in her last workout (Dec. 3). The added distance was in her favor and it looked on paper like there was a lot of speed to help set things up. I actually thought we would be a little bit closer, but they went pretty fast and it worked out perfect.’’

MIKE SMITH (Second, American Gal): “She had more or less the same kind of (wide) trip as she did in the Breeders’ Cup (Juvenile Fillies Nov. 5). I couldn’t get behind them to get over and I couldn’t get in front of them to get over. The long stretch got to her. I think with a normal trip maybe I win.’’

Trainer Quotes

SIMON CALLAGHAN (Winner, Abel Tasman): “We thought she would definitely be more forwardly placed, but (jockey) Joe (Talamo) went to Plan B and it worked out. He saved ground and gave her a real chilly ride. I think the distance is the key for this filly. We decided to supplement ($10,000) because she was getting good at the right time and I thought she had the stamina for this race.’’

Los Alamitos

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