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CYPRESS, CA – Thanks to his heavily-favored disciple Improbable, there was rarely a doubt in the racing world that Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert would win his fifth straight Grade 1, $300,000 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity Stakes on Saturday.
Breaking from the rail at 1/5 odds under Drayden Van Dyke, Improbable allowed stablemate Mucho Gusto to take command entering the first turn, but as he crossed over to take the lead, Mucho Gusto forced Savagery to drift out, causing a chain reaction that saw both Extra Hope and Dueling sent out into the middle of the track. Missing the incident from his inside position, Improbable tipped off the rail as he hit the backstretch while Mucho Gusto continued to set the pace and posted fractions of :23.25, :47.25, and 1:10.82. Running three-wide into the far turn, Improbable ranged up alongside Savagery, with Mucho Gusto fighting hard along the rail. Switching his lead as he hit the 1/4-pole, Improbable straightened out and exploded, drawing off impressively in the stretch to beat his stablemate by 5 lengths in a final time of 1:41.18 for the 8 1/2-furlong event over the fast dirt track.
“We were just behind the trouble on the first turn, and to be honest, we benefited because we ended up where wanted to be, three-wide behind the leaders,” said Van Dyke, who also teamed up with Baffert to take the day’s other big event, the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes. “This is just such a cool horse. He hit another gear when we got to the stretch.’’
Extra Hope was able to get up for third over Savagery, who crossed in fourth ahead of Dueling but was later disqualified to fifth for the clubhouse turn incident. King of Speed, a two-time stakes winner on turf, was unable to translate that success over to the dirt and completed the order of finish.
The Los Alamitos Futurity is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Improbable earned 10 points for the win, with Mucho Gusto receiving 4 for second, Extra Hope 2 for third, and Dueling 1 for fourth.
Improbable’s win was his third in as many career starts and was his second straight in a stakes event, following his $100,000 Street Sense Stakes score at Churchill Downs on Breeders’ Cup Friday. The juvenile son of City Zip, purchased for $200,000 as a yearling, has now earned $269,520 for co-owners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club International, and Starlight Racing.
“At the top of the stretch, he looked a little lost,” Baffert said. “(Van Dyke) had to hit him a couple of times. Once he straightened out, he got into that long, beautiful stride of his. The good horses always find a way to win. He had trained like he was going to run like this. I was really excited about (Mucho Gusto). He tried very hard and just got a little tired. His race was very encouraging. We’ll just let these horses come along at their own pace and hope they stay healthy. That’s the key. Improbable has a long stride like Justify. He’s just a smaller version. I’m not saying he’s at Justify’s level yet, but he’s a really good horse.’’
Improbable returned $2.40 to win and $2.10 to place, while Mucho Gusto paid $2.60 to place. There was no show betting.
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