Race Previews

Los Alamitos Futurity Preview: Baffert Ready to Unleash New Wave of Talent

McKinzie winning debut MSW at Santa Anita Park (© BENOIT PHOTO)

The 37th running of the Grade 1, $300,000 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity will go off as race three on a nine-race card on Saturday. The race has a deep history of producing Kentucky Derby starters, but recently, this race has turned into the Bob Baffert Invitational. The trainer has won the past three runnings of the race, with Mastery last year, Mor Spirit in 2015, and Dortmund in 2014. This year, he has two entries in the race.

The most accomplished is Solomini, who exits a strong second-place finish in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Owned by Zayat Stables, Solomini was a $270,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale in 2016. The son of Curlin was also second in the Grade 1 Frontrunner Stakes at Santa Anita two races back behind the ultra-talented Bolt d’Oro.

However, the Baffert trainee receiving the most hype is recent Santa Anita maiden special weight winner McKinzie. Named in honor of the late longtime Los Alamitos executive Brad McKinzie, a win in this race would be very special to his owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, who seem to be extremely excited heading into the race. Brad’s older brother, Mark, is also looking forward to the race.

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“I can’t wait for the race,’’ he said. “I thought the horse looked really good in his win and he’s done very well preparing for the Futurity. It would be very special to win (the Futurity). We’re hoping we’re going to be making a trip to the Kentucky Derby next year.’’

From the rail out, the field includes: Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Instilled Regard, Zuma Beach Stakes fourth-place finisher For Him, Solomini, Golden Nugget Stakes winner Runaway Ghost, and McKinzie.

Top Choice

#5 McKinzie – Here is the first HEAVILY-hyped horse of the 2018 Kentucky Derby trail. I have to say that the hype on McKinzie reminds me much of the hype that Mastery was receiving coming into this race last season. Mastery made short work of his competition last year in this race, and probably would have been the favorite to win the Kentucky Derby, if not for his injury. I’m expecting more of the same from McKinzie; Baffert seems to be in love him with at the moment. His maiden special weight win at Santa Anita was a very impressive debut, so hopes are high. Many believe this is Baffert’s top prospect for 2018, so expect him to be bet heavily here.

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#3 Solomini – There’s no doubt that he’s the class of the field after back-to-back second place efforts in the Frontrunner and the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. However, he was beaten by a wide margin both times. There’s no disgrace in losing to Good Magic and Bolt d’Oro, though, and either of those horses would be favored here. At this point, he looks to be more of a grinder than a horse with a big turn of foot, but if McKinzie doesn’t live up to the hype, then he’s the logical candidate to win.

Exotic Plays

#4 Runaway Ghost – He’ll have to stretch out in distance for the first time in this race, but he has won two sprints in a row. Last time out, he was a 7 1/2-length winner at Golden Gate in the Golden Nugget. That was easily his best career race, but it was over a synthetic surface, so it’s questionable if he will run quite as well on the dirt. He does have a victory on the dirt, but it wasn’t as impressive.

Party Crashers

#1 Instilled Regard – You had to take notice of him after his eye-catching 4 1/4-length victory in a maiden special weight at Santa Anita last time out. After running decent in a couple of sprints to start his career, he stretched out in distance to 1 1/16 miles in his last race, and it made a big difference. The speed figure for his win wasn’t very impressive, but he’s at least shown that he can win going around two turns. That makes him the only logical horse to play at a price.

Throw Outs

#2 For Him – He only has one win in four starts, which came against maiden claiming company at Del Mar. He tried to switch over to the turf in his last race and performed better than ever, finishing fourth in the the Zuma Beach at Santa Anita. I’m not sure that a move back to the dirt will be beneficial for him.

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