Who would have thought that a five-horse field at Los Alamitos would cause so much drama? On Saturday, the Grade 1 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity Stakes featured a thrilling stretch duel between three prime Kentucky Derby prospects, but controversy followed with one of the worst disqualification ever in a Grade 1 event. Let’s analyze what happened, and what to think moving forward, in this week’s Three Stars of the Week.
Let’s get right to the drama that unfolded. The Los Alamitos Futurity was one of the more confusing races that we’ve seen in a long time. The stretch drive was basically a carbon copy of the 2014 version where Dortmund, Firing Line, and Mr. Z battled down to the wire.
This year featured Solomini, McKinzie, and Instilled Regard laying it all on the line for us. After being glued together for the entire stretch, Solomini started to slightly edge clear, and in the final few yards, he surged to a 1-length victory. However, the inquiry sign came on shortly after the finish, and that’s when all hell broke loose.
When watching the race live it looked as though McKinzie, the original second-place finisher, had bumped into Instilled Regard late in the stretch. Many people, including myself, felt that McKinzie would be knocked down to third, and that Instilled Regard would be placed second. After watching the head-on, it then appeared that McKinzie was in the clear, as the stewards were looking at a small bump between Solomini and Instilled Regard. While Solomini did make contact with Instilled Regard, in my opinion, in no way did he cost Instilled Regard a placing. The stewards… did not agree. In a 2-1 vote, the stewards decided to move Solomini all the way down to third, placing McKinzie as the winner and Instilled Regard second. Outrage broke out on Twitter, and rightfully so, as the disqualification was hard to fathom.
Putting the horrific DQ aside, I felt that Solomini deserved the first star this week. No, he did not technically “win” the race, but he crossed the wire first and should not have been disqualified. The good news about this race is that we now have three legitimate Kentucky Derby prospects. All three have positive aspects as we move forward to 2018. McKinzie, the official “winner,” was making just his second career start, his first around two turns; his upside is enormous. Instilled Regard seems to love going two turns, too, and has the breeding to suggest that going even longer will be right up his alley. Finally, Solomini has hit the board in three Grade 1 races as a 2-year-old and is sired by Curlin, so he, too, has every right to improve with age. You should keep a very close eye on all three after this race.
2. Dream Tree
While her stablemates were involved in all the drama, Dream Tree took care of business with relative ease in the Grade 1 Starlet Stakes. After starting her career with two nose victories in sprint stakes, the 2-year-old filly by Uncle Mo stretched out very well in her first race going two turns. Dream Tree sat just off the pace for most of the race before ranging up alongside the leader at the top of the stretch, then cruised to an easy 3 1/4-length victory. This win puts her on the Kentucky Oaks trail in what is currently a wide-open division. Her victory also bodes well for fellow stablemate Midnight Bisou, who’s lost to Dream Tree by a nose in both starts.
3. Jala Jala
Gulfstream Park is deserving of a shoutout for hosting Caribbean Stakes Day on Saturday. There were doubters on how this idea would be received in the United States, but overall, it looked to be a great day. The on-track attendance was massive for a rainy day in December, and the Caribbean races were both entertaining and fun to wager on. No performance stood out more than that of Jala Jala, who stormed home to win the $300,000 Caribbean Classic Stakes by a dominating 9 lengths. The Mexican-bred horse was ridden to victory by Irad Ortiz, Jr., who had three wins on the Caribbean portion of the card.