Big Ticket Colts Dot Los Al Futurity on Saturday

Slow Down Andy wins '21 Edition of the Los Alamitos Futurity | Benoit


The Kentucky Derby points are back on the table in December. Well, for trainers Leandro Mora and Tim Yakteen that is, as it is once again time for the GII Los Alamitos Futurity. In prior contests, it would have been 10-4-2 or 1 to the top four finishers, but since we only have a five-horse field, and with Bob Baffert currently forced to abrogate his Derby egg hunt despite yet another re-christening of his legal stab at Churchill Downs, it is just Mora and Yakteen that are eligible.

Out of the handful that will go on Saturday afternoon at the cozy palm-laden oval that continues to breathe–we hope it does, because we need it to survive–you will see some major sale purchases strut their 2-year-old stuff. Historically, this race is Baffert's foregone conclusion, as he has netted 13 of them, starting with Real Quiet back in 1997. But last year, Reddam Racing's homebred, Slow Down Andy (Nyquist), ran contrary to his moniker by getting the best of Messier (Empire Maker) to end the Hall of Fame conditioner's streak at seven.

Baffert comes prepared this time and Messier's ownership group of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, and Catherine Donovan is well represented with a pair of promising super colts in Carmel Road (Quality Road) and Fort Bragg (Tapit). The former went for $650,000 at the KEESEP sale last year, while the latter did him one better by $50,000 at FTKOTC. Tom Ryan, the Managing Partner of SF Racing, said when reached by phone, “We've got 10 nice 2-year-old winners on the board this year, and Bob and his team are very focused on 2023.”

Carmel Road, who has a half-brother named Ambition (Street Sense) out of Inspire who RNAd at FTNAUG this year, lost steam and ended up second-to-last at Keeneland as would-be 2-year-old champion Forte (Violence) nosed ahead for his score in the GI Claiborne Farm Breeders' Futurity Oct. 8. That poor showing was nothing like his maiden victory in the race prior when he won in a geared-down fashion by 8 3/4 at Del Mar Aug. 26. Ryan said about the letdown, “We ended up drawing the outside with Carmel Road in the 14 hole, and the 14 hole at Keeneland with a two-year-old, it's not ideal. So that race is a complete throw out. His last piece of work was a sparkling piece of work. Hopefully, he's ready for this.” Sporting some sharp recent breezes at Santa Anita (Dec. 9, 5f; .59, 1/30), we can expect him to be below his 2-1 morning-line by race time.

As for his stablemate, the 4-1-priced Fort Bragg comes calling after he was disqualified at Santa Anita Oct. 10 and placed second, and then officially broke his maiden Nov. 4 by 3/4 lengths over next out winner, Reincarnate. “He is a beautiful horse that just continues to develop,” Ryan said. “Flavian Prat breezed him last week, was impressed enough to want to ride him. He is coming back from a vacation in France to ride him here. It's a tough, demanding race, but we hope he's up to the challenge.”

Opposing this pair is the last of Baffert's trio, Zedan Racing Stables's $600,000 OBSAPR bay colt by Justify, Arabian Lion. Stretching out around two turns, this 4-5 morning-line favorite has posted a pair of Beyer Speed Figures that sparkled; 92 at Santa Anita with a first-out win Oct. 9, and then a second-place finish with a 93 at Keeneland against optional claimers Nov. 4. All three of these runners could be looking to grab the lead early, and hold off any would-be challengers.

As for Yakteen's Practical Move (Practical Joke), he is not without recent form, nor should he be underestimated. The $230,000 OBSAPR buy ran second to Fort Bragg in that race Oct. 10, despite a poor stumble at the start and getting bumped by his rival in the final furlong. The colt ran third to Havnameltdown (Uncaptured) in the GIII Bob Hope S. Nov. 20. Recall, he is a horse that won at first-asking at Del Mar July 24, was the seized the GIII Best Pal S. Aug. 14, and was second in the GI Runhappy Del Mar Futurity Sept. 11. If he can solve his gate issues, then he might be a player if a pace reactor failure occurs.

The big tickets will try to fly early at Los Alamitos. Baffert may not have access to those Derby points yet, but what is assured is this is going to be an intriguing renewal of the Futurity.

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