By Alan Carasso
After 8 1/2 furlongs of Saturday's GII Los Alamitos Futurity, it was a 'Close Encounter' with pacesetting outsider The Great One (Nyquist)–playing 'Catch Me If You Can'–but $1-million Keeneland September yearling purchase Spielberg (Union Rags) managed to snatch victory from the 'Jaws' of defeat, as he was the recipient of the kindest of headbobs to give Bob Baffert his seventh consecutive victory in the event, now held at the Orange County oval.
Drawn widest in a field of six, the second betting choice attended the pace three wide outside of GII Best Pal S. hero Weston (Hit It a Bomb) as the maiden The Great One made play from the fence. The front-runner hit the three-eighths going great guns and took them into the stretch, daring them to catch him. Spielberg emerged as the lone chance to do so as favored Red King (Tamarkuz), impressive in romping in the GIII Bob Hope S. last time out, began to paddle at midstretch. The Great One kicked on gamely into the final sixteenth of a mile, but the blaze-faced Spielberg dug in resolutely and dove home just in front. The win was the 14th overall in the race formerly known as the Hollywood and then CashCall Futurity and the winner represents a seventh different ownership group in the seven years the race has taken place at Los Al.
Second in the Sept. 7 GI Del Mar Futurity and third in the Sept. 26 GI American Pharoah S. as a maiden, Spielberg was more workmanlike than brilliant in graduating by a neck going a mile at Del Mar Nov. 1 and he was exiting a fourth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths, when last seen in the Bob Hope Nov. 15.
“I knew he was going to run well because he had shipped well over here and was really on it in the paddock,” said Baffert. “I thought it was an easy spot last time and he didn't ship well. He got nervous when he got in the stall there [Del Mar] and was just flat. We ran him back too quick. I asked [jockey Flavien Prat] if there's more there and he said there's a lot more. I think he'll get better with maturity.”
Spielberg becomes the 16th black-type winner and ninth at the graded level for Union Rags and is bred like his sire's Grade I winner Union Strike. The winner's dam is a daughter of SP Miss Kate (Storm Cat)-the cross of Union Rags over the late Overbrook sire is responsible for another two of Union Rags's GISWs-also the dam of the SWs Outplay (Bernardini), Raconteur (A.P. Indy) and Katerbug (Pulpit). Spielberg's dual Grade I-winning third dam produced Clear Mandate (Deputy Minister), herself a three-time winner at the highest level and dam of MGSW/MGISP Newfoundland (Storm Cat), GISW Strong Mandate (Tiznow) and SW Full Mandate (A.P. Indy). Miss Squeal is the dam of a yearling filly by Honor Code, a weanling filly by Bernardini and was most recently bred to City of Light.
Saturday, Los Alamitos
LOS ALAMITOS FUTURITY-GII, $200,500, Los Alamitos, 12-19, 2yo, 1 1/16m, 1:42.56, ft.
1–SPIELBERG, 120, c, 2, by Union Rags
1st Dam: Miss Squeal, by Smart Strike
2nd Dam: Miss Kate, by Storm Cat
3rd Dam: Dream Deal, by Sharpen Up (GB)
1ST BLACK TYPE WIN, 1ST GRADED STAKES WIN. ($1,000,000
Ylg '19 KEESEP). O-SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket
Stables LLC, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm LLC & Robert E.
Masterson; B-G. Watts Humphrey (KY); T-Bob Baffert; J-Flavien
Prat. $120,000. Lifetime Record: MGISP, 6-2-2-1, $257,200.
Werk Nick Rating: A++. Click for the
eNicks report & 5-cross pedigree.
2–The Great One, 120, c, 2, Nyquist–Little Ms Protocol, by El
Corredor. ($125,000 Ylg '19 OBSOCT; $185,000 2yo '20
OBSOPN). O-ERJ Racing, LLC, Train Wreck Al Racing Stables,
Niall J. Brennan, Tom Fritz & William Strauss; B-Coteau Grove
Farms (LA); T-Doug F. O'Neill. $40,000.
3–Petruchio, 120, g, 2, Into Mischief–Satirical, by Distorted
Humor. O-Perry R. Bass II & Ramona S. Bass; B-Bass Stables,
LLC (KY); T-Richard E. Mandella. $24,000.
Margins: NO, 3HF, 5. Odds: 1.90, 33.60, 6.00.
Also Ran: Red Flag, Weston, Positivity.
Click for the Equibase.com chart, the TJCIS.com PPs or the free Equineline.com catalogue-style pedigree. VIDEO, sponsored by Fasig-Tipton.