Newsletter: Racing! Impressive win for Improbable


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter, as we finish up with the Del Mar stewards’ rulings.

It was quite a display of talent and power on Saturday as Improbable won the Grade 1 $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity by five lengths. What it does is set up an interesting winter and spring for trainer Bob Baffert, who also has Game Winner, Roadster, Mucho Gusto and who knows who what else who could develop into a Kentucky Derby horse. But we’re not likely to see too many of them running against each other. Baffert and most other trainers don’t like to run their best horses against each other for the same money.

Baffert will always keep one of his best, in this case Game Winner or Improbable, at home at Santa Anita. In the past, he’s shipped one of his stars to Arkansas. American Pharoah was sent to Arkansas, and Justify was headed there until McKinzie got hurt. Can’t remember the last time he has sent a 3-year-old to Gulfstream for the Florida Derby. He occasionally will ship to New York and likes to put some of his horses in Kentucky.


In fact, you rarely see Southern California horses go to South Florida. Nyquist, for Doug O’Neill, was the exception, but that was because he was eligible for a $1-million bonus, which he won.

Improbable has already shipped to Churchill Downs, where he won by 7¼ lengths, so you know the horse can ship and likes it in Louisville. The guess here is if things stay the same, you would not see Game Winner run against Improbable until the Kentucky Derby. Roadster and Mucho Gusto look to be set up as the “other Baffert” in some of the upcoming races.

Now, Baffert believes you really don’t learn how much distance a horse has until they go 1 1/8 miles, but there was little on display on Saturday that indicates the added distance will be a problem for Improbable. Saturday’s race was 1 1/16 miles.

But we are miles, and we’re not talking 1¼ miles, ahead of ourselves at this point with so much that could change.

My colleague, Eric (Manny) Sondheimer was at Los Alamitos on Saturday and this is the report that he filed. You can read it here.

Stewards’ rulings


Looks like we’ve got the final rulings from Del Mar, although there are a few investigations going on that could bring some judgments soon. But, until then, here’s what the stewards did.

-- Exercise rider Serafin Carmona was fined $50 for failure to obey a public safety warning. On Nov. 17 at Santa Anita, Carmona was working a horse for trainer Simon Callaghan after the emergency warning lights were activated, which is a violation. Carmona admitted to using “poor judgment” and was respectful to the stewards.

-- Jockey Evin Roman was suspended for three days (Dec. 7, 8, 9) for failing to keep his mount, Moon Kitty, straight in the stretch during the first race at Del Mar on Nov. 29. According to the stewards’ minutes, Moon Kitty bumped S Y Sky after Roman used the riding crop with his left hand. “He applied a strong hand ride prior to and during contact” with S Y Sky and “at no time did he take any corrective action.” Moon Kitty was disqualified and placed second. It was a majority decision with steward Kim Sawyer dissenting. Roman can ride in designated races.

-- Exercise rider Nicole Diodoro was fined $50 for galloping two horses “the wrong way” on Nov. 28. She was working horses for trainer Michael McCarthy. John Cortez, the lead morning outrider, said that he had warned her. Diodoro denied she was warned.

Los Alamitos thoroughbred review

Between Eric’s report, which you can get online and in print, and the top of the newsletter, we’ve talked a lot about the big races at Los Alamitos on Saturday. But here’s a quick recap.

The Los Alamitos Futurity was won by Improbable by an easy five lengths. He paid $2.40 and $2.10 for Baffert and jockey Drayden Van Dyke. Stablemate Mucho Gusto was second, and Extra Hope finished third.

The Grade 1 $300,000 Starlet Stakes for 2-year-old fillies going 1 1/16 miles had a three-way close finish, but Chasing Yesterday pushed his head in front to beat Enaya Arabb and Mother Mother. It completed the Baffert-Van Dyke double.

Los Alamitos thoroughbred preview

It’s a better-than-expected nine-race card considering it comes after the big races day. There are two allowance/optional claimers and a maiden special. First post, as usual on a weekend, is 12:30 p.m. Both allowance races carry a $45,000 purse, but we’ll call the fourth the feature since the claim price is $40,000 compared with $20,000 in the other.

The race is for fillies and mares going a mile. Dominating Woman, at 9-5, is the favorite for trainer Peter Miller and jockey Heriberto Figueroa. The filly has won four of nine lifetime but only one of four this year. She was off from last November until August of this year. Her only win this year did come at Los Alamitos. She is 2-2-1 in her last three races.

Second favorite is Queen Bee to You at 5-2 for Michael Pender and Flavien Prat. She is three for 20 lifetime and one of five this year. She finished second in the Solana Beach Stakes and her win this year came in an allowance at Santa Anita

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 7, 9, 6, 8, 8, 8, 8, 10 (2 also eligible).

Big Races review

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Saturday.

Laurel (4): $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity, Mar-bred 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Winner: Alwaysmining ($8.80)

Aqueduct (5): $100,000 Garland of Roses Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Winner: Vertical Oak ($3.30)

Laurel (5): $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, Mar-bred fillies 2 years old, 7 furlongs. Winner: Money Fromheaven ($49.80)

Fair Grounds (5): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes, La-bred fillies 2 years old, 6 furlongs. Winner: Midnight Fantasy ($2.40)

Gulfstream (9): $114,000 Caribbean Cup Speed, 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Winner: Big Boris One ($7.40)

Gulfstream (10): $100,000 Confraternity Caribbean Cup, 3 and up, 1¼ miles. Winner: Jala Jala ($4.40)

Fair Grounds (7): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes, La-bred 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Winner: Classy John ($2.20)

Woodbine (8): $100,000 Display Stakes, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Sir Winston ($10.20)

Gulfstream (11): $124,000 Lady Caribbean Cup, fillies 3 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Kukulkan ($2.60)

Fair Grounds (8): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes, La-breds 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Winner: Magic Vow ($8.80)

Fair Grounds (9): $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, La-breds 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Winner: Underpressure ($6.60)

Los Alamitos (5): Grade 1 $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Improbable ($2.40)

Fair Grounds (10): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Stakes, La-bred fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Remember Daisy ($3.80)

Fair Grounds (11): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint Stakes, La-breds 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Winner: Givemeamint ($5.00)

Los Alamitos (7): Grade 1 $300,000 Starlet Stakes, fillies 2 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Winner: Chasing Yesterday ($5.00)

Fair Grounds (12): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint Stakes, La-bred fillies and mares 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Winner: Remember Daisy ($3.80)

Big races preview

A look at graded stakes or races worth more $100,000 or more on Sunday. All times PDT:

12:37 Woodbine (6): $125,000 Ontario Lassie Stakes, Ont-bred fillies 2 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Western Curl (9-5)

1:38 Woodbine (8): Grade 3 $125,000 Valedictory Stakes, 3 and up, 1¾ miles. Favorite: Pumpkin Rumble (9-5)

Jose Contreras LRC play of the day

SIXTH RACE: No. 3 Malibu Bay (4-1)

He was part of a four-way duel for the lead, took plenty of pressure around the turn and responded nicely down the stretch to win going away. It was a very professional debut. The third- and fourth-place finishers returned to win their next race. I like that the connections bring him right back at a level where he’s going to be competitive. He cuts back in distance and should be ready to fire another big effort.

Saturday’s result: Vibrance stayed close during the race but weakened in the stretch to finish off the board.

Jose Contreras is an excellent handicapper and well known on social media and familiar to racing fans watching on TVG. You can follow him on Twitter at @losponies or check him out at his website.

Ed Burgart L.A. play of the day

SIXTH RACE: No. 5 Jess Glance (5-2)

I liked the way this filly showed determination in last fourth-place Golden State Million trial outing six weeks ago when stumbling out to get bumped back early. She ran hard thereafter while only beaten ½ length for second in a race where the two-length winner Flash and Roll returned to captured the futurity finals. She scored daylight prior maiden win and her jockey/trainer team of Edurado Nicasio and Christopher O’Dell have been very productive all year.

Final thoughts

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And now the stars of the show, Saturday’s results and Sunday’s entries.