Newsletter: Racing! Previewing Los Alamitos’ big day


Hello, my name is John Cherwa, and welcome back to our horse racing newsletter as Rob Henie tries to make sense of the big Caribbean Card series at Gulfstream.

Saturday is the best day of three Los Alamitos meetings. There are two Grade 1 races for 2-year-olds. First, as the fifth rac,e is the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity for colts, and the seventh race is the $300,000 Starlet Stakes for fillies.

But after this year the Futurity is being downgraded to a Grade 2. This is pretty ridiculous given the good horses that have come out of this race. We’re guessing one of the big negatives to the continued elevated status is that the fields have been too short.


I talked to Bob Baffert about it, and he was none too happy. You can read comments and a preview of the Futurity by just clicking here.

The favorite in the Futurity is Baffert’s Improbable, who has won both his races, including the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs by 7¼ lengths. Even though Improbable has won at a mile, it was at Churchill Downs, where the mile is a one-turn race.

Baffert is confident that Improbable can make the 1 1/16-mile race easily, but, as he says, you never know.

“I think you find out if they like two turns even if you think you already know,” Baffert said. “But with every horse there is usually this kernel of doubt for a few seconds where you wonder if they will hit the imaginary wall or keep going. … But you find the real distance limitations at 1 1/8 [miles].”

In the Starlet, Baffert has the top two favorites in Chasing Yesterday (7-5) and Mother Mother (2-1). About being asked about Chasing Yesterday, Baffert first started talking about Mother Mother.

“Mother Mother, I felt wasn’t ready for the Breeders’ Cup,” Baffert said. “First out, she ran incredible [winning by 6½], but then she came back a little light on me.”


Baffert then ran her in the Del Mar Debutante, where she finished second to the talented Bellafina. She then went a mile winning the Rags to Riches Stakes at Churchill Downs.

Chasing Yesterday is the half sister to American Pharoah. “But we don’t think about that,” Baffert said.

So, we’ll see what happens at Los Alamitos on Saturday while hoping for, but not expecting, a very big crowd.

Weekly handicapping lesson

Here’s our weekly contribution from Rob Henie of the West Coast Handicapping Report and the East Coast Handicapping Report. The thinking in providing his commentary is if you can know and understand the strategies, it will make you a better handicapper.

Today’s lesson is from the fourth race at Gulfstream. The floor is yours, Rob.

“This is a minor stakes race at a mile. This is a group of 2-year-olds going a mile, late in the year, and we’re looking for well meant runners who appear to be pointed to this event. It’s more appealing than runners whose connections are simply running on a whim due to recent good form, as exemplified by MADDY’S LAST DANCE, who’s run four times since September, including four weeks ago, and now turning to this stakes race as well as being asked to run longer. Top selection is UNION’S DESTINY (#3). Contrary to the example we just showed, this guy hasn’t been out since August and certainly in the past three weeks there were plenty of opportunities if ‘needing the race,’ was the motivation especially since he’s never gone long. So, we can easily deduce, he’s ready today, pointed to this race, the distance and tougher company. We can also ascertain, he fired in his racing debut, thus, even more likely to fire fresh. GARTER AND TIE (#5) will be a shorter price, but worthy of inclusion. He ran super when stretched out in late September, freshened, and he too has been pointed to this specific event. Tyler is riding so well these days, always a good sign, and a win is easy to find. (For another example of a horse, not pointed to the race but running, see #7 SOUPER JACKPOT below.

“Hot / Cold Race Trend: none yet

“Win Contenders (order of preference): 3-5

“X Out Runners (eliminating on the win end): 2,4

“Negative Notes:

“6 Arrivederia — Placement is simply poor off the maiden win.

“7 Souper Jackpot — Only 3-1 on the morning line, but we need to try and beat. Yes, he comes off a maiden win, but it’s likely had he lost, he would have been stretched out against maidens. But the win demands he faces winners, and this spot likely was on a whim, a ‘let’s see what we’ve got’ type of mentality. Mark Casse, Irad Ortiz Jr., shorter price, and we’re trying to beat, siding with a pair of horses actually pointed to this offering.

“TOP PICK: UNION’S DESTINY (#3 8-1 Olivero)

“SECOND CHOICE: GARTER AND TIE (#5 8-5 Gaffalione)

The West Coast Handicapping Report can be found at It has been endorsed by leading trainers, handicappers and industry sources.

Los Alamitos thoroughbred review

Friday’s feature was taken by favorite Just Grazed Me in a six-furlong race for fillies and mares. She really didn’t have much trouble winning by four lengths without being asked from mid-stretch to the wire. Phil D’Amato is the trainer and Tyler Baze was the jockey.

Just Grazed Me paid $3, $2.40 and $2.10. Family Girl was second and Time for Ebby was third.

The 3-year-old Cal-bred filly may be pointed to the La Brea Stakes at Santa Anita on Dec. 26, a big step up.

In a bit of difficult news, two horses did not finish the fifth race. Miss Dialed fell on the turn without being involved in an incident. The stewards reported she died on the track. Usually, it means a heart-related issue, but a necropsy will be performed. The favorite, Reachreachreach, was pulled up on the turn but walked off on her own, always a good sign.

Los Alamitos thoroughbred preview

Well, we did all the previewing up top, so you can catch the info there. There are nine races with the first at 12:30 p.m. There are three 1-mile races and three at 5½ furlongs. Four of the races are claimers. The Futurity is about 2:30 p.m. and the Starlet around 3:30 p.m.

Here are the field sizes, in order: 6, 7, 12, 9, 6, 10, 6, 12, 10.

Big races preview

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

11:00 Laurel (4): $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Futurity, Mar-bred 2-year-olds, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Scrap Copper (2-1)

11:17 Aqueduct (5): $100,000 Garland of Roses Stakes, fillies and mares 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Vertical Oak (1-1)

11:30 Laurel (5): $100,000 Maryland Juvenile Filly Championship, Mar-bred fillies 2-years-old, 7 furlongs. Favorite: Belial (2-1)

12:24 Fair Grounds (5): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Lassie Stakes, La-bred fillies 2-years-old, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Midnight Fantasy (7-5)

12:46 Gulfstream (9): $114,000 Caribbean Cup Speed, 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: La Polla (3-1)

1:16 Gulfstream (10): $100,000 Confraternity Caribbean Cup, 3 and up, 1¼ miles. Favorite: Jala Jala (9-5)

1:24 Fair Grounds (7): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Juvenile Stakes, La-bred 2-year-olds, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Classy John (9-5)

1:38 Woodbine (8): $100,000 Display Stakes, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: The Boss Factor (2-1)

1:50 Gulfstream (11): $124,000 Lady Caribbean Cup, fillies 3-years-old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Kukulkan (3-5)

1:53 Fair Grounds (8): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Turf Stakes, La-breds 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Favorite: In the Navy (3-1)

2:22 Fair Grounds (9): $150,000 Louisiana Champions Day Classic, La-breds 3 and up, 1 1/8 miles. Favorite: Underpressure (5-2)

2:28 Los Alamitos (5): Grade 1 $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity, 2-year-olds, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Improbable (6-5)

2:51 Fair Grounds (10): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Turf Stakes, La-bred fillies and mares 3 and up, 1 1/16 miles on turf. Favorite: Viva Vegas (5-2)

3:20 Fair Grounds (11): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Sprint Stakes, La-breds 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Monte Man (7-5)

3:28 Los Alamitos (7): Grade 1 $300,000 Starlet Stakes, fillies 2 years old, 1 1/16 miles. Favorite: Chasing Yesterday (7-5)

3:49 Fair Grounds (12): $100,000 Louisiana Champions Day Ladies Sprint Stakes, La-bred fillies and mares 3 and up, 6 furlongs. Favorite: Minit to Stardom (9-5)

Jose Contreras LRC play of the day

SEVENTH RACE: No. 1 Vibrance (5-2)

She settled behind the leaders and then made a middle move to finish third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies. I like that she has steadily improved in each start and that she gave it a good effort in the Breeders’ Cup proving that the travel wasn’t a concern. She’s got enough speed to get into a good position going into the first turn and I think that’s the key to getting the best trip in this race.

Friday’s result: El Asesino broke alertly, ran wide but was never able to muster a challenge and finished third.

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’s LA play of the day

FOURTH RACE: No. 3 Flashy Moon Pie (4-1)

This filly drops from the straight maiden ranks into a maiden $6,250 claimer, adds blinkers and gets off the rail. She had uncomfortable trip when breaking slow in last seventh-place outing and was only ½ length behind earlier maiden winner Sad Face Emoji in prior 12.5 gate drill. She has plenty of upside in third career start and only second trip postward in seven months.

Final thought

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