Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby prep starts fast with win in Los Alamitos Futurity
Trainer Bob Baffert has owned the race currently known as the Los Alamitos Futurity. In fact, he has won all seven times it has been run at the Orange County track. But he’s never had to win it as closely as he did Saturday when Spielberg won by less than a nose over The Great One.
The race, once a Grade 1 starting at Hollywood Park before moving to Los Alamitos, has been downgraded to a Grade 2 the last two years. But it is the last important race this year for 2-year-olds in Southern California hoping to move on to the Kentucky Derby trail. It is worth a minimal amount of Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
“Now we can start thinking [Kentucky] Derby,” said Baffert, a six-time winner of the Louisville race. “It starts here for us.”
The 1-1/16-mile race for 2-year-olds was a little closer than Baffert had hoped. The Great One went to the lead the after the break and seemed comfortable out front against tough competition. He was leading by two lengths entering the stretch but Spielberg, on the outside, just kept coming and passed the Doug O’Neill horse in a bob at the wire.
“[The Great One] was tough to get by,” Baffert said. “We needed every bit of that stretch and we were fortunate to get there.”
Spielberg, a $1-million purchase as a yearling, got off to a slower-than-hoped-for start in his career. He didn’t break his maiden until his fourth race but did finish second and third in a couple of Grade 1 races. In his last race, he finished a disappointing fourth as the heavy favorite in the Grade 3 Bob Hope at Del Mar.
“I thought it was an easy spot last time [in the Bob Hope] and he didn’t ship well,” Baffert said. “He got nervous when he got in the stall there and was just flat. We ran him back too quick.”
Flavien Prat took over for Abel Cedillo, rider of second-place The Great One, as the jockey on Spielberg.
“I’d never ridden him before, but Bob told me he was doing great,” Prat said. “The outside was a good draw for him. He broke well and was able to relax. I thought we had it all the way down the stretch but it was close.’’
Spielberg paid $5.80, $3.60 and $4.80. The Great One was followed by Petruchio, Red Flag, Weston and Positivity.
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Red Flag was the post-time favorite around even money but he didn’t fire and was never a factor in the stretch.
Baffert wasn’t ready to name Spielberg’s next race, but did indicate he likely would stay in California.
“I asked Prat if there’s more there and he said there’s a lot more,” Baffert said. “I think he’ll get better with maturity. He’s a beautiful horse.”
It was Baffert’s 13th win in the race going back to when it was the Hollywood Futurity. Only one of those 13 has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, Real Quiet in 1997. That was Baffert’s first win in the Futurity.
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