Just how many times has the Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (gr. I), which will be renewed for the 38th time on December 8th?
Well, technically, Baffert has never lost the Los Alamitos Futurity. Since the race was moved to Los Alamitos in 2014, Baffert has prevailed in every edition, and he also won the race six times during its glory days at Hollywood Park, making him easily the most successful trainer in the history of the 1 1/16-mile Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race.
Baffert will be represented by two of the six starters in the 2019 Los Alamitos Futurity, and it will come as no surprise if they run 1-2. Of the pair, my preference is definitely for #1 Improbable, a son of City Zip who opened his career with a narrow victory sprinting at Santa Anita, after which he shipped to Churchill Downs and blew the doors off eight rivals in the one-mile Street Sense Stakes. Improbable was a bit slow into stride that day, but did it matter? Hardly. After threading his way up the rail early on—while chasing fast fractions of :22.27, :44.96, and 1:09.83—Improbable seized command at the top of the stretch and widened with ease to prevail by 7 ¼ lengths with an excellent 99 BRIS speed figure.
No matter how you slice it, this was a huge effort from Improbable, which is why I already have him ranked third in my Kentucky Derby Top 10. With the rising star jockey Drayden Van Dyke in the saddle, I hope to see Improbable settle just off the pace early on the Los Alamitos Futurity before making his move in the long homestretch. If he brings his A-game and runs like he did at Churchill Downs, it’s going to be tough to beat him, which is why I plan to key him on top in the exotic wagers.
For second place, Improbable’s stoutly-bred stablemate #6 Mucho Gusto is an obvious choice. A $625,000 auction purchase earlier this year, the son of Breeders’ Cup Classic winner Mucho Macho Man won his debut at Los Alamitos by four lengths and followed up with a game victory in the seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita, in which he set a strong pace and held tough in the homestretch to beat #2 Savagery by 1 ¼ lengths. In a race where Mucho Gusto and Savagery loom as the lone pacesetters, the pace should be on the modest side and that should give Mucho Gusto every chance to finish in the top two.
#5 Extra Hope could only finish fourth in the Bob Hope, but take note, he was only beaten 2 ¼ lengths while cutting back in distance from a 1 1/16-mile maiden race at Santa Anita, which he won easily by 8 ¾ lengtsh. The distance of the Los Alamitos Futurity should be more ideal for this improving son of Shanghai Bobby, who could certainly land in the exotics at a bit of a price.
Here’s how I would play the race: