Betting Bob Baffert in the Los Alamitos Futurity
The $300,000 Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (gr. I) has been run at a couple of different tracks and under a few different names since its inception in 1981, but one thing that hasn’t changed is trainer Bob Baffert’s domination of the race.Over the last twenty years Baffert has won the Futurity a record nine times, including all three renewals since the race moved to Los Alamitos in 2014.
The interesting thing is that Baffert has never won the Futurity with a last-out maiden winner, which is what he’ll attempt to do with #5 McKinzie. The talented son of Street Sense caught eyes with an impressive 5 ½-length romp in his debut sprinting seven furlongs at Santa Anita, a performance that earned huge speed figures. He raced a little greenly turning for home, carrying his head to the right and drifting around a bit, but the way he smoothly rallied to the lead around the far turn and pulled away with authority in the homestretch suggests that McKinzie has a very bright future. A victory here would launch him firmly on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
But can a last-out maiden winner prevail in the Futurity while making his first start in a two-turn race? It’s hard to say, but even if McKinzie isn’t quite ready to roll at this level, Baffert could very well win the Futurity with his other entrant, #3 Solomini. With three starts under his belt, including strong runner-up efforts in the FrontRunner Stakes (gr. I) and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I), Solomini’s proven form in Grade 1 route races gives him a significant advantage in experience over McKinzie and is similar to the form of some of Baffert’s previous Futurity, such as Point Given and Pioneerof the Nile.
The wildcard in the Futurity is #4 Runaway Ghost, who recently returned from a lengthy layoff to win the six-furlong Golden Nugget Stakes over the synthetic track at Golden Gate Fields. His performance that day was eye-catching, as he cruised to a tons-the-best 7 ½-length victory that gave the impression he could be something special, but he’s never run beyond six furlongs and will be switching back to dirt this Saturday.
So how do we play the race? With just five starters, and with #1 Instilled Regard and #2 For Him needing to improve to be competitive, opportunities to make a big score appear to be slim. So I’m going to throw history to the wind, favor potential over proven form, and play McKinzie on top of a trifecta while adding Solomini and Runaway Ghost for second and third.
$10 trifecta: 5 with 3,4 with 3,4 ($20 total cost)