Since 1996, when Bob Baffert won his first Del Mar Futurity with Silver Charm, the Hall of Fame trainer has won the prestigious 2-year-old race 14 more times. That’s 15 total out of the last 26 runnings, including last year with Pinehurst.
This year Baffert has a trio of runners set to go in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), the closing day feature at Del Mar. All have solid chances to keep alive their conditioner’s extraordinary run of success in a race that has produced several Kentucky Derby participants and, since 1996, three Derby winners: Silver Charm, American Pharoah and Nyquist.
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Baffert’s stakes-winning 2-year-old Havnameltdown is undefeated after two starts, including last time in the Best Pal (G3).
“A very fast horse,” Baffert says. “I think this could be his distance. I always thought he’d be a one turn kind of horse the way he’s made.”
Cave Rock is the morning-line favorite in the Futurity after leaving a favorable impression in his debut. The son of Arrogate won by six lengths.
“His race was just off the charts,” Baffert says. “I was surprised he did something like that.”
Baffert’s third entry, Newgate, also won at first asking here at Del Mar. The son of Into Mischief fired a bullet work last Sunday.
“He hasn’t run in a while but he’s been working great,” Baffert says. “I think distance is not going to be a problem for him. Two turns are going to be better for him.
“All three are fast,” Baffert continues, “if they don’t get into each other’s way. That first quarter is so important. If they go sub 22 (seconds), none of them are going to be there.”
Sound advice from a guy who won the Futurity seven times in a row from the late 1990s into the early 2000s. And while it may appear Baffert has the race covered, it is a horse race and they are 2-year-olds.
A horse that spoiled the debut of another Baffert wonder colt named Hejazi is in the Futurity. Classical Cat, who hails from the Phil D’Amato barn, broke his maiden at first asking three weeks ago.
“He’s doing very well,” D’Amato says. “We did not draw a good post on the rail but this is a very talented horse and hopefully we’ll be able to overcome that.”
The Big Wam is the most experienced of the bunch. He’s raced four times, never finishing worse than second and won the $125,000 Graduation Stakes for Cal-breds at Del Mar last out. He’s won both of his races at Del Mar this summer.
“Tomorrow we find out how he does against the big boys,” trainer Luis Mendez says. “A lot of people say they run better on different tracks but I think he runs good anywhere. In Kentucky he ran huge and here he’s been running pretty good.”
Mendez says you won’t find The Big Wam engaging in any speed duel.
“His style is not that way,” he says. “We tried having him up on the pace but that’s not him and this time, going seven furlongs, that’s not the way you want them to run. When he won, both times he did the same thing (came from off the pace). Of course, we want him to be close to them, not far away from them.”
Agency is worth a look. He was runner-up to Havnameltdown in the Best Pal. The son of Bolt d’Oro is trained by Mark Glatt, who is having a very nice summer meet with 13 victories and 13 seconds.
“Everything’s good,” Glatt says. “I would have rather drawn an outside post but we’ll see what happens. He doesn’t like dirt in his face. Hopefully, Flavien (Prat) will be able to negotiate a trip where you minimize the dirt, but when you draw the two hole in a full field, that’s going to be hard because he’s not fast enough to go with them early.
“But maybe at seven-eighths they might spread apart early on,” Glatt continues, “and he’ll be able to get out away from the dirt.”
The 75th running of the Del Mar Futurity goes off as race 10 on the 11-race card.