Monday’s $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (GI) marks closing day of the prestigious summer racing season at Del Mar and, before getting out of town and heading back North, nine juveniles will square off over seven furlongs in search of bragging rights as the best of the division to represent the West Coast.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert owns this race, having saddled 13 winners since his first in 1996 and, this year, sends out a pair, who will bookend the race with Soul Streit leading the field to post and Zatter bringing up the rear. But all eyes will be on the Best Pal Stakes (GII) winner Run Away looking to give trainer Simon Callaghan a first win in this race and a repeat for owner Kaleem Shah.
Since first contested in 1948, some good horses have reached the winner’s circle in the Del Mar Futurity, but the event rose to national prominence in the late 1970s when Flying Paster won en route to a standout 3-year-old campaign, which included a runner-up finish to Spectacular Bid in the Kentucky Derby (GI). Since then, some of the more recognizable Futurity winners include Gato Del Sol, Saratoga Six, Tasso, Best Pal, Bertrando, Silver Charm, Officer, Declan’s Moon, Stevie Wonderboy, Lookin at Lucky and Nyquist. In 2014, American Pharoah won this race en route to ending the 37-year Triple Crown drought.
Run Away has yet to taste defeat in three starts and, in addition to the Best Pal, the son of Run Away and Hide won the Santa Anita Juvenile fairly easily. Shah purchased the bay colt out of the Barretts 2-year-old in training sale earlier this year for $325,000 and while he has yet to make his purchase price back, he’s gaining ground.
Run Away’s figures, overall, are pretty solid and though they regressed a bit off his previous, it shouldn’t make much of a difference here. Top jock Flavien Prat returns and the pair will break from post three. He has some tactical ability that Prat can use to put him on the lead if the anticipated quick early pace scenario collapses or sit just off if he prefers to avoid a speed duel. He won’t need to improve much to reach the winner’s circle here.
The very expensive ($1 million) Tatters to Riches returns to face winners for the first time after breaking his maiden in impressive wire-to-wire fashion at the end of July and the son of Union Rags has been training exceptionally well at Del Mar since for trainer Jeff Mullins. Deciding he had some more growing up to do, his connections skipped the Best Pal to focus on this race and it may have been a good choice, as he’ll be fresh heading to post. Mullins has yet to saddle a winner in this race, but Tyler Baze was aboard Midshipman when the pair won nine years ago and the veteran jockey is having a pretty solid meet, winning at a 10 percent clip and, most importantly, riding a lot of young horses and finishing in the money on nearly half of the horses he rides. These two will set sail for the lead from the break and if they can hold off the pressure, they are dangerous to upset the favorite at a decent price.
Zatter has the highest last-race Brisnet Speed figure (92), which he earned breaking his maiden two weeks ago in gate-to-wire fashion and returned with a nice bullet work earlier this week, signalling he’s ready for stakes company. The $160,000 Keeneland September yearling wears the familiar Zayat Stable silks and while the outside post normally isn’t ideal for a frontrunner, there’s a long run into the first turn from the seven furlong chute, so jockey Rafael Bejarano has plenty of room to get into preferred position. Hard to say if this one can or will be rated depending on the pace, but the likely scenario is him headed to the front to duel it out early and hope to have the fitness and talent to hang on to the wire.
Bolt D’Oro broke his maiden at first asking a month ago and the son of Medaglia D’Oro will be trainer Mick Ruis’s first Futurity starter. It looks like he has some tactical ability if there is a heated early pace, which will serve him well. And while jockey Corey Nakatani hasn’t won this race in 24 years, he is having a solid return to action since coming out of retirement, winning at a 20-percent clip and finishing in the money on more than half his mounts. An upset from this $630,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling would not be unthinkable.
Indiana-bred Soul Streit is another who is expected to be on the lead early. His maiden victory was impressive as he cruised by 5 ½ lengths and he will have Mike Smith back aboard. His post is tricky and he’ll have to be used early, but it’s easy to see he’s logical for all exotics.
Dia de Pago makes his second California start after breaking his maiden at Gulfstream and being purchased privately purchase by David and Holly Wilson and trainer Vladimir Cerin. He managed a decent second after a rough break in the Best Pal last out and looks like a solid contender at what will likely be a decent price.
Puerto Rican Import Master Ruler was fourth in the Best Pal after winning his first two at Camarero. He’s training well for John Sadler, but the American competition is pretty tough, so he’ll need to improve a bit to be a factor here.
Gracida is another facing winners for the first time after breaking his maiden at first asking. Doug O’Neill, who tightened the girth on Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist to win in 2014 and Breeders’ Cup champion Stevie Wonderboy in 2004, sends this one out looking for his third win. Victor Espinoza rides.
Keith Desormeaux sends out another maiden in a graded stakes and as we have all learned, never leave these out of any exotics.