Del Mar’s 2017 summer season will go out with a bang on Labor Day, as the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) shapes up as a vintage renewal. With unbeaten Best Pal (G2) romper Run Away facing five hot debut winners, including two from the Bob Baffert barn, the seven-furlong test promises to be a key race on the path to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and ultimately the 2018 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Run Away hopes to give owner Kaleem Shah his second consecutive Del Mar Futurity. Last year, Shah’s Klimt, who also took the Best Pal, handed his then-trainer Baffert an astounding 13th victory in the meet’s crowning race for two-year-olds.
Run Away, snared for $325,000 at Barretts in March, has hitherto done better than Klimt by capturing his first three starts. A convincing winner sprinting 4 1/2 furlongs at Santa Anita May 26, Run Away came out on top of the pace duel in the Santa Anita Juvenile. The son of Run Away and Hide stalked and pounced to his biggest margin so far, 3 1/2 lengths, in Del Mar’s Best Pal, and thereby sets the standard on form.
“I thought he did it effortlessly,” Shah told Del Mar publicity regarding the Best Pal. “Obviously, there’ll be better horses in the Futurity and even better in races further on. So, I hope and pray he continues to improve but three-for-three has got me dreaming.”
Run Away, drawn in post 3 with regular rider Flavien Prat, will tote the top weight of 123 pounds.
Of the five debut winners, the one with the best rationale for moving forward second time out is Mick Ruis’ Bolt d’Oro. The $630,000 Fasig-Tipton Saratoga yearling fluffed the start here August 9, rushed up into the pace, and still had plenty in reserve to pull clear at the end of 6 1/2 furlongs. The experience stands to benefit the Medaglia d’Oro half-brother to Sonic Mule, from the family of Recruiting Ready and Zensational. If he breaks better for Corey Nakatani, we could see an even stronger performance.
Baffert has the field bookended between Soul Streit on the rail and Zatter on the far outside in post 9. The Hall of Famer underscored the depth of this year’s Futurity.
“We don’t talk about that (his race-record 13 wins) because it doesn’t mean anything,” Baffert said. “It’s what you’ve got now.
“It’s a tough race. They’re all good horses. I think the post position draw is going to mean a lot.”
If so, Zatter may have been luckier than Soul Streit. It turned out that way in his debut, where the 8-5 favorite broke from the same post, survived the pace battle, and grabbed headlines by beating stablemate St Patrick’s Day, the full brother to Triple Crown champion American Pharoah. Adding further piquancy to that result, Zatter is owned by Zayat Stables of American Pharoah fame. He’s by another of Baffert’s past celebrities, Midnight Lute. Rafael Bejarano reunites with the promising youngster, who wheels back just 15 days after his August 20 unveiling.
Soul Streit’s name reflects co-owner Kirk Herbstreit. The Ohio State quarterback-turned-ESPN college football analyst, and partner in BCKH Stable, celebrated his first win as a Thoroughbred owner when Soul Streit aired in his August 13 unveiling. Drawn on the outside that day, the 4-5 favorite argued through swift fractions and opened up by 5 1/4 lengths. By Maclean’s Music, the same sire as Preakness (G1) winner Cloud Computing, Soul Streit takes a substantial jump in distance from five to seven furlongs. He figures to flash speed from the rail with returning Hall of Famer Mike Smith, and his chances hinge on how much poise he shows under pressure. You might say he’ll feel the blitz.
The other maiden winner who debuted over five furlongs, Gracida, controlled affairs from the start as the 9-5 favorite back on July 22, and runner-up Fleetwood came back to finish third in the Best Pal. The Doug O’Neill pupil won’t have as easy a trip with other first-rate speed on tap, but neither is he your typical Louisiana-bred. The $400,000 Fasig-Tipton Florida purchase is a full brother to Big World, who upset the May 5 La Troienne (G1) on Kentucky Oaks Day. Newly minted Hall of Famer Victor Espinoza should have tactical options from post 7 as well.
Tatters to Riches ran up to his $1 million price tag from OBS April when driving to a good-looking premiere for Jeff Mullins on July 29. By Union Rags and out of Poco Mas, by A.P. Indy, the May 21 foal is entitled to improve with added distance and maturity. Tyler Baze has the return call aboard the promising juvenile.
Rounding out the nine-horse field are the respective second through fourth in the Best Pal – Gulfstream maiden scorer Dia de Pago, who was squeezed back at the start before rallying in his first try for Vladimir Cerin; Keith Desormeaux’s aforementioned maiden Fleetwood; and John Sadler’s Puerto Rican recruit Master Ruler, who adds blinkers.
One race later, the intrigue continues apace with the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf. An overflow field of 15 was entered for the stepping stone to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies Turf (G1), contested over the same one-mile circuit.
O’Neill swept this race for three straight years (2013-15), finished second last year, and returns with recent import Klosters from the Roger Charlton yard. When breaking through in a novice at Chepstow, the Irish-bred Kodiac filly netted a £25,000 bonus as a Tattersalls October Book 1 graduate. The form isn’t prepossessing, but she’s a nicely-bred type who’s proven on a firmish surface, and that can carry her a long way in her new home. Her second dam is 2000 Beverly D. (G1) heroine Snow Polina.
Richard Baltas counters with an Irish filly recruited from Michael O’Callaghan, Navajo Dreamer, a half-sister to Grade 2 vixen Hoh Buzzard and multiple Group 1-placed sprinter Ashdown Express. Although still winless after five starts, the daughter of Dream Ahead has been pitched into some ferocious maidens, and she exits a second in a Curragh handicap. Navajo Dreamer will need luck from post 13, though.
George Krikorian’s homebred Multiplayer got up to deny Scat Home Lady in a course-and-distance maiden in her premiere, and the Giant’s Causeway blueblood has no shortage of upside for Tim Yakteen. The only other entrant similarly proven is Medaglia Gold, who romped in wire-to-wire fashion in her third career outing but first on turf. Like Scat Home Lady, Medaglia Gold is a homebred campaigned by Mr. and Mrs. Larry Williams and trained by Cliff Sise Jr. They’re maternal “cousins” too – their dams are half-sisters to multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire Master Command from the all-star family of Allez France.
Irish import Dawn Traveller, the 2-1 favorite in Multiplayer’s maiden, showed late interest for fifth in her American debut, and now adds blinkers for Callaghan. Formerly with Jessica Harrington, the Dragon Pulse filly was a close fourth in one of those “ferocious maidens” at the Curragh, in which Aidan O’Brien’s future standout Clemmie was third. On a literal reading of form, Dawn Traveller is appealing, with the proviso being that result came on good-to-yielding going. It remains to be seen whether she moves up in slower conditions than she’ll find at Del Mar.
Callaghan also sends out an eye-catching firster in Thisoleheartofmine, by turf star and noted freshman sire Point of Entry. Out of the Kingmambo mare Madam Lagonza, she is a half-sister to multiple Grade 3 victor Woodlander and an “aunt” to Grade 2 heroes Azar and Coal Front.
Phil D’Amato is represented by Irish-bred Camino Song, fourth at Gowran in her unveiling for Willie McCreery. Like Klosters, she’s by Kodiac, and her third dam is Group 1 victress Roseate Tern from a deep family.
Other contenders include David Hofmans’ Bonneville Flats (formally known as Flat Drunk in her Keeneland debut), who switches surfaces after disappointing in the Landaluce; Terra’s Angel, adding blinkers and making a similar move after her third in the Sorrento (G2); Unstablenthemornin, a first-out winner at Gulfstream for the colorful Eric Guillot; the Hat Trick filly Holy Diver, who joined Charles Stutts after landing a Gulfstream turf sprint maiden; and dirt maiden-breakers Streetwithnoname (for an $80,000 tag) and One Fast Broad (in Cal-restricted company). The also-eligible, Lemon Crush, hopes to show more second time out for owner/breeder/trainer Melody Conlon.