March 25, 2023

Pinehurst gives Baffert 15th Del Mar Futurity

Pinehurst wins Del Mar Futurity 2021
Pinehurst and jockey Mike Smith win the Del Mar Futurity © Benoit Photo

Double-handed in pursuit of his 15th win in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), trainer Bob Baffert succeeded with his ostensible second-stringer, Pinehurst, as the odds-on Murray disappointed. In the preceding Del Mar Juvenile Turf, the American Pharoah colt Mackinnon obliged for Doug O’Neill.   

Del Mar Futurity (G1)

The Baffert duo brought broadly similar profiles as well-bred debut winners. Both Pinehurst and Murray were purchased at Keeneland September by bloodstock guru Donato Lanni on behalf of the same SF Racing-led consortium. Pinehurst sold for more ($385,000 versus Murray’s $300,000), and the son of Twirling Candy hails from the black-type-rich family of Harmony Lodge and Graeme Hall.

Yet Pinehurst was let go at 4-1 in the $300,500 Del Mar Futurity, while Murray was bet down to 3-5 favoritism. Perhaps bettors were too influenced by Murray’s 10 3/4-length romp with leading rider Flavien Prat. Pinehurst arguably ran as well in his unveiling, when having to beat another Baffert trainee from the tricky rail post. In any event, Pinehurst built upon that half-length debut score, while Murray regressed from his flashier effort.

With Hall of Famer Mike Smith back aboard for the Futurity, Pinehurst smoothly went to the lead from post 4. Murray and Saratoga shipper American Xperiment took up close stalking positions through fractions of :22.09 and :44.77.

Meanwhile, Best Pal (G2) winner Pappacap, who was trying to add to freshman sire Gun Runner’s burgeoning Grade 1 tally, was having an adventure on the rail. Lured to veer toward the opening near the chute, he over-raced once corrected, and looked green as he ran in snatches.

Pinehurst was the soul of professionalism as he kicked for home. Murray folded tamely on the turn, Pappacap found renewed energy, American Xperiment plugged on, and the 38-1 Finneus rallied well on the outside. But none could compare to Pinehurst, who drew away by 4 1/2 lengths and polished off seven furlongs in 1:23.55.

Finneus had a half-length to spare over third-placer American Xperiment, and Pappacap was the same margin back in fourth. There was a 4 1/2-length gap back to Murray, and longshot Olympic Legend trailed after bobbling at the break.

Baffert also won Sunday’s Del Mar Debutante (G1) with Grace Adler, so Pinehurst was handing him a sweep of the juvenile features. According to Del Mar publicity, this is the sixth time that Baffert has turned the Debutante/Futurity double. The first came in 1997, courtesy of Vivid Angel and Souvenir Copy, followed by Excellent Meeting and Worldly Manner (1998), Chilukki and Forest Camp (1999), Habibti and Officer (2001), and Executiveprivilege and Rolling Fog (2012).

“I could see that Murray didn’t have it today,” Baffert said. “He was struggling early on. I’m just glad that I had two good horses and one of them had it even if the other one didn’t. I’ve been blessed over the years with so many good owners and so many good young horses.

“Mike Smith broke his maiden, so it was natural to have him back. He’s a great rider and you give him a live one he knows what to do.”

Smith, who was scoring his first stakes win of the meet on closing day, explained the merit of Pinehurst’s Aug. 1 debut:

“When we ran last time, he stumbled pretty badly coming out of there, but he still made the lead. So I knew he was plenty quick. We beat a horse that day named Enbarr, and I knew they were real high on him. So I figured I was sitting on a good horse. When you ride for Bob (trainer Baffert), you ride with confidence. He puts so much foundation under them and they all come running. So glad I got to win a stakes at Del Mar; and best to do it with a Grade 1.”

Now 2-for-2 at the home site of the 2021 Breeders’ Cup, Pinehurst has earned $222,000 for the portfolio of SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Robert E. Masterson, Stonestreet Stables, Jay A. Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, and Donovan Farm.

Bred by Fred W. Hertrich III and John D. Fielding in Kentucky, Pinehurst is out of the Giant’s Causeway mare Giant Win. She is a full sister to Grade 3 winner First Passage, who is herself the dam of Grade 3 victress Berned. Giant Win is also closely related to Grade 3 vixen Win McCool, ancestress of ill-fated 2018 Arkansas Derby (G1) hero Magnum Moon.

Pinehurst’s second dam, Win’s Fair Lady, is a multiple stakes-winning full sister to millionaire and sire Graeme Hall. Their half-sibling, Grade 1 star Harmony Lodge, produced graded performers Stratford Hill and Armistice Day.

Del Mar Juvenile Turf

The 8-5 favorite off a course-and-distance maiden victory July 31, Mackinnon made it two straight in the $102,000 Del Mar Juvenile Turf. Jockey Juan Hernandez had the chestnut well placed just off the pace set by 25-1 shot Thirty Four Coupe through splits of :23.13, :46.79, and 1:11.67 on the firm course. Although Thirty Four Coupe withstood the pressure from European import Optimiser, he had no answer for Mackinnon who rolled 1 3/4 lengths clear.

Silver Surfer had a tough time trying to find room in his U.S. debut, eventually sneaking up the rail and just missing second in the photo with Thirty Four Coupe. Optimising was another neck away in fourth in the nine-horse field.

Mackinnon completed the mile in 1:36.24, advertising his hopes for the Nov. 5 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (G1).

“Doug (O’Neill) just basically told me to ride him with confidence,” Hernandez said. “We were doing OK until we got to the far turn, and I felt him get a little lazy on me. So when we went for home and he changed leads, I hit him left-handed with the stick one time, and he jumped back into it. From there we just went on with it. He’s a nice horse and the way he finished out today, I think he’ll like to run on.” 

Co-owned by ERJ Racing (the nom de course of the NHL Colorado Avalanche’s Erik Johnson) and Dave Kenney, Mackinnon sports a mark of 4-2-1-0, $117,860. He initially brought $200,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, and Johnson picked him up for $285,000 at the same firm’s Gulfstream Sale in March.

Mackinnon was bred in Kentucky by International Equities Holding. His dam is the Grade 3-placed Scat Daddy mare Scat Means Go.