By Bob Mieszerski —-
MCKINZIE CAPTURES LOS ALAMITOS CASHCALL FUTURITY VIA DISQUALIFICATION;
BAFFERT COMPLETES GRADE I SWEEP AS FAVORED DREAM TREE ROMPS IN STARLET
Bob Baffert; Los Alamitos File Photo
CYPRESS, Calif. –Hall of Famer Bob Baffert became the first trainer in the history of the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity and Starlet to win both races in the same year Saturday at Los Alamitos.
McKinzie, named in honor of Brad McKinzie, Baffert’s close friend and longtime Los Alamitos executive who died Aug. 6, won the $300,000 Futurity via disqualification after Solomini, Baffert’s other entrant in the race, was cited by the stewards for interfering with Instilled Regard in deep stretch and was moved from first and placed third.
One race later, Dream Tree, the prohibitive 2-5 favorite, remained undefeated in three starts, rolling to a 3 ¼ length victory in the $294,000 Starlet in her two-turn debut.
Baffert has won all four renewals of the Futurity run at Los Alamitos after winning the prestigious event six times at Hollywood Park, which offered the race from 1981-2013. Baffert’s previous three local winners were Dortmund (2014), Mor Spirit (2015) and Mastery (2016).
son of Street Sense and the Petionville mare Runway Model, was carried wide into the first turn, was kept in the clear by Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, rallied approaching the lane in tandem with Instilled Regard while Solomini, the 17-10 second choice, was beginning to gain outside that pair.
The trio came together, and with about a sixteenth of a mile to run, Solomini came in and bumped 17-1 shot Instilled Regard before going on to finish three-quarters of a length in front of McKinzie, who wound up a head in front of Instilled Regard.
After several minutes, stewards Scott Chaney, Luis Jauregui and Tom Ward – by a 2-1 vote – made the decision to disqualify Solomini.
Baffert was surprised by the disqualification.
“I didn’t think there was going to be a change,’’ he said. “(McKinzie) had a rough trip around the first turn and he got a little tired at the end. It’s a long stretch and he hooked up with (Instilled Regard) early.
“(Prat) rode a great race just sitting behind them. Unfortunately, (Solomini) will lay on horses in the lane and you have to be careful with him. Prat might have gotten a little over aggressive. It’s really too bad they took him down. He was the better horse today.’’
Owned by Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, McKinzie paid $3 and $2.40 while the place price on Instilled Regard was $6.80. There was no show wagering.
The final time for the Futurity was 1:42.57 and the $180,000 payday pushed McKinzie’s earnings to $210,000.
The victory was the second in a row in the Futurity for Smith and his third overall. He also won the 2003 renewal with Lion Heart.
“We got carried out in the first turn by (Runaway Ghost),’’ he said. “As far as what happened in the stretch, I just rode my race, he kept trying hard and we were blessed enough to get kissed into the win.’’
Like Baffert, Prat didn’t think there was enough contact to warrant a disqualification.
“I didn’t think he came in that bad,’’ he said. “I didn’t think there would be a change.’’
For Him, the CashCall Futurity longshot at 62-1, and Runaway Ghost completed the order of finish.
In a Starlet reduced to four starters after the scratch of War Heroine, Dream Tree was never far off the slow pace set by Yesterday’s News, took over into the stretch and cruised home under jockey Drayden Van Dyke.
Owned by Phoenix Thoroughbred III, the 2-year-old Uncle Mo filly out of the Afleet Alex mare Afleet Maggi completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.87 and has now banked $270,000. She paid $2.80 as there was only win wagering in the Starlet.
“The plan was to sit with her today,’’ said Baffert, who earned his first Starlet win at Los Alamitos after winning the race three times at Hollywood Park. “She had blinkers in her first race (Oct. 27) and she was rank and she won from a little off the pace.
“(Van Dyke) has been working her. I wasn’t sure about two turns, but after she came back and worked the way she did (after winning the Desi Arnaz Nov 18) is why I changed my mind and decided to run her in this spot.’’
Yesterday’s News, trained by Simon Callaghan, who won the 2016 Starlet with Abel Tasman, wound up 5 ¼ lengths in front of Piedi Bianchi, who was a nose better than Exuberance.
“I was just going to play the break because in a small field it can be tricky,’’ said Van Dyke regarding his strategy to sit off the slow pace (24.67, 49.25 and 1:13.28 for six furlongs). “(Jockey) Mario (Gutierrez) decided to go, so I thought it would be perfect to sit off him. She ran right through the stretch and I didn’t even have to pull out my stick. It was just a hand ride.’’
Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time is 12:30 p.m.