IMPROBABLE, CHASING YESTERDAY SHINE
CYPRESS, Calif. — For the second consecutive year, Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert won both the Grade I Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity and the Starlet Saturday at Los Alamitos.
Twelve months after becoming the first trainer to win the two prestigious events – which have been offered since 1981 – for 2-year-olds in the same year, Baffert pulled off the feat again, easily taking the $300,345 Futurity with heavily-favored Improbable and scoring a narrow victory with Chasing Yesterday in the $300,345 Starlet.
The CashCall Futurity score was Baffert’s fifth win in a row in the race – he’s captured them all since the race was moved to Los Alamitos in 2014 – and his 11th in total. He won it six times at Hollywood Park.
A son of City Zip and A.P. Indy mare Rare Event owned by a partnership that includes WinStar Farm LLC, China Horse Club International Ltd. and Starlight Racing, Improbable, the 1-5 choice, avoided trouble on an eventful first turn, was reserved off the early pace set by stablemate Mucho Gusto, took the lead early in the stretch and pulled clear in the final eighth of a mile.
The ownership group is 75% of the group that owned the undefeated Justify, who swept the Triple Crown earlier this year during a whirlwind six-race career that spanned about four months.
Given how Improbable has performed through three starts, the comparisons are inevitably going to begint and the $200,000 colt, who won the Street Sense Stakes at Churchill Downs by 7 ¼ lengths five weeks before his Futurity score, definitely has impressed Baffert.
“He has a long stride just like Justify,’’ he said. “He’s just a smaller version. I’m not saying he’s at Justify’s level yet, but he’s a really good horse.’’
Elliott Walden, the chief executive officer of WinStar Farm, was all smiles after Improbable completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:41.18.
“(Baffert) has liked this horse all along,’’ said Walden. “When Justify went to the farm this summer, Bob put Improbable in his stall. I loved his race today. The best thing about it was the last eighth of a mile and the way he galloped out.
“That gives you hope for the future and that’s what we’re all looking for going towards the Spring classics.’’
Improbable, who has banked $269,520, paid $2.40 and $2.10. There was no show wagering.
“We were behind the trouble on the first turn, and to be honest, we benefited because we ended up where we wanted to be, three wide behind the leaders,’’ said winning rider Drayden Van Dyke. “This is just such a cool horse. He hit another gear when we got to the stretch.’’
Mucho Gusto, who was 2-for-2 entering the Futurity, finished three lengths clear of 15-1 shot Extra Hope and returned $2.60.
Savagery, the original fourth place finisher, was disqualified and placed fifth for interference on the first turn. He forced both Extra Hope and Dueling, who had crossed the wire fifth, wide.
“I was really excited about how Mucho Gusto ran,’’ said Baffert. “He tried very hard and just got a little tired. His race was very encouraging.
“We’ll just let these horses come along at their own pace and hope they stay healthy. That’s the key.’’
Making her first start beyond seven furlongs, Chasing Yesterday (left), who was also ridden by Van Dyke, prevailed by a head over 30-1 shot Enaya Alrabb in the Starlet.
Despite a very wide journey, the half-sister to 2015 Triple Crown winner and Horse of the Year American Pharoah was able to score for the fourth time in five outings and pushed her earnings to $324,250.
The 3-2 favorite, Chasing Yesterday, who is by Tapit and out of the Yankee Gentleman mare Littleprincessemma, paid $5, $3.80 and $2.80 while completing the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.59.
Mother Mother, the other Baffert trainee and pacesetter, finished third, a neck behind Enaya Alrabb, who making her first start since defeating maidens going one mile Oct. 25, as the 5-2 third choice.
Enaya Alrabb, who was ridden by Hall of Famer Mike Smith, paid $15.80 and $4.60 while the show price on Mother Mother was $2.80.
“We thought Mother Mother would be on the lead and I told (jockey Florent Geroux) just to try to nurse her along,’’ said Baffert. “(Chasing Yesterday) was so wide.
“Turning for home I really thought Mother Mother was going to kick on and keep going. It was a really thrilling finish. I didn’t think the winner was going to get there because she had been so wide. It’s pretty nice to get a Grade I win with American Pharoah’s (half) sister.’’
Van Dyke became the second jockey to win the Futurity and Starlet in the same year. Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux completed the parlay in 1997, taking the Futurity with the Baffert-trained Real Quiet and the Starlet with Love Lock.
“Those two other fillies (Enaya Alrabb and Mother Mother) both ran super, but my filly dug in and just kept coming,’’ said Van Dyke. “She really showed us she’s a half-sister to American Pharoah. Winning two Grade I races in the same day is amazing.’’
Completing the order of finish were Tempted winner Oxy Lady, Sold It and Vibrance, the 2-1 second choice.
Racing resumes Sunday at Los Alamitos. Post time is 12:30 p.m.