With an opportunity to enhance their standing for next year's Run for the Roses, 13 promising juvenile colts and geldings are set for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) at Hollywood Park Dec. 17.
Lacking a clear standout in the baker's dozen, this year's Futurity shapes up as a superb betting race. The field lost one important entrant when trainer Graham Motion opted not to ship Lucky Chappy from his Maryland base this week after the High Chaparral colt came down with a fever.
The remaining cast includes grade I winner Drill, one of three in the field from the barn of Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, and Majestic City, who could give his conditioner, Peter Miller, consecutive wins in the rich event. Miller saddled Comma to the Top for victory in last year's renewal of the CashCall Futurity, and he is equally confident about the chances of Majestic City, who is a tepid favorite.
“He’s being dismissed by a lot of people, but at their own peril,” said Miller of Majestic City, a three-time winner in six starts with earnings of $245,570. “He’s three-for-three here, training like a beast, and gets the leading rider in the country (Ramon Dominguez)."
The CashCall Futurity, contested at 1 1/16 miles on Hollywood Park's Cushion Track, is the ninth on a 10-race program with an expected start time of 4:37 p.m. PST.
Bloom Racing Stable's Majestic City threw in the only bad race of his career when he stopped after opening a big early lead in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IT) on a course rated good at Churchill Downs Nov. 5. He finished 13th his only start on grass.
The City Zip colt gets back to a track he loves. As Miller noted, he is 3-for-3 on Cushion Track, including a 2 1/4-length verdict in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III) July 17.
Majestic City, who will race without blinkers for the first time, has certainly been working well on the surface. He recorded a bullet half-mile move of :46 4/5 Dec. 7, and followed that with a :58 4/5 drill for five furlongs Dec. 12.
“You can throw out his last race because of the soft turf,” said Miller. “He could have easily won the two races before that”--a second-place finish in the Breeders' Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland and a second-place finish in a roughly run Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) in which he was disqualified and placed third for interference.
“I’m taking blinkers off, getting him to relax,” Miller said. “I expect to see him a little off the pace, maybe sitting second or third.”
Dominguez arrives from New York to ride the chestnut colt for the first time. They drew post 11.
Drill won the Del Mar Futurity by a neck over the DQ'd Majestic City, and followed that with solid second in his first route try, the Norfolk Stakes (gr. I) at Santa Anita Park, also his initial race on dirt. But the son of Lawyer Ron bombed in two subsequent starts in November.
He was never a factor while finishing 10th in the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I), then faded to seventh as the favorite after setting a pressured pace in the $1 million Delta Downs Jackpot (gr. III) on the Louisiana bullring Nov. 19.
Karl Watson, Mike Pegram, and Paul Weitman own the $300,000 yearling purchase making his Cushion Track debut. Regular pilot Martin Garcia will be aboard Drill, who has banked $248,150 while winning two of six starts. They drew post 5.
Sky Kingdom broke his maiden in a big way Nov. 24 when stretched out for the first time to 1 1/16 miles, drawing off to a 2 1/4-length triumph at Hollywood Park in his third lifetime start. Racing for Westrock Stables, the $180,000 Empire Maker colt will have Garrett Gomez in the irons for the first time.
Gomez and Baffert teamed to win the race with Pioneerof the Nile and Lookin at Lucky in 2008-09.
Liaison, a son of Indian Charlie owned by Arnold Zetcher, has won two of three starts for Baffert. He most recently captured the 1 1/16-mile Real Quiet at Hollywood Park Nov. 12 in a game effort by a half-length over Futurity opponent Rousing Sermon. Rafael Bejarano retains the mount.
Both worked Dec. 11, with Sky Kingdom and Liaison each credited with six-furlong bullet drills of 1:11 4/5 at Santa Anita. Sky Kingdom will break from post 6, with Liaison set in the 10-hole for the Futurity.
Owner J. Paul Reddam, whose consumer lending company has sponsored the race (formerly known as the Hollywood Futurity) since 2007, has a pair of entrants along with his wife, Zillah: the recently purchased Handsome Mike and Basmati.
Handsome Mike, previously in the barn of Melody Conlon, switches from the turf for trainer Doug O'Neill, who also saddles Basmati. The son of Scat Daddy ran second in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) on Hollywood Park's turf course Nov. 27, his first start against winners. He broke his maiden on the Santa Anita grass five weeks earlier.
Corey Nakatani is aboard Handsome Mike, who breaks from the rail.
Basmati, the most experienced runner in the field with seven starts, is coming off a runner-up effort in the Delta Jackpot and leads the field in earnings with $278,800. He drew post 13 and will be ridden for the first time by Hector Berrios.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer will be shooting for a first-ever Starlet/Futurity sweep with California-bred Rousing Sermon, who finished a strong second in the Real Quiet, his first start against open company. Mr. and Mrs. Larry D. Williams' homebred son of Lucky Pulpit won the California Cup Juvenile impressively at Santa Anita Oct. 29.
Hollendorfer won the Hollywood Starlet (gr. I) with Killer Graces in an upset Dec. 10.
There are two shippers in the field that arrived earlier in December. Cozzetti comes in from Kentucky for trainer Dale Romans off a five-length maiden score on a sloppy track at Churchill Nov. 16. Julien Leparoux rides.
Desormais, from Europe, is a new addition to the Paddy Gallagher barn after breaking his maiden at Marseille in his most recent appearance Nov. 15. He drew the far outside post with David Flores aboard.
Brother Francis, a maiden who ran second in the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) Nov. 24, and Empire Way, sixth in the same race, will both get the opportunity to stretch out for the first time. That should especially benefit Empire Way, a full brother to 2011 Breeders' Cup Ladies' Classic (gr. I) winner Royal Delta.
$750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I, Race 9, 4:37 p.m.), 2YOs, 1 1/16 Miles (All Weather)
PP, Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Handsome Mike (KY), C S Nakatani, D F O'Neill
2. Brother Francis (KY), V Espinoza, J M Cassidy
3. Groovin' Solo (KY), A Quinonez, M K Cho
4. Empire Way (KY), J Rosario, M Harrington
5. Drill (KY), M Garcia, B Baffert
6. Sky Kingdom (KY), G K Gomez, B Baffert
7. Blingo (KY), M E Smith, J A Shirreffs
8. Rousing Sermon (CA), J Talamo, J Hollendorfer
9. Liaison (KY), R Bejarano, B Baffert
10. Cozzetti (KY), J R Leparoux, D L Romans
11. Majestic City (KY), R A Dominguez, P Miller
12. Basmati (KY), H I Berrios, D F O'Neill
13. Desormais (KY), D R Flores, P Gallagher
All carry 121 pounds.
Blinkers Off: Majestic City