Martin Smith, assistant and exercise rider for English trainer John Best, hopes the stable enjoys as much success in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 20 at Hollywood Park with Axel Foley as it did with Square Eddie in the Breeders Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland in October.
Axel Foley looms as the mystery horse in the Futurity at 1 1/16 miles on Cushion Track. He galloped on the main track for the second straight morning Dec. 17 after clearing quarantine here two days earlier following a 12-hour flight from Luxemburg.
“We sent Square Eddie to run in the Futurity in Kentucky and sold him before the race to J. Paul Reddam,” said Smith. “We’re doing a similar thing with this horse. A few people have inquired, but nothing has been decided.”
Square Eddie ran a strong second in a six-furlong stake on Polytrack at Kempton before his victory at Keeneland and came back to finish second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) for trainer Doug O’Neill.
Axel Foley, who is in the O’Neill barn, broke his maiden at second asking at seven furlongs on synthetic at Lingfield Oct. 15. Smith is confident the colt will also acquit himself favorably in the Futurity.
“The jockey who rode him that day just smacked him once and said he could get a mile and a quarter,” said Smith of the come-from-behind victory.
First, the Kentucky-bred son of Officer must prove he can get a mile and a sixteenth in the Futurity.
Smith said the flight took nothing out of the colt, owned by Kent Bloodstock. “This horse is absolutely professional and takes everything in stride. We’ve been planning on this race since early November.”
Axel Foley, named for the Eddie Murphy character in “Beverly Hills Cop,” was purchased for $165,000 at the 2007 Keeneland September yearling sale, the same auction at which Square Eddie was purchased for $200,000. Square Eddie is in training at Hollywood with O’Neill, being pointed for the San Rafael Stakes (gr. II) at Santa Anita next year.
O’Neill was busy putting the final touches on two other Futurity entrants, one expected, one a surprise. Graded stakes winner Azul Leon has long been pointed to this race and will be joined by maiden Mark S the Cooler.
Azul Leon seeks to become the first Hollywood Juvenile Championship winner to annex the Futurity since Swiss Yodeler in 1996 and also hopes to follow in the footsteps of his sire, Lion Heart, the 2003 winner.
Azul Leon has won three of four sprints but has been unplaced in two attempts at 1 1/16 miles. However, he has run well in all three outings at his base at Hollywood, and both routes were at Santa Anita, in the Norfolk Stakes and Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
“Azul Leon is a proven sprinter and not proven at two turns,” said O’Neill of the Joseph LaCombe homebred. “But he trains like added ground won’t be a problem. He’s training fantastic and ready to roll.”
O’Neill expects Azul Leon, a closing second in the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue Stakes in his last start, to again come from off the pace. “It’s up to the hottest rider on the circuit (Joel Rosario) wherever he wants him, but I expect to see him come flying late from the back of the pack,” said O’Neill.
Mark S the Cooler is owned by Reddam. “The CashCall Futurity is named for Paul’s business,” said O’Neill of the race sponsor. “He wanted to give the horse a chance. Even though he’s a maiden, he has been training well.
“In his last start in the Real Quiet Stakes, we put blinkers on, and he was too fresh,” said O’Neill. “We’re taking the blinkers off this time, and hope he will settle.”
Also worthy of consideration in the Futurity is Bittel Road, winner of the Bourbon Stakes (gr. III) this fall at Keeneland, and Pioneerof the Nile, who finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.
Bittel Road, trained by Todd Pletcher, makes his first start on synthetic after five turf tries. The son of Stormy Atlantic was eighth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf and most recently, runner-up by 1 1/2 lengths in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) Nov. 29 at Hollywood.
Bob Baffert trainee Pioneerof the Nile broke his maiden at second asking at Saratoga this summer and then finished a well-beaten third to Square Eddie in the Breeders’ Futurity (gr. I) at Keeneland. Though finishing fifth to Midshipman in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita, he was beaten less than three lengths.
$750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I, Race 8, 4:05 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Cushion Track)
PP. Horse, Weight, Jockey
1. Azul Leon (KY), 121, Joel Rosario
2. J P Jammer (CA), 121, Aaron T. Gryder
3. Hype (KY), 121, Alex O. Solis
4. Axel Foley (KY), 121, Michael C. Baze
5. Pioneerof the Nile (KY), 121, Garrett K. Gomez
6. Chocolate Candy (KY), 121, Rafael Bejarano
7. I Want Revenge (KY), 121, Joseph Talamo
8. Ventana (KY), 121, Corey S. Nakatani
9. Frumious (CA), 121, Victor Espinoza
10. Bittel Road (KY), 121, Mike E. Smith
11. Mr. Rod (KY), 121, Chantal Sutherland
12. Mark S the Cooler (KY), 121, Martin Garcia