(from Hollywood Park)
Trainer Bob Baffert gave the green light to Pioneerof the Nile and Ventana for the $750,000 CashCall Futurity (gr. I) after the pair worked Dec. 14 at Santa Anita.
Pioneerof the Nile covered five furlongs in :59 3/5 and Ventana was clocked in a bullet 1:11 2/5 for six furlongs. Corey Nakatani worked both and will ride Ventana in the Futurity, which is Dec. 20. Garrett Gomez has the call on Pioneerof the Nile. Both prospects seek their first stakes wins in the 1 1/16-mile Cushion Track test.
“Ventana is speed, and Pioneerofthe Nile is more of a stalker,” said Baffert. “Ventana has been disappointing but today was the best work I’ve seen. He’s a big fast horse, and we’ll let him go out. The way speed has been carrying, like yesterday in the Starlet, we’ll see how far he can take them.
“Pioneerof the Nile will run farther,” added Baffert. “He looks awesome. He deserves to be the favorite.”
Pioneerof the Nile, making his first start for the Baffert stable, finished fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Oct. 25 in his last appearance for Bill Mott. Ventana finished in a dead heat for third in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III) at seven furlongs in his last start Nov. 23.
Baffert is in quest of a record-equaling fourth victory in the Futurity. He won with Real Quiet in 1997, Captain Steve in 1999 and Point Given in 2000.
Two other colts under Futurity consideration also worked Dec. 14 at Santa Anita for trainer Todd Pletcher. Bittel Road and Hype, runners-up in the Generous Stakes (gr. IIIT) Nov. 29, each worked five furlongs in 1:02. Mike Smith has a call on one of the colts, probably Bittel Road.
Other probable starters include Azul Leon (Joel Rosario), winner of the Hollywood Juvenile Championship (gr. III); Chocolate Candy (Rafael Bejarano) and J.P. Jammer (Aaron Gryder), one-two finishers in the Real Quiet Stakes; I Want Revenge (Joseph Talamo), a Hollywood maiden winner in his last start; Northern California invader Frumious (Victor Espinoza), who has won his last three starts at Golden Gate Fields; and English import Axel Foley (Michael Baze).
Axel Foley, who broke his maiden at second asking on the Lingfield synthetic surface Oct. 15, arrived Dec. 13 and will clear quarantine Dec. 15. A Kentucky-bred son of Officer, Axel Foley will go to the Doug O’Neill barn, to be joined by trainer John Best later this week.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who won the Futurity 20 years ago with King Glorious, hopes to strike again with Chocolate Candy. “This is a little tougher field, but he’s doing real good, and we think he’s ready,” said Hollendorfer of the Candy Ride colt, seeking his third straight victory.