The biggest race of the weekend is probably my least favorite on the Triple Crown trail. It’s too awkwardly-timed to be very meaningful leading up to the Kentucky Derby and it’s on polytrack with no eventual Derby winner since 1997’s Real Quiet— although yes, a few made it close. Needless to say, because it is still a G1, provides 10 Derby entry points to the winner, and has a $750k purse, expect a good race with great betting value. Bob Baffert is looking to nab his 7th win in his race and Mike Pegram hopes his Really Mr Greely puts him at the top of the all-time leading owner with 3 total victories.
Rain on and off throughout the week leading up to the race may slow down the Cushion track to favor off-the-pace and closers as it becomes wet and heavy.
$750,000 CashCall Futurity (I) - 2-Year-Olds. 1 1/16 miles on all-weather track at Hollywood Park. Post Time: Saturday, December 15 at
[Post Position, Horse - Jockey, Trainer - Summary, Opinion in italics]
1) He’s Had Enough - Mario Guiterrez, Doug O’Neill - A “maybe” who turned into somebody narrowly running second to Shanghai Bobby in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (I), this Tapit has a live shot of no longer being a longshot. He has 1 win to his credit breaking his maiden in a rallying cry at Del Mar, but has had enough bad races to match his good ones. He had a jumbled, “much best” ride to just lose last out and has been working well. O’Neill has commented he’s been slow to mentally mature and focus on the track, but might be better than I’ll Have Another from a physical capability standpoint. He probably won’t get good odds here, and gets a dodgy rail post to go with a lopsided record.
2) Den’s Legacy - Garrett Gomez, Bob Baffert - The Florida-bred Medaglia d’Oro son has had a few bumps, but has a generally good record so far as a juvenile with 3 wins and 2 places in 7 starts. He looked to be on the improve in his last start in the Generous (III) on turf at Hollywood, making a move in the stretch to win by 1/2 length from off-the-pace. He’s been working like a winner since the Breeders’ Cup wrapped and broke his maiden on Del Mar’s poly.
3) Dirty Swagg - Tyler Baze, Myung Kwon Cho - The Street Hero ridgeling has 1 win in 6 starts, last seen prepping for this race in the Real Quiet under the same conditions where he ran 3rd, missing the win by a short length while making up a bit of ground at the end. Owned, trained, and bred by Cho who was also at the helm of his sire, this guy digs the Hollywood track as seen in his bullet moves. Look for him to improve.
4) Carving - Martin Garcia, Bob Baffert - After a win at maiden claiming level and a Fairplex stakes win, the Any Given Saturday colt got caught up in a duel to finish a distant 4th in the FrontRunner (I). He bounced back successfully to win the Real Quiet in a stretch duel at Hollywood, same distance as here. Distance ability packs his pedigree, but the likelihood of conquering a fight for speed here is rocky.
5) Fury Kapcori - Joe Talamo, Jerry Hollendorfer - Toting Santa Anita’s top rider and Hollywood’s leading trainer, the Tiznow colt is on the war path to success. 2-for-4 in his career and improving, he was 2nd by a half-length to the more experienced Carving last out in the Real Quiet. Some impressive super fast works on the surface and a big improving angle make this colt a worthy candidate.
6) Violence - Javier Castellano, Todd Pletcher - Pletcher managed to sell me out of my “No Pletcher” stance on the Derby trail with this sturdy, nice-looking colt by Medaglia d’Oro. 2-for-2 so far and a 2 length winner of the Nashua (II) last out, Violence will be trying poly for the first time. A very talented colt that I still like, he will likely be overbet. The Nashua field just wasn’t that strong to me, he’ll be switching surface and making a big ship both for the first time. I think he was done for the year a few weeks ago.
7) Simon Eyes - Victor Espinoza, Wesley Ward - Wes always has a good horse under his belt, could this Street Hero gelding be his next? He spurted away to his maiden win at Keeneland, winning by 4 1/4 lengths going away despite a bad start, but was outgamed in the Real Quiet Stakes while 4th. His Real Quiet can be tossed out— he was all over the map on that one while stretching out for the first time. He has a nice :59.40 bullet fired last time over the course, so keep an eye on him for the improve.
8) Really Mr Greely - Mike Smith, Bob Baffert - A claimer turned stakes lion, the Horse Greely colt seems like an odd choice to be turning into Mike Pegram’s next superstar all of a sudden, but props were earned when he won the 7-furlong Hollywood Prevue (III) wire-to-wire while holding off stablemate Super Ninety Nine as the longest shot on the board. His speed figures make him tough, but keep in mind this one is stretching out a good bit against more experienced horses. Likely pacesetter in this field, he’s not an awful choice considering how fast Hollywood Park has been lately.
9) Title Contender - Rafael Bejarano, Bob Baffert - With just 3 races under his belt, the quality-looking Pulpit colt returns to poly and makes his first Hollywood start after running a tremendously disappointing 8th in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Perhaps he will like the track this time, as Baffert has indicated all of his horses turned in very good works coming into this race. This one’s been given longer breezing assignments and looks good, but the same thing could have been said leading up to the Breeders’ Cup.
10) Little Jerry - Aaron Gryder, Richard Baltas - The least experienced entry in the field with just an ace-in-the-hole maiden victory to his credit, the Candy Ride [ARG] colt raced off to a fast start winning at Hollywood last month with a terrific rallying win under these same conditions and under slow fractions. He made up some crazy ground to be the race’s most interesting entry. Look for him to keep improving and benefit from a [possibly] quicker pace than an opening quarter of :24 and change.
11) Oxbow - Corey Nakatani, D. Wayne Lukas - Paynter’s 3/4 brother I recently talked about, the Awesome Again colt broke his maiden on his 4th try last out at Churchill Downs, leading wire-to-wire to win by an excellent 4 3/4 lengths. He stretches out a bit here and his easy breezes look quick. Can he transfer that over to poly after a long ship?
Top Picks in Order:
1) Fury Kapcori
2) Den’s Legacy
3) Little Jerry
Favoritism magnet Bob Baffert actually doesn’t have that good of a lineup this year, with his best bet being Carving who is very beatable. I’m going with Hollendorfer’s colt Fury Kapcori— he just has some tremendous upside with jet-fast works and looked great losing to Carving last out by a teensy bit. Little Jerry should keep on improving off an already great performance as a maiden, and imagine if he gets a clean trip and a quick pace! As for Den’s Legacy, it’s more of a gut/belly-button pick, but he’s got some upside as a G3 winner with Gomez in the irons going back to poly.
Value Pick: Simon Eyes (Wesley Ward always has some great juveniles, I think this could be one of them!)