The Grade 1, $350,000 Los Alamitos Futurity has a field of seven two-year-olds going a mile and 1/16 on the dirt. The only graded stakes winner in the field is Bob Baffert’s Toews On Ice, who is 9-5 on the morning line, but Baffert’s Mor Spirit is the favorite on the morning line at 8-5.
According to the TimeformUS Pace Projector, this race will have a fast pace. Toews On Ice is shown on the early lead, with Mor Spirit and Frank Conversation just behind him. And now for the warning we have learned to give in situations such as this one: A Pace Projector expectation of a fast pace is deflated more than a little bit when one trainer (in this case Baffert) trains two of the three projected frontrunners, and it is deflated even further when one considers Baffert’s declaration that he wants Mor Spirit to come from behind today.
The fastest TimeformUS Late Pace figure in the field, a 79, belongs to Hollywood Don.
Here is the field in post position order, with morning line odds in parentheses:
Urlacher (10-1): Much as we are loath to agree with California stewards on DQs, we thought Urlacher deserved to come down after he finished first in a maiden race at Del Mar in November. The official result left him a maiden, from four tries, and his top speed figure, an 88, leaves him short against these. Moreover, Pace Projector notwithstanding, this post draw could have him doing some work right out of the gate. We are looking elsewhere on top.
Frank Conversation (8-1): He showed little in his lone dirt try, but that was his racing debut and deserves to be treated with leniency. He came right back to break his maiden down the hill, and then he put up a strong speed figure of 106 while running third in a Grade 3 turf route. Back on dirt today, his breeding is slightly slanted towards grass. Doug O’Neill gets a mediocre 64 rating going turf to dirt. In Frank Conversation’s favor, he exits a race that received a Race Rating that is three points higher than the preliminary Race Rating for today’s race. If he manages to transfer his grass form to dirt, he can contend here, but we’re inclined to watch him today.
Hollywood Don (6-1): Trainer Pete Miller has not been at all hesitant to enter this colt against top competition. After he broke his maiden in a grass route at Del Mar, he won a minor stake on grass, and then he tried the Grade 1 FrontRunner on dirt at Santa Anita. In that race his rider took a strong hold (which he seemed to resent slightly), let him loose on the far turn, and then saw him take dead aim at the leaders and then hit a wall, to be thoroughly outrun in the stretch. In Hollywood Don’s defense, it was Nyquist and Swipe who did the outrunning. But his speed figure was a little light: a 91. Continuing to show faith, Miller next ran him in the BC Juvenile Turf, where he had a rough trip and was soundly beaten despite earning a solid speed figure of 99. Today he makes his second start on dirt, and he’ll need considerably better than he showed in his dirt debut. However, if a fast pace does materialize, his field-best Late Pace rating could stand him in good stead.
Toews On Ice (9-5): Winning the Los Alamitos Futurity would be nothing new for Bob Baffert, and in Toews On Ice he has a colt who is well qualified to win it. He is proven over the surface. He is on a three-race winning streak. He is the lone graded stakes winner in the field. He is one of only two horses in the field with a triple-digit dirt speed figure to his credit. And he figures to make the lead today. Negatives? Well, although his breeding ratings indicate he is bred to route, he has not yet proven that he can route. And the blue color-coding of his pace figures reveals that he has benefited from slow paces in his last four starts. And the Race Ratings of his previous races indicate that he has never faced a field this tough. And, of course, his price will be short. A strong contender, no doubt.
Mor Spirit (8-5): 2 for 3 lifetime, but it is his lone loss that we like best. Racing in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club at Churchill Downs, over a sloppy, sealed track, he seemed to be bothered a bit out of the gate, and then he raced wide into the first turn. He then pressed a pace that was rather ambitious (earning pace figures of 126 129 119 in the process), put away the overmatched frontrunner, Derby Express, and repelled a threat from Gun Runner, before succumbing to the promising Airoforce. He received a speed figure of 111 for the effort, a number that stands tall in this field. This $650,000 purchase had shown promise previous to that. He is proven around two turns. He is, we feel, the horse to beat, though the likely odds do not leave us aflutter.
The longest shot on the morning line, he is an interesting horse in here. After his middling effort in his debut, which came in a dirt sprint, O’Neill immediately jammed him into a route, and he gave a much improved effort, breaking his maiden on the aforementioned DQ. His speed figure was a mere 85. However, he lost some ground racing wide and was made uncomfortable in the stretch. Plus he was coming from behind over a surface that was favoring speed (as denoted by the Race Rating box being color-coded in dark red). Certainly he requires big improvement again today, but he is the most lightly raced horse in the field, and he has nice timing into the race. Plus Bejarano sees fit to take the mount—often a strong indication that a lightly raced horse is about to display some “maturity.” We’ll keep Sorryaboutnothing in the mix if the odds are there, as they ought to be.
I’malreadythere (8-1): Hollendorfer always merits respect, but this gelding was soundly beaten by Hollywood Don on the grass in September and then equally soundly beaten by Toews On Ice in a dirt sprint in November. In the latter race, he had to be used on the turn, and he showed little in the lane. Does not draw the best post today, given that he figures to need to save ground in order to threaten these. An outsider.
The Bottom Line:
We’ll give Mor Spirit a slight edge over Toews On Ice as most likely winner. Our favorite price horse is Sorryaboutnothing.