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Grade 1 CashCall Futurity Preview

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A. P. Indy, above winning the 1992 Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park, won the 1991 Hollywood Futurity. (Photo: Chris Cole/Allsport/Getty Images Sport)
A. P. Indy, above winning the 1992 Breeders' Cup Classic at Gulfstream Park, won the 1991 Hollywood Futurity. (Photo: Chris Cole/Allsport/Getty Images Sport)

With just fourteen days left on the 2010 calendar we're down to the final three Grade 1 races of the year, all of which will take place in Southern California.  Up first is this Saturdya's CashCall Futurity, a $750,000 race for two-year-olds at a mile and a sixteenth on the main track.  

As was pointed out by LA Eagle in the comments section of the Derby post earlier this week, the Futurity has an impressive list of winners of the past couple of decades.  Among that horses that have won this race are:

2009: Lookin At Lucky (Preakness winner, Champion 2YO and (likely) Champion 3YO)
2005: Brother Derek (2008 Santa Anita Derby winner)
2004: Declan's Moon (Champion 2YO Colt)
2000: Point Given (Preakness and Belmont winner, Champion 3YO, and Horse of the Year)
1997: Real Quiet (1998 Kentucky Derby and Preakness winner)
1991: A.P. Indy (Belmont and BC Classic winner, Champion 3YO, and Horse of the Year)
1990: Best Pal (Three-time California Horse of the Year)
1985: Snow Chief (1986 Preakness winner)
1982: Roving Boy (Champion 2YO Colt)

Other horses to start in the Futurity are:

Colonel John (2nd to Into Mischeif in 2007)
Giacomo (2nd to Declan's Moon in 2005)
Thunder Gulch (2nd to Afternoon Delights in 1994)
Alysheba (2nd to Temperate Sil in 1986)
Ferdinand (3rd to Snow Chief in 1985)

That's a lot to live up to for this year's race, but given the apparent depth of this year's field (at least on paper), it shouldn't be a surprise if one of these colts ends up winning a major graded stakes races in 2011.

Let's take a look at this year's Grade 1 CashCall Futurity:

PP

Horse

Jockey

ML

1

Ronin Dax

Smith, M.

20/1

2

J P's Gusto

Talamo, J.

5/1

3

Rustler Hustler

Dominguez, R.

9/2

4

Slammer Time

Flores, D.

20/1

5

High Level Jeff

Rosario, J.

8/1

6

Clubhouse Ride

Valenzuela, P.

12/1

7

Gourmet Dinner

Madrid, S.

5/1

8

Riveting Reason

Quinonez, A.

20/1

9

Industry Leader

Bejarano, R.

7/2

10

Comma to the Top

Nakatani, C.

3/1

Based on what we're seeing with the morning line, I think we can probably take some guesses at which direction the betting public is going to lean on Saturday. 

-7-Gourmet Dinner is coming off a top Beyer performance (93) and a win against graded stakes company at two-turns.  I'd guess that we'll see him in the 3/1 to 7/2 range simply due to the speed fig and the zeros in the earnings column.  His morning line might say 5/1, but I think the crowd will hammer that down a bit.  I don't like him at anything lower than his ML given the switch from dirt to synthetic; if he were 5/1 or higher, I could let the surface issue slide a bit.  We'll have to wait and see if that value will be there.

-2- J P's Gusto will be the key horse I watch on the tote board; I could see him bet down close to the favorite or as an ignored overlay.  Like Gourmet Dinner, he's pegged at that mid-range 5/1 on the morning line, which suggests (to me) the odds maker is not quite sure how the public is going to treat this one.

J P's race in the Juvenile is a complete toss for me, not because he ran a poor race or got a bit wide into the first turn (even those both of those things are true), but simply because I think he's going to be much better on the Cushion Track at Hollywood than he was on the dirt (a dirt surface that I think was a bit on the tiring side).  He's still a bit of a question at two-turns but he fits in well with this group and may have received a bit of education in the Juvenile that will help him out in this spot.

 -J P's Gusto might be the key horse to watch on the tote board but 3-Rusler Hustler (9/2) is probably the most perplexing entry in this field, regardless of what happens to him in the win pool.  I could see this colt taking a bit of action from the crowd (even though he's never faced graded stakes company in his career) based solely on his connections.  Dutrow obviously pointed to this spot following his win a listed stakes on the lawn at Belmont on Halloween, which makes you think this colt has got a fairly high ceiling (or at least the trainer believes so).

Some other positive points for Rustler Hustler:

  • He started his career with some good races at Presque Isle on synthetics, so the surface shouldn't be an issue.
  • He's already won going two-turns (even though it was on the turf), so we can probably cross off distance as a major obstacle. 
  • He didn't show much speed in that turf race last time out but he's shown the ability to get into the bit in his races at Presque Isle earlier this year, which tells me that he's got at least a little versatility.  He's also displayed a big late kick on the lawn (he ran the final 3/16ths of the Gnome's Gold at Belmont in a blistering :28.19, according to the Formulator charts).

The key questions for this colt are 1) how good is he?, and 2) how will the crowd treat him?

Rustler Hustler's last race at Belmont was against a fairly weak field, but two back at Monmouth he beat Pluck, a colt that went on to win the Breeders' Cup Juvenile Turf.  From my perspective, I think Rustler Hustler is good but probably a notch below the top colts in this field.  The fact that Dutrow is shipping him out to the West Coast for this tells me he believes he's going to run well, but...I don't know...I need a number higher than 6/1 to get involved, and I don't know that even that will do it.  This is the classic "don't have a clue what to do with this horse but could see him winning" type situation.  If he runs off and wins, we can all say, "good lord, Dutrow ships this guy in from New York and we all sit around and twiddle our thumbs".  If he runs up the track the refrain will be "he hadn't faced anything in his previous races and was way outclassed".

If I play a Pick 3 or Pick 4 on Saturday, Rustler Hustler will definitely get thrown in...and he's probably a good colt to use in the exactas or tris; I'm just not sure about the win pool. 

-If those three colts didn't give us enough to chew on, we've got a couple more local horses that add further depth to the field. 

Morning line favorite, 10-Comma to the Top (3/1), has run as arduous of a juvenile campaign as you'll see in the game today - nine races since May 20th.  It took him a while to really find his form after running fairly weak efforts at Del Mar in the Best Pal and the Del Mar Futurity, but he's come into his own nicely in the past couple of months with four straight wins.

Comma to the Top looks like the clear early speed in this race and he's wired the field at Hollywood on a previous occasion.  I don't know that J P's Gusto will let him grab the lead uncontested, but if he does, this gelding could control things from start to finish.

The other local entry that appears to have a big chance is Kristen Mulhall's 9-Industry Leader.  A son of Cherokee Run, Industry Leader has but two races to his credit in his career - a win in a Maiden Special at Oak Tree and a 2nd to Premier Pegasus in the Grade 3 Hollywood Prevue. 

Industry Leader has sat just off the pace in both of his starts and he put in three very nice morning moves since the Prevue, including a mile work at Hollywood on December 11th.  Yeah, that's right: a one-mile work a week before this race.

You don't see a lot of trainers work their horses at a mile - in fact it's really, really rare these days.  Tim Ritchey used to work Afleet Alex at that distance but that was due to the fact that Alex was a horse that thrived in that environment.

I was curious as to how common it is for Kristen Mulhall to work a horse at a mile prior to stretching out for the first time, so I went into the DRF Formulator Trainer Profiles and did a bit of digging.  Here's what I came up with:

In the past five years, Mulhall has had six horses win in their first attempt at running two-turns (6-for-44, 14%, 34% ITM, $1.45 ROI), and of those horses attempting a route for the first time, these are the horses that she worked at a mile prior to that race (and the result):

Bullybullybully (6th StrAlw, 2010, Hollywood)
Hit It Skip (1st MSW, 2006, Santa Anita)
King of L.A. (4th, N1X Alw, 2006, Santa Anita)

That's it.  Only three times out of 44 starters to stretch out first time for Kristen Mulhall has she worked a horse at a mile before that race.*  It's not a common move for her, but it's not unheard of, either.  And she's had success with it, albeit we're talking about a small sample size of 1-in-3. 

What's that mean for us in regards to Industry Leader?  Well, at a minimum, I wouldn't be too worried about the appearance of a mile work; even if it's not something you see all that often.  It bothered me when Todd Pletcher used that move for Quality Road in the run-up to the Breeders' Cup Classic (instead of racing in the 10 furlong Jockey Club Gold Cup), but this situation is a bit different.  The trainer has done it before and has won with the move.  And while it's not a guarantee that this colt will win, I don't think the work is a reason to toss the horse from consideration.

*A side note: a bunch of Mulhall stretch outs put in a 7f work prior to their race.  While that's not a mile, it does suggest she likes to give her first time routers a good stamina work prior to a first try at two-turns.

-A final colt to consider in the Futurity is 5-High Level Jeff (8/1), a Doug O'Neill trainee that flopped a bit in his first start at Hollywood in the Prevue after looking very strong at Calder in her first two career races.  The Calder juvenile have been ultra-tough in many of this falls stakes races and this colt could see a bunch of improvement in his second try on the Cushion Track.  Some will say that his poor race in the Prevue was the result of not liking the synthetic but I disagree slightly.   That last race wasn't that bad of an effort and I wouldn't be surprised to see Rosario let this colt run a bit more in the early stages and he appeared to be a bit restrained early in that race.  I'd be more worried about his ability to get the distance than the surface. 

Conclusion

There is a lot of different ways one could go in this race, and most of them make a lot of sense on paper.  I'm leaning towards Industry Leader (who has the added bonus of Bejarano in the irons), along with High Level Jeff (for some value) and Rustler Hustler underneath.  However, the action of the tote board could sway me in a different direction, especially is J P's Gusto starts to drift into 7/1 territory.