The son of Candy Ride pressed front-runner Bobby Abu Dhabi on the outside early in the 1 1/16-mile test, took command of the race late on the final turn and easily held off a challenge from longshot Irap to win by 7 1/4 lengths under Mike Smith.
Mastery’s victory in 1:41.56 at Los Alamitos Race Course gave trainer Bob Baffert a record ninth win in the race, which formerly was called the Hollywood Futurity when it was run at Hollywood Park.
Mastery’s winning margin is the widest in the history of the race. The previous record was set by Matty G, who won the Futurity by seven lengths in 1995.
“You never know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it,” Baffert said. “Turning for home, he hit a bit of a lull and I didn’t know if he was going to go on or flatten out. Mike said it was a good thing I put blinkers back on him, because he hit the brakes when he made the lead. The last part, he threw it in another gear.”
Bobby Abu Dhabi popped the gate and set quarter-mile fractions of :23.37, :45.65, and 1:09.53 through three-quarters of a mile, but he was never able to shake the 1-5 favorite and undefeated Mastery.
“I thought we would be pretty close [to the lead], but I knew [Bobby Abu Dhabi] was a fast horse and looked fast in the paddock,” Baffert said. “I was worried when I saw the fractions, but he looked like he handled it pretty well. He withstood it and kicked on again at the end.”
With the front-runner tiring late, Irap — a half brother to champion sprinter Speightstown — took over as the sole challenger but never seriously threatened in the late stages.
“He relaxed great today and I think the key was Bob putting the blinkers back on,” Smith said.
Mastery won his debut with blinkers in October at Santa Anita Park, then had them removed for his victory in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar.
“He started looking around a little when he made the front in the stretch, but after I gave him a reminder, he rebroke and was strong.”
Stakes winner Dangerfield closed to pick up third, another 5 3/4 lengths behind his Doug O’Neill-trained stablemate. He was followed by Bobby Abu Dhabi and Show Me Da Lute to complete the order of finish.
The winner paid $2.40 and $2.10. Irap paid $9.40 to place.
Bred in Kentucky out of the Old Trieste mare Steady Course, Mastery now has $271,200 in earnings to go along with his unbeaten 3-for-3 record. The colt was a $425,000 purchase by Gatewood Bell’s Cromwell Bloodstock at the 2015 Keeneland September yearling sale.