It might be time to just name the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity the Bob Baffert Futurity. Or at least the Los Alamitos Futurity Presented by Bob Baffert.
Since the race moved to Los Alamitos Race Course from Hollywood Park in 2014, the Hall of Fame trainer has won every single edition of the Grade 1, $300,000 race for 2-year-olds, and he continued that streak Dec. 8 with Improbable's five-length score.
Owned by WinStar Farm, China Horse Club, and Starlight Racing, Improbable got an ideal stalking trip under jockey Drayden Van Dyke in the 1 1/16-mile race, made his move in the final turn, and passed Baffert stablemate Mucho Gusto in the lane to win without any serious challenge.
That gave Baffert his 11th overall win in the Futurity, including six times he won when it was called the Hollywood Futurity. His four prior winners at Los Alamitos were Dortmund (2014), Mor Spirit (2015), Mastery (2016), and McKinzie (2017).
Improbable, a chestnut City Zip horse, finished up in 1:41.18 as the 1-5 favorite. He earned 10 qualifying points for the 2019 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve with the win.
"At the top of the stretch (Improbable) looked a little lost," Baffert said. "(Van Dyke) had to hit him a couple of times. Once he straightened out, he got into that long, beautiful stride of his. The good horses always find a way to win. He had trained like he was going to run like this."
Mucho Gusto, who like Improbable came into the race undefeated in two starts, set a pace of :23.25, :47.25, and 1:10.82 through six furlongs, but was no match for his stablemate in the stretch. Michael Lund Petersen's Mucho Macho Man colt was still able to finish a clear second, however, three lengths ahead of Extra Hope.
"I was really excited about (Mucho Gusto)," Baffert said. "He tried very hard and just got a little tired. His race was very encouraging. We’ll just let these horses come along at their own pace and hope they stay healthy."
The race's complexion changed as the field entered the first turn, when Savagery appeared to cut off Extra Hope. The move caused Extra Hope to get out, which sent Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile participant Dueling out into the middle of the hairpin clubhouse bend. The commotion allowed Improbable, who broke from the rail, a clearer path into his stalking position. Savagery was eventually disqualified from fourth to fifth, which elevated Dueling to fourth, for the interference. King of Speed came in last of six to complete the order of finish.
"We were just behind the trouble on the first turn, and to be honest, we benefited, because we ended up where wanted to be – three wide behind the leaders," Van Dyke said. "This is just such a cool horse. He hit another gear when we got to the stretch.''
After the race the winning connections couldn't help but to compare Improbable to another chestnut with similar ownership and the same white-haired conditioner.
"Improbable has a long stride like Justify . He's just a smaller version," Baffert said. "I'm not saying he's at Justify's level yet, but he's a really good horse."
"Bob has liked this horse all along," added WinStar's Elliott Walden. "When Justify went to the farm from Del Mar this summer, Bob put Improbable in his stall. I loved his race today. The best thing about it was his last eighth of a mile and the way he galloped out. That gives you the hope for the future, and that's what we're all looking for going toward the spring classics.''
Improbable now has $269,520 in earnings from his three starts. He entered the Cash Call Futurity off of a 7 ¼-length win in the Street Sense Stakes on Nov. 2 at Churchill Downs.
Chasing Yesterday, American Pharoah’s Half-Sister, Wins Starlet
Baffert and Van Dyke completed a sweep of the Grade 1 races at Los Alamitos about an hour after the Cash Call Futurity was made final, as Chasing Yesterday tallied a head victory over longshot Enaya Alrabb in the $300,000 Starlet Stakes.
Chasing Yesterday, a daughter of Tapit and a half-sister (same dam [mother], different sire [father]) to 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, outfinished 30.40-1 shot Enaya Alrabb, who came in a neck ahead of Baffert's other Starlet entry, pacesetter Mother Mother.
It was the third straight stakes win for Summer Wind Farm's Chasing Yesterday, who traveled wide through both turns in the 1 1/16-mile race and just found enough late to hold on, covering the distance in 1:42.59.