Leave it to Spielberg to add drama to a six-horse, Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity.
The 2-year-old Union Rags colt, a $1 million yearling purchase last year, needed the length of the Los Alamitos Race Course stretch to prevail in the final stride and register a nose victory over 33-1 longshot and pacesetter The Great One. The victory in the $200,000 race gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert his seventh consecutive Los Alamitos Futurity, all since the race was moved to the Orange County track following the 2013 closure of Hollywood Park, where it had previously been run as the Hollywood Futurity.
Counting earlier wins in the Hollywood Futurity, Baffert has notched 13 victories in the race, one of the most prestigious 2-year-old stakes on the West Coast. It was a Grade 1 before being downgraded to a Grade 2 beginning in 2019.
Won in the past by horses such as A.P. Indy, Best Pal, Real Quiet, Point Given, Lookin At Lucky, Shared Belief, and Improbable, the Los Alamitos Futurity provided points on a 10-4-2-1 scale to its top-four finishers as part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.
Though Saturday’s favorite, Red Flag, never contended, The Great One did his part to make Spielberg work for his first graded stakes victory. A maiden and the longest price on the toteboard at 33.60-1, he showed the way under Abel Cedillo. Setting comfortable quarter-mile fractions of :23.01, :47.15, and 1:10.66, he threatened to lead from start to finish, maintaining a clear two-length advantage with a furlong remaining in the 1 1/16-mile race.
But under left- and then late right-handed urging from Flavien Prat, Spielberg, who had stalked the pace three wide in third, was able to reel in the leader and nail The Great One at the finish line in a head-bobbing finish. Owned by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, and Robert Masterson, he was timed in 1:42.56 on a fast track and returned $5.80 for a $2 win wager.
“I talked to Bob after the race and never heard him so excited and relieved at the same time. I congratulated him on winning seven of the things in a row, and he corrected me and told me he had won 13,” Starlight Racing co-founder Jack Wolf said with a laugh. “I guess I wasn’t counting all of them at different places.
“[Spielberg] reminded me of Authentic in his early days. He couldn’t get his mind on business. … I thought we got the [head] bob, but you never know with those kind of things. It was very exciting.”
Starlight Racing, SF Racing, and Madaket Stables were some of the owners associated with Authentic, winner of this year’s Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve and Longines Breeder’s Cup Classic.
Behind the top pair in the Los Alamitos Futurity, Petruchio, a maiden graduate in his fourth start, rallied from last to grab third, 3 1/2 lengths behind runner-up The Great One.
He was followed in fourth by Red Flag, winner of last month’s Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. The latter, who tracked the pace in fourth along the inside during the early running, came up empty in his first route after racing in tight quarters along the inside on the second turn. He lost by 8 1/2 lengths.
The Los Alamitos Futurity was a bounce-back performance from Spielberg, who had disappointed when fourth in the Bob Hope Stakes, a poor effort Baffert blamed on him running the colt back quickly on two weeks of rest and the colt not handling shipping well.
Spielberg improved his record to two wins, two seconds, and one third from six starts with earnings that now stand at $257,200. Earlier this year he had run second in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity and third in the Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes.
“I’m just happy for everybody in the ownership group,” Baffert said after Saturday’s race. “Now we can start thinking Derby. It starts here for us.”