Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby: The Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity – By Eric Solomon

There’s a pair of Kentucky Derby Points races this week, both at tracks that have only one stop on the road to the Derby. Los Alamitos hosts the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity this afternoon, where Bob Baffert is looking to win this race for the 14th time. He trains 60% of the field, so the odds are stacked in his favor this afternoon. 

In terms of moving forward toward the Derby, this race offers 20 Derby Points, but since Bob Baffert trained horses aren’t eligible to earn points toward entry in the 2023 Kentucky Derby, only two runners will be able to earn points in this race. The total amount of points awarded today could range anywhere from three to fourteen. 

This is a race with a rich history, as prior to 2014 it was run as the Hollywood Futurity. There are several quality horses over the years to emerge as a winner of this race. There are some extremely talented runners that have become top quality stallions, such as A.P Indy, Point Given, Into Mischief, Pioneerof the Nile, Lookin’ At Lucky, and Violence. While some of this list were Preakness and/or Belmont winners, there has only been one winner of this race who went on to win the Derby, being Real Quiet back in 1997.

Los Alamitos, Saturday 12/17/22, Race 4: The $200K Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity




20 Total Derby points (10/4/3/2/1)

1 –Tall Boy (20-1 ML): With only five starters in here, he has the look of a horse that was entered in this race to do the racing office a solid. He’s a maiden that is making his 4th career start today. He was a close second in maiden claiming at Del Mar two starts back. He finished third, beaten nine lengths when going back to maiden allowance company last month. He hasn’t shown anything on the track to make me think that he’s capable of beating the oher four runners. 

2 – Carmel Road (2-1 ML, 125-1 Circa): Bob Baffert did something a bit unusual with this Quality Road colt by sending him to Keeneland in October to compete in the Breeders’ Futurity. He earned the trip east after dominating a maiden special weight contest in his second career start, when going one mile at Del Mar. I assume the reason for sending him out there was the fact that both National Treasure and Gandolfini, who finished second and fourth in the American Pharoah Stakes, are owned by the same group. While the Keeneland race turned out to be the most significant prep race for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, Carmel Road’s effort that day was a complete toss. He broke from post 14 and had a miserable trip while finishing last of the large group. While I can forgive that effort, my thought is that he’s not nearly as high on the Baffert pecking order as the other two in this race and he’s probably somewhere around 7th or 8th in his barn right now in terms of two year old prospects with racing experience. In addition, the dam did her best work sprinting on the turf. I see this horse as a better one turn prospect for the barn, and I think he might be struggling to find his best stride in the final furlong in this long and testing stretch here. 

3 – Fort Bragg (4-1 ML, 125-1 Circa): Like Carmel Road, he’s also owned by the SF Racing, Starlight, Madaket conglomerate. They paid $700K for this son of Tapit at the Fasig-Tipton Sale in October of 2021. He debuted in a Baffert centric maiden allowance race at 5 and ½ furlongs at Del Mar. Speed Boat Beach, who feels like a true sprinter, ran a monster effort that day, with stablemate Hejazi, also finishing in front of him. He came back to cross the finish line first in his next two starts at Santa Anita, finishing in front of Practical Move two back. However, he was disqualified that afternoon. He officially broke his maiden by a measured head, while controlling a slowish temp from his rail post. The runner up, Reincarnate (who is also owned and trained by the same group), went on to win in his next start at Del Mar. Blinkers come off today, which is a big move for Baffert. His horses have won at a 39% clip when doing so since 2021. I think he wants him to relax off the lead, which will likely be set by Arabian Lion, and make his run through the stretch. I think he might have the pedigree that’s best suited to have the stamina to wear down his stablemate in the late stages of this contest. If he stays around his 4-1 morning line, that may represent the best value wager in this race. 

 4 – Practical Move (8-1 ML, 150-1 Circa): Tim Yakteen, who received some of the Baffert horses that were Derby bound earlier this year (Messier and Taiba), trains this son of Practical Joke who has finished in the money in all four career starts. On the bright side, only horses trained by Bob Baffert have finished in front of him. On the flip side, his only win came via disqualification, and he’s facing three runners that are trained by Baffert today. Like Carmel Road, I think he’s the kind of horse that will be better in longer one turn races. I’d use him underneath, but I don’t see a ton of value in playing the vertical exotics in a race such as this. 

5 – Arabian Lion (4-5 ML, 20-1 Circa): The morning line favorite makes his stakes and two turn debut today. He’s sired by Triple Crown winner, Justify, out of a Distorted Humor mare. Zedan Racing Stables paid $600K for him at the OBS Sale in 2022. The mare’s other two runners weren’t anything special, so he clearly looked the part at the sales earlier this year for these connections to throw down that kind of money. He was excellent in his debut at Santa Anita in October, winning by three easy lengths, while posting a 92 Beyer Speed Figure. He got on the plane with some of Baffert’s other runners to go to Keeneland in November, where he competed in an allowance race there on the Breeders’ Cup Friday undercard. It took a monster effort from a Brad Cox second time starter, Giant Mischief, to narrowly defeat him that day. He paired his Beyer though in that race, earning a 93 while stretching out to seven furlongs. This is the kind of progression that Baffert has with better horses, and while I believe he’s going to be better at two turns, I do wonder if the long stretch here might be a challenge for him. Of this quintet, I think he has the brightest future, but I think at short odds, there’s a reasonable chance that he’s caught in the final strides. 

The Verdict: 3-5

Going into this race last year, Bob Baffert had a string of seven consecutive wins. Doug O’Neill and Slow Down Andy broke that streak with a hard-fought, narrow victory in 2021. Baffert is back with three runners that will likely be the three shortest prices in the wagering today. While I don’t see a ton of value in wagering on this race, I’d give the slight edge to the second choice, Fort Bragg. I think his experience at two turns, along with his pedigree, might give him a better chance of catching Arabian Lion, who I see as more talented. 

In terms of futures wagering, Baffert’s horses are still some of the shortest prices on the board. Four of the six shortest priced horses from the latest Futures Odds from Circa are trained by Baffert. Only a few of his horses ended up moving barns, and that didn’t happen until about March. While he may have the best horses, the uncertainty again for the 2023 Derby is enough to keep me away from those runners and look for value elsewhere. 

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