Since moving away from Hollywood Park, the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity has been won four straight times by trainer Bob Baffert, who holds a strong pair again for Saturday’s $300,000 race. The Top 4 finishers at 1 1/16 miles will earn 2019 Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 10-4-2-1 basis in a springboard to bigger preps next season.
The Futurity will go as the fifth of nine races Saturday with a post time of 5:25 p.m. ET. Here’s a look at the field with early odds by Horse Racing Nation:
1. Improbable, 8-5 [City Zip — Bob Baffert/Drayden Van Dyke — 2: 2-0-0 — $89,520] Justify Jr.? At least on looks, with a chestnut coat and white blaze, Improbable is it, plus he’s also campaigned by partners WinStar Farm, China Horse Club and SF Racing. Improbable had to battle for his maiden win, but second out he looked like a division leader when galloping to a 7 1/4-length score in Churchill Downs’ Street Sense Stakes going a mile. He pressed the pace, went by with ease and galloped out well past the rest. The one to beat.
2. Savagery, 8-1 [Bellamy Road — Peter Miller/Rafael Bejarano — 5: 1-2-0 — $55,125] Dropped to maiden claiming company three starts back, this one has looked a cut above those ranks in his successive starts, finishing second in Santa Anita’s Sunny Slope Stakes before a runner-up to Mucho Gusto, a rival here, in Del Mar’s Bob Hope Stakes (G3). The connections of Miller and Rockingham Ranch typically signal sprinter. Here, they’ll try for two turns. Use underneath.
3. Dueling, 4-1 [Violence — Jerry Hollendorfer/Mike Smith — 4: 1-2-0 — $74,000] Solid horses appear in his past performances, with Dueling defeated by stablemate Rowayton on debut, then Game Winner second out. Away from those, he broke his maiden stretching to a mile before taking on the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Dueling finished sixth while taking plenty of dirt. He looks like the best threat to upset the Baffert runners if improvement continues. Contender.
4. King of Speed, 6-1 [Jimmy Creed — Jeff Bonde/Kent Desormeaux — 7: 2-1-1 — $145,980] The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf, run over yielding ground, didn’t suit this colt, who finished 12th. But twice a stakes winner, King of Speed will return to dirt, which he started on twice to open his career, finishing four both times. Here, we’ll find out whether it was the surface or the sprint distances that hampered him, as he later closed to win a pair of one-mile turf stakes. Toss.
5. Extra Hope, 10-1 [Shanghai Bobby — Richard Mandella/ Flavien Prat — 5: 1-1-1 — $58,200] It took four starts for this one to break his maiden, and that came on the stretch out to Saturday’s 1 1/16-mile distance. He cut back to seven panels for the Bob Hope, a race that proved a bit short. He wound up fourth, but by just 2 1/4 lengths. Perhaps that could result in a bit of a price Saturday on a runner connections really like. Longshot to consider.
6. Mucho Gusto, 5-2 [Mucho Macho Man — Bob Baffert/Joe Talamo — 2: 2-0-0 — $84,000] These same connections, including owner Michael Lund Petersen, won this race in 2015 with Mor Spirit. They’ll look for another one with a colt that broke his maiden running down the long Los Al stretch. He then gutted out a victory going seven furlongs in the Bob Hope. The class level of his foes, and his ability to stretch out farther make him the second choice to stablemate Improbable. Contender.
Summary: Given Improbable last ran on the Breeders’ Cup undercard — there were much bigger stakes later in the afternoon — this could mark his true unveiling should he replicate the last race. Given a short field, it could also just be one to watch and enjoy, unless you sport a strong opinion on one of the non-Baffert runners. Dueling wouldn’t be a huge surprise, and he should go off as at least the third choice.