Del Mar Futurity pits Fire versus Aces, Klimt

Profile Picture: Kellie Reilly

September 2nd, 2016

The phrase “small but select field” can be overused, especially when it’s just small and not so select, but the line rings true for Monday’s $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1). Although only six are entered, the race serves as a proper showdown for the meet’s most memorable runners in this division – track record-breaking maiden winner Chasing Aces, next-out dazzler Straight Fire, and Best Pal (G2) romper Klimt (pictured).

Straight Fire was no match for Chasing Aces in his career debut, but it could be a different ballgame in their rematch.

Chasing Aces had the benefit of a prior start when they met here on July 17, and the Peter Miller pupil put his experience to good use to roll by 5 1/4 lengths. The visual was backed up the clock, for Chasing Aces blitzed five furlongs in :56.21 to obliterate a track record dating back to 1964. That attracted attention. Earle Mack and Wachtel Stable promptly bought interests from Rockingham Ranch, which retained a share in the Flatter colt they’d purchased in training for $225,000 at Barretts. Chasing Aces must now carry that wicked speed an extra two furlongs – from the rail.

Straight Fire, on the other hand, didn’t figure to breathe fire first time out. The $250,000 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky July yearling was expected to learn from this introduction, in keeping with trainer Keith Desormeaux’s methodology. Hence the son of freshman sire Dominus, and an A.P. Indy mare, did very well to argue the pace and finish a clear second. Stepping up to 6 1/2 furlongs on August 6, Straight Fire took a quantum leap forward to romp by 10 lengths. He set a ferocious pace and widened his margin at every call, posting a snappy final time of 1:14.94. On that evidence, and his pedigree, he’s raring to go seven with Hall of Famer Kent Desormeaux aboard. Straight Fire is drawn right next to Chasing Aces in post 2, so there will be no hanging about.

Coming in the wake of those maiden conquests, Klimt’s performance in the Best Pal may have been undervalued. But he’s improving for 12-time Del Mar Futurity winner Bob Baffert, and the race shape may suit the early stalker. Klimt debuted in the same Santa Anita maiden as Chasing Aces, finishing fourth, and jumped up to win handsomely next time at the Great Race Place, before continuing his progression in the Best Pal. A $435,000 OBS March two-year-old, Klimt carries the Kaleem Shah colors made famous by Bayern and Dortmund.

Of the rest, Shelbe Ruis’ debut winner Midnight Pleasure is the most interesting. He’s got Baffert bloodlines, as a son of Midnight Lute and a Vindication mare, and his late-running style should serve him well in a race loaded with pace. Vegas Itch and Dynamic Ruler, both well beaten in local maidens, appear overmatched.

The Del Mar Futurity is positioned midway through the closing-day card, as the 5TH race. Del Mar offers two other stakes on its grand finale, the $75,000 Pirate’s Bounty (the 3RD) and the Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf (the 8TH).

The 5 1/2-furlong Pirate’s Bounty marks the stakes debut of Power Jam, who could be the opening act for  stablemate Klimt. Representing the Baffert/Shah team, the sparingly raced four-year-old has recorded gaudy BRIS Speed figures in his maiden (106) and entry-level allowance (107) wins. Power Jam faded to fourth as the 4-5 favorite here going seven furlongs July 30, and the cutback in trip can get him back on track. Also in the mix are Doug O’Neill sophomore Mrazek; Bing Crosby (G1) fourth Kaabraaj; track specialists All Run and Kafister; the Kristin Mulhall pair of Cautious Giant and Clever Royal (who adds blinkers); and newly gelded Iron Rob.

In the $100,000 Del Mar Juvenile Fillies Turf, smart debut winner With Honors has drawn the far outside post 13. A stablemate of Straight Fire’s from the Desormeaux barn, she also has part ownership in common – LNJ Foxwoods, which campaigns Straight Fire in a partnership including Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing. With Honors boasts a pedigree for juvenile success, being by War Front and with 2006 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Fillies (G1) champion Dreaming of Anna as her grandam. If jockey Flavien Prat can mitigate ground loss, she’ll be a major player.

Blame It on Alphie broke her maiden at first asking for Hall of Famer Richard Mandella over Go Argento, while Sorrento (G2) third Auntjenn experiments with turf as a daughter of versatile sire Uncle Mo. The Langfuhr filly Unforgivable U, fifth in the Sorrento, makes the same switch.

O’Neill is responsible for three entrants. You Missed It was a closing runner-up to With Honors, beaten only a half-length over this course and one-mile trip; British import Simmy’s Temple, second in the Brocklesby on the traditional opening day of the Flat season at Doncaster, was fifth to With Honors before breaking her maiden last out; and Irish recruit Noble Dancer upset a Down Royal maiden at 50-1. 

Also coming in from Ireland are Lady Beware and Red Livy. Lady Beware has the more obvious claims on form, having placed second in maidens to such notable two-year-old fillies as Albany (G3) winner Brave Anna and Duchess of Cambridge (G2) runner-up Magical Fire. The Ruis Family acquired her from Jessica Harrington, and she kicks off her American career here. Red Livy, sixth of 21 in her unveiling at odds of 66-1, resurfaces for Michael House and trainer Phil D’Amato.

The maiden Totem Power, a slow-starting third to Simmy's Temple on debut, could show more second time out for Robertino Diodoro. The Mercedes Stable homebred would fit as a pedigree play too. By Unbridled’s Song, she’s out of a full sister to multiple Grade 1 turf millionaire Teaks North.

Klimt photo courtesy of Benoit