Derby prospects for Del Mar Futurity top two
by SCOTT SHAPIRO
As the summer racing meets end and the big two-year-old stakes races take place, not only do racing fans enjoy the growth of the top juvenile runners, but they begin to think about which of the young stars have what it takes to make a run toward the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Many graded stakes winners at two are simply precocious sprinters that likely will struggle as competition matures and the distances grow longer. Others are on their way to big and better things.
The closing day feature at the Del Mar Thoroughbred Club is the Del Mar Futurity (G1). The $300,000 event produced the last two Kentucky Derby winners and after the 2016 rendition it certainly is reasonable to think it could be three in a row.
The Futurity saw betting favorite, Straight Fire, break alertly and control the early pace from the rail under veteran jockey Kent Desormeaux. He inched away on the turn, but had no answer late for the hard charging Quality Road colt, Klimt.
The Bob Baffert-conditioned runner stalked outside rivals on the backstretch, made a three-wide move on the turn and drew away under mild urging late to give Baffert his 13th win in the Del Mar Futurity. There is no reason to believe that Klimt will not continue to thrive as he moves to two turn races.
First, he has one of the best trainers ever at getting a horse ready for the “Derby Trail” in Baffert. He has won the Kentucky Derby four times, the Preakness S. (G1) six times and the Belmont S. (G1) twice.
Additionally his pedigree suggests he will have no issue going long. His sire Quality Road hit the board in both of his 10-furlong races as a three-year old with a third place effort in the Travers (G1) and a runner-up finish in the Jockey Club Gold Cup (G1).
Klimt is out of a Maryland-bred daughter of Dixie Union named Inventive. Inventive was a decent runner that won at both one and two turns in the Mid-Atlantic region for trainer Richard Small. She does not exactly scream out endurance, but also was not strictly a one-turn horse.
Finally, Klimt has gotten better as the distances have increased. In post-race commentary, Baffert said, “We’ve always thought that going two turns is where he’s really going to excel. He’s got a great mind, will sit off horses…”
The runner-up Straight Fire also has the look of a horse that should be fine as the distances increase. He is a massive son of Dominus with a powerful stride and a trainer that is patient and knows what it takes to train a Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and Triple Crown event winner.
Keith Desormeaux has had a ton of success over the past couple of years. That success included a win in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile with Texas Red and a victory in the Preakness Stakes this year with Exaggerator.
In addition to the barn’s success and his look as an individual, the pedigree of Straight Fire suggests he could potentially have continued success at two turns.
Straight Fire’s sire Dominus was a Virginia-bred son of Smart Strike for trainer Todd Pletcher. He may have an inexpensive stud fee in 2016, but he had a lot of success on the racetrack winning 4 of 10 including the Dwyer (G2) and the Bernard Baruch (G2) on the lawn at Saratoga.
Straight Fire is out of Tricky Indy, a pricey daughter of A.P. Indy that won her first two starts and tired late to finish second in her third career race before being retired too early for trainer Albert Stall and owner B. Wayne Hughes. She has not had much success in her post race career, but did produce Otis My Man an earner of $93,000 over a 28-start career.
The rest of the field is likely a cut below the top two and those that will be considering the Triple Crown races in 2016.
It will be interesting to see the top two runners in the Del Mar Futurity moving forward. I think both of them will be heard from as the stakes get bigger.
Photo courtesy of Benoit