Dream Tree quite the prize; stewards faced impossible task in Los Alamitos Futurity

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TwinSpires Staff

December 13th, 2017

By Dick Powell

In the spirit of the holiday season, DREAM TREE is the gift that keeps on giving. Let’s start at the beginning.

Bred in Kentucky by Mike and Pat Freeny, she sold as a weanling for $80,000 at Keeneland November 2015. She then came back in July and was sold again by her new owners for $225,000 as her sire, UNCLE MO, was in the midst of an awesome start to his stud career.

This past March at the Fasig Tipton Gulfstream 2YO-in-training sale, Dream Tree worked a furlong in 10 and 1/5 seconds and she was purchased by agent Kerri Radcliffe on behalf of Phoenix Thoroughbreds for $750,000.

Like many 2YOs sold out of training sales, they need to unwind and learn the game all over again so she did not make her first career start until October 27 this year for Bob Baffert when she was sent off as the 4-to-5 favorite going six furlongs at Santa Anita.

Sitting third on the outside for the first half of the race, she surged to the lead turning for home and after opening up a clear lead in the stretch, barely hung on by a nose over MIDNIGHT BIJOU in 1:10.44. Considering how many Baffert monsters did not win their career debut (Arrogate, American Pharoah, Drefong), it was a sharp effort and she might have been more bored than tired in the stretch.

Baffert brought her back 22 days later at Del Mar and Dream Tree once again opened a clear lead in the stretch before hanging on by another nose, this time going seven furlongs.

With only four others pointed for the Starlet Stakes (G1) at Los Alamitos, Baffert could not resist the temptation to try to steal a Grade 1 stakes win even though it would be Dream Tree’s third race in 43 days. Asked to go two turns, the Starlet would determine if her close wins were due to a lack of focus after holding a clear lead or a lack of stamina.

Run around two turns on the paper clip oval at Los Alamitos, Dream Tree was sent off as the 2-to-5 favorite with Drayden Van Dyke back in the irons. She broke a bit slow at the start and when Van Dyke saw how slow the pace was, he sent Dream Tree up on the outside to stalk YESTERDAY’S NEWS while far off the rail. Through a dawdling first half mile run in 49.25 seconds, Van Dyke sat chilly while waiting to pounce.

Turning for home, Van Dyke could not have looked any more confident and knowing he had a ton of filly underneath him, he waited as long as he could. When he pressed the button, Dream Tree exploded to a 3 ¼-length win.

No hanging and no waiting on horses, all Dream Tree did was run straight as a string through the lane. Her last 4 ½ furlongs were run in 54.62 seconds and she did it while wide around a tight turn without any real encouragement.

So Dream Tree has been sold three times, giving each seller a major profit and now her owners have a Grade 1-winning 2YO filly who is undefeated from three starts. The way fillies have been selling off the track, she will be worth way more than the $750,000 Radcliffe bid on her.

I can be critical of racing stewards and their lack of consistency. But, I would not have wanted to be in the stand for the stretch run of the CashCall Futurity (G1) last Saturday at Los Alamitos.

The field of five began to tighten up going into the far turn and unlike the Starlet, the Futurity had a hot pace with the first half mile run in 46.70 seconds. MCKINZIE surge to the lead around the far turn and INSTILLED REGARD went three wide turning for home.

It looked like Instilled Regard would go on but McKinzie battled hard after cutting the corner while down on the inside. Meanwhile, SOLOMINI, second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), was making up ground relentlessly outside the dueling leaders.

They all came together inside the eighth pole and Solomini surged to the lead while leaning in on Instilled Regard. McKinzie looked like he came out some and Instilled Regard was the meat in the sandwich.

Solomini went on to finish first by three-quarters of a length. The key here was that McKinzie held on for second by a head over Instilled Regard.

The lights began to flash and they showed the head-on replay countless times. With no rooting interest in the race, it looked like Solomini did come in on Instilled Regard. The tougher question was whether McKinzie came out on him as well. I could possibly see the stewards taking down both horses, which would have made Instilled Regard the winner.

Instead, they took Solomini down to third, behind Instilled Regard, and left McKinzie up. It was probably the right decision but did not leave the connections of the aggrieved party, Instilled Regard, any happier. The connections of Solomini were also irate since the rules indicate that if the foul did not affect the outcome of the race, the order should not be changed and you could make the case the he was going to win anyway.

In retrospect, it was the 1984 Breeders’ Cup Classic (G1) all over again with McKinzie playing the role of WILD AGAIN, Solomini playing the role of GATE DANCER and Instilled Regard playing role of SLEW O’ GOLD.