Game Winner Rallies to Victory in Del Mar Futurity

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

September 4th, 2018

Throughout the 2018 summer meet at Del Mar, the Hall of Fame trainers Bob Baffert and Jerry Hollendorfer have pretty much dominated the juvenile racing scene, so it was only natural to see Monday’s $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) turn into a showdown between talented youngsters from those two barns.

Indeed, bettors perceived the race as a three-horse matchup between the Baffert-trained duo of Roadster and Game Winner plus the Hollendorfer representative Rowayton. None of the other three runners started at less than 20-1, and none serious factored in the outcome as the three favorites put on quite a show from start to finish.

Indeed, there was excitement literally moments out of the gate as Rowayton, with Drayden Van Dyke in the saddle, sprinted to a commanding four-length lead through an opening quarter-mile in :22.53 seconds. Mike Smith, guiding Roadster, was content to let his mount settle in second place, just ahead of Game Winner, who had a patient Mario Gutierrez aboard.

The Baffert duo continued to wait as Rowayton barreled around the turn through a rapid :22.82 second quarter-mile, during which he extended his advantage by another half-length. At that point, it was unclear whether anyone would be able to reel in the bold, front-running son of Into Mischief, but as the homestretch approach, Smith and Gutierrez asked their mounts to run, and slowly but surely Rowayton’s lead began to shrink.

Even still, Rowayton remained clear by 2 ½ lengths at the eighth pole, but at that point he was growing just a bit leg-weary and Game Winner was reaching full stride. In the final furlong, Game Winner finished powerfully to roll past the pacesetter and score by 1 ½ lengths, while Rowayton dug deep to turn back Roadster and hold on to second place by a half a length.
On every level, Game Winner’s performance was strong. His final time of 1:23.18 for seven furlongs was quite fast for Del Mar and produced a Beyer speed figure of 93, one of the highest earned by any two-year-old in the nation so far this year. Furthermore, as a son of Candy Ride out of an A.P. Indy mare, Game Winner is bred to improve with maturity and should have no difficult handling classic distances, so races like the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. I) in November and even the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) next May should be well within his capabilities.

Trainer Bob Baffert has already campaigned two Triple Crown winners, and while it’s much too early to say if Game Winner might join American Pharoah and Justify as a Baffert-trained winner of racing’s greatest prize…he’s certainly off to a good start!