Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will aim for his 15th Del Mar Futurity title with a pair of promising two-year-olds—PINEHURST and MURRAY—in Monday's $300K Grade 1 event at Del Mar.
The Futurity has traditionally closed out Del Mar's Summer meetings, and has consistently served as a springboard for two-year-olds into the heights of their division. Many of them develop into serious competitors on the Road to the Kentucky Derby—a destination to which Bob Baffert is no stranger.
We don't have to search far back in time for the perfect example: AMERICAN PHAROAH, trained by Baffert, captured the Del Mar Futurity in 2014 en route to Champion Two-year-old honors and ultimately Triple Crown glory.
Other racing stars that won or competed in this race include: 2015 KY Derby winner NYQUIST; 2018 KY Derby favorites ROADSTER and GAME WINNER; 2009 favorite LOOKIN AT LUCKY. Goes without saying we could surely discover a major player emerging from this race. But first things first, let's meet our contestants.
Race 9, The $300K Runhappy Del Mar Futurity (G1) — 7 furlongs, Dirt, Two-year-olds only.
Post Time is 5:30 PM PT.
Baffert's track record for this race immediately qualifies any horse he sends out, a serious look. This year it is PINEHURST and MURRAY.
"They both broke their maidens here and they've both trained well since," Baffert said.
MURRAY, a $300K-purchased son of STREET SENSE was dominant breaking his maiden first time out on July 25. He scored by 10 1/2 lengths, with jockey Flavien Prat aboard, motoring home before being geared down late. The replay is shown below. Look for him to take a stalking trip before making a similar, middle-move as he did last time out.
With the stablemate PINEHURST, we get the Mike Smith-Bob Baffert connection. This son of TWIRLING CANDY broke his maiden last month with a sneakily impressive effort. Sneaky in the sense that the raw talent wasn't made so obvious by some flashy or dominant performance. Yes he was the $1.70-to-win favorite that day, but had his work cut out for him. The race replay is shown below.
Note how PINEHURST was bumped at the start and had to rocket up the rail to regain position. He was immediately met with a speedball-stablemate who challenged him all the way through the wire. Tough as nails, he outlasted him in the stretch, and earned a high ESF rating of 90. That's five points higher than what MURRAY earned in his victory, and he is likely to be the favorite. Look for PINEHURST to be on the muscle early and be an even tougher customer this time around.