The road to the Kentucky Derby hits one of its early destinations, the Grade 1 $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park this Saturday. This Grade 1 race has been the stepping stone to such horses as Real Quiet, Point Given and last year's winner Lookin At Lucky. The $450,000 first place check all but guarantees a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. The top two Southern California two year olds (Jaycito and Premier Pegasus) are skipping the race, so there is a chance for someone to take a big step forward toward the Derby dream. The locals must defend the turf from two east coast invaders. Let's get to the race.
The only Grade 1 winner in the field is #2 J P's Gusto. This winner of the G1 Del Mar Futurity comes out of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile where he was a well-beaten 6th. He finished a disappointing third in the Norfolk two races back, and appears to be beyond the scope of his abilities distance-wise. He loses his jockey to another horse in the race, and it looks like he will be nothing more than a pace factor.
The other two graded stakes winners are #7 Gourmet Dinner and #10 Comma to the Top. Each won a Grade 3 last time out, albeit on a surface different than today's race. Gourmet Dinner was a upset winner of the Delta Jackpot on dirt, while Comma To The Top was a gate-to-wire winner of the Generous. Comma has risen the class ladder all the way from the bottom (the maiden claiming ranks) to the top (Grade 1), with a 4 race win streak that includes a win over this track a part of the rise. Unfortunately, the ride ends here for him, as he will finally hit his class ceiling. As the favorite, he will take plenty of money, but with J P's Gusto and others harassing him on the lead, Comma looks very vulnerable. Gourmet Dinner had a quick blowout over the surface yesterday, and should be fine over the surface. Never finishing worst than second in his five lifetime races, he must use in the exotics. He will be coming from mid-pack under his regular jockey, who follows along from their home base of Calder (in Florida).
An interesting horse who will be a price is #8 Riveting Reason, after setting the pace (then backing up quickly) in the BC Juvenile, he came back to SoCal and broke his maiden. Before the Juvenile, he had finished third in the Norfolk and the Del Mar Futurity. He steps back up into stakes company, and should be sitting just behind the first flight of horses. He is a must use in the middle and lower rungs of the exotics. The only time he did not was the BC Juvenile. He gets the riding services of Alonzo Quinonez, who rides the other 2yo star of the barn, Premier Pegasus.
The main threat and the second choice on both the morning line and of this blog is #9 Industry Leader. This lightly raced son of Cherokee Run made his stakes debut in only his second start last time out, finishing second behind Premier Pegasus in the Hollywood Prevue. He has worked swiftly in the interim, and should have no problem with the distance. His trainer is very high on him, and he looks to set a good trip sitting in the second or third tier of runners.
The selection is #3 Rustler Hustler. This son of Ecton Park ships in from the east coast for his trainer Richard Dutrow. He has been working swiftly and steadily for his first start in 7 weeks. He won a race at this distance (but on the grass) last time out at Belmont. He manages to get top New York jockey Ramon Dominguez to take a break from his vacation to ride the horse. He should not have a problem with the synthetic, as he broke his maiden on the Tapeta at Presque Isle Downs. The only concern is that his trainer does not do will over the synthetic. (The maiden win was under a different trainer.) Rustler will be rolling from the back of the pack, and hopefully will show some 'hustle' and mow them all down.
Rustler Hustler to win; Gourmet Dinner, Industry Leader & Riveting Reason underneath.
Will we see a horse give a breakout performance and thrust himself into the forefront of the Derby discussion? Will an east coast invader take the last grade 1 route race of the year? Can anyone stop Comma To the Top from making another 'possessive' statement of a victory? This field of two year olds have only upside to the them. But will that upside be enough? We will know by Saturday night. Good luck everybody!