Trainer Bob Baffert has won some incarnation of the Los Alamitos Futurity 13 times and he had three of the five horses in Saturday’s Grade 2 $200,000 race at the Orange County track. So, it makes sense he would up the number to 14, especially since he had the heavy favorite Arabian Lion in the race.
But, in spite of what everyone figures will happen, they still run the races and in the end Baffert’s former longtime assistant Tim Yakteen won the race as Practical Move pulled away in the stretch to win by 3 1/4 lengths.
The Los Alamitos Futurity, which started at Hollywood Park, has been the springboard to many great horses but Saturday it went to a horse winless in four starts.
It was the last Kentucky Derby qualifying points race in Southern California in 2022, even though the three Baffert horses were ineligible to win Derby points because of the trainer’s two-year ban from Churchill Downs because of the positive drug test of Medina Spirit, provisional winner of the 2021 Kentucky Derby. Medina Spirit was later disqualified, which is disputed in litigation.
On Thursday, Baffert’s attorneys filed suit against Churchill Downs to reverse the second year of his suspension at the company’s tracks. Unless there is a change, Baffert’s horses are ineligible to win Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Earlier this year, faced with the same restrictions, Baffert transferred his Derby horses to Yakteen so they could qualify for the world’s most recognized race.
On Saturday, Fort Bragg went to the lead in the 1 1/16-mile race with Arabian Lion, the 2-5 favorite, close by. But it was clear by the far turn that Arabian Lion didn’t have anything and Practical Move assumed the lead at the top of the stretch and then finished strongly.
Practical Move, under jockey Ramon Vazquez, paid $23.20 to win and $11.80 to place. There was no show betting, although with Arabian Lion finishing out of the money, it could have been a small windfall for the track if show betting were allowed. Carmel Road was second, followed by Fort Bragg, Tall Boy and Arabian Lion.
“I’m surprised because we were going up against the king (Baffert), but I’m not surprised because my horse was doing really well,” Yakteen said. “That it all worked out is just fantastic. … This one’s really special because Bob is a good friend and we have a great relationship.
“I hate to take him down, but it ended up that I got the better of him [Saturday] as he usually gets the better of me. We’re just going to give the horse a breather and regroup and go from there.”
The Southern California gets racing season gets going in earnest on Dec. 26 when Santa Anita starts its marathon six-month season.