Gem Stable's J P'S GUSTO (Successful Appeal) dueled throughout Wednesday's $250,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) beneath jockey Patrick Valenzuela, easily put away rival Comma to the Top (Bwana Charlie) entering the stretch and drew off to be 4 1/2 lengths clear on the wire of the closing-day feature. Trained by David Hofmans, the bay ridgling finished up the seven-furlong test on the Polytrack in 1:22 4/5 to complete a hat trick of graded wins.
"What a runner he is!" Valenzuela enthused. "I had so much horse under me I couldn't believe it. (Trainer) David (Hofmans) had him ready. I was just lucky to be on him.
"It was just a question of when (to go). At the end, I think I still had a little bit more in the tank. If a horse had come up next to me, I think I'm still the winner. Can he go on? I think so. And I sure hope so."
J P's Gusto, the 4-5 favorite, paid $3.60, $3 and $2.40 for his victory following battling fractions of :22 3/5, :45 2/5 and 1:10 1/5. Jaycito (Victory Gallop) settled in last following a slow start, but put in a furious stretch rally to be best of the rest. The bay colt was worth $14 and $7.80 as the 19-1 seventh pick and ended the $29.90 exacta ($1).
"Today I wasn't the best horse, but he might be the best horse," jockey Martin Garcia said of Jaycito. "Wait until the distance (races) come. Then look out."
It was another 3 1/4 lengths back to Riveting Reason (Fusaichi Pegasus) and Indian Winter (Indian Charlie), who dead-heated for third. Riveting Reason gave back $4.60 at 18-1 while 6-1 third choice Indian Winter returned $2.40. The $1 trifecta including Riveting Reason totaled $99, while Indian Winter's $1 trifecta brought $56.70. The 4-1-2-8 superfecta ($1) paid $469, while the 4-1-8-2 superfecta ($1) grossed $366.50.
Western Mood (West Acre), Comma to the Top, Just Imagine (Unbridled's Song), Road Ready (More Than Ready), McKenzies Way (Wildcat Heir), Major Art (GB) (Compton Place) and Gahnzo Bob (Dehere) finished order under the wire.
J P's Gusto began his current four-race win streak following an awkward sixth in his maiden debut. He came back in the Willard L. Proctor Memorial S. and earned his first career score by 4 1/2 lengths, then took on his first major test when gutting out the neck victory in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship S. (G3). J P's Gusto showed up in Del Mar's Best Pal S. (G2) next, and he led all the way home to triumph by a half-length. With this, his first Grade 1 win, the juvenile now boasts a 5-4-0-0 career line and nearly doubled his earnings here to $337,360.
"This was his best effort," Hofmans said. "I think the mile and a sixteenth (of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile [G1]) is within his reach, mainly because of his attitude. He's very smart and he waits for the rider to give him his cues. When I saw him inside on the turn and his ears were up, I was pretty comfortable. It was obvious he was waiting for Patrick (Valenzuela) to give him his cue. The more I train him, the more I think he'll go on. He's very smart, probably smarter than me."
Bred by WinStar Farm in Kentucky, J P's Gusto was sold for $52,000 as a yearling at Keeneland September. He is a full brother to Magic Appeal, the third-place finisher in last year's Adirondack S. (G2), and a half-brother to the stakes-placed Kid Majic (Lemon Drop Kid). They are all out of the multiple stakes winner Call Her Magic (Caller I. D.), who is a half-sister to the winning Pacific Spell (Langfuhr), the dam of 2008 champion three-year-old filly Proud Spell (Proud Citizen). This is also the family of Grade 1 winner Imaginary Lady (Marfa).