Del Mar and Saratoga will conclude their meets Labor Day with Grade 1 races for juveniles, the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity and $350,000 Hopeful Stakes. Both have produced recent Kentucky Derby winners, with Nyquist & American Pharoah prepping in the Del Mar Futurity and I’ll Have Another contesting the Hopeful.
Four-time Kentucky Derby winner Bob Baffert has owned the Del Mar Futurity, winning a record 12 editions, and the Hall of Fame trainer will be well-represented once again by Klimt. Listed as the 2-1 morning line third choice among six runners, the Quality Road colt exits a 2 ¾-length victory in the August 13 Best Pal (G2) at the seaside oval and retains the services of Rafael Bejarano.
A pair of superb maiden scorers, Chasing Aces and Straight Aces, are top contenders in the 7-furlong event.
Straight Fire is the early 8-5 favorite following a 10-length romp in his second career start on August 6. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother, Hall of Famer and three-time Kentucky Derby victor Kent Desormeaux, the Dominus colt registered a 99 BRIS Speed rating when stretching out to 6 1/2-furlongs last time.
Chasing Aces, who comes next on the morning line at 9-5, established a new 5-furlong track record at Del Mar when making his second start on July 17, stopping the teletimer in :56 1/5 as he drew off to a 5 ¼-length decision. The Flatter colt earned a 105 BRIS Speed number and will return off a 50-day freshening Monday for trainer Peter Miller. Tyler Baze rides.
A pair of graded winners, Bitumen and Classic Empire, head a field of seven in the 7-furlong Hopeful.
Unbeaten from two starts, Bitumen is rated as the slight 2-1 morning line favorite after capturing the July 23 Sanford (G3) at Saratoga on July 23. Eddie Kenneally conditions the Mineshaft colt and Javier Castellano keeps the mount on the stalker.
Classic Empire will make his first appearance since impressively winning the July 2 Bashford Manor (G3) at Churchill Downs. Irad Ortiz Jr. will take over the mount from the injured Julien Leparoux aboard the Pioneerof the Nile colt, who is 2-for-2 for Mark Casse and listed as the 5-2 second choice.
Practical Joke established himself as a highly-promising type for Chad Brown when rolling to a 5-length victory over maiden special weight foes in his career bow on August 6. Jose Ortiz Jr. rides son of Into Mischief and the bay colt was installed as the 3-1 third choice.
New York-bred Runaway Lute brings a 2-for-2 mark into his first start against open rivals, breaking his maiden by a 12-length margin before rolling to an 8 ¾-length tally in a restricted stakes at Belmont Park on July 16. By Midnight Lute, the Gary Contessa-trained colt receives a rider switch to Ricardo Santana Jr. and is listed at 9-2 odds.
Klimt photo courtesy of Benoit
Bitumen courtesy of Chelsea Durand/Coglianese Photography
Classic Empire courtesy of Coady Photography