The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) might be North America’s championship-defining race for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds, but it isn’t hard to argue the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) has been the more productive race when it comes to launching Triple Crown contenders.
Inaugurated in 1981 at the now-defunct Hollywood Park, the race was originally known as the Hollywood Futurity, receiving its current name when the race moved to Los Alamitos in 2014. Regardless of its name or location, the Los Alamitos Futurity has been cranking out high-class runners for decades.
We can thank Gato Del Sol and Laser Light for putting the Futurity on the map. Although they could only finish seventh and ninth in the race’s inaugural edition, they returned to run 1-2 in the 1982 Kentucky Derby, establishing the Futurity as a viable prep for the spring classics.
Others quickly followed their example. Ferdinand and Alysheba were both beaten in the Futurity, but scored back-to-back Kentucky Derby victories in 1986-87. Futurity runner-up Thunder Gulch likewise nabbed Derby glory in 1995, while Real Quiet became the first to sweep both races when he upset the 1998 Kentucky Derby. Even the improbable Giacomo, 50-1 winner of the 2005 Kentucky Derby, had stamped his Derby credentials with a second-place finish in the Futurity.
The ongoing impact of the Futurity can be attributed in part to Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert, who won the race a dozen times between 1997 and 2019. Many of Bafferts victors have gone on to win or place in Triple Crown races, including Point Given (winner of the 2001 Preakness and Belmont Stakes) and Lookin at Lucky (victorious in the 2010 Preakness).
But even beyond Baffert’s brigade, the list of Futurity winners reads like a “who’s who” of Grade 1 winners, champions, classic winners, and/or Hall of Fame inductees, including Stephans Odyssey, Snow Chief, Best Pal, A.P. Indy, and Shared Belief.
Although the Los Alamitos Futurity was lowered from Grade 1 to Grade 2 status in 2019, it remains a prominent steppingstone on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, offering qualification points to the top four finishers on a sliding 10-4-2-1 scale.
By J. Keeler Johnson
Dual Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill unearthed a prospect to give him a third victory on the First Saturday in May when Slow Down Andy won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) at Los Alamitos Dec. 11.
Slow Down Andy was let go at generous 5.20-1 odds in the five-horse field. He had won on debut but was then beaten in the Golden State Juvenile S. for California-breds by Del Mar Futurity (G1) runner-up Finneus.
However, Slow Down Andy clearly benefited from the step up from seven furlongs in the Golden State Juvenile to 1 1⁄16 miles in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Settling for jockey Mario Gutierrez at the back of the small field, although just a couple of lengths off the pace, Slow Down Andy joined the challenge for the lead at the top of the stretch.
The Bob Baffert-trained favorite Messier put up a stirring fight down the stretch, but Slow Down Andy asserted himself in the last sixteenth to win by a length and earn 10 points available for the Road to the 2022 Kentucky Derby series.
Neither Messier nor his stablemate Barossa, who was nine lengths away in third, are eligible for Derby points as Baffert has been suspended by Churchill Downs Inc. Durante, who finished fourth, earned one point.
Slow Down Andy is by Nyquist, who became O’Neill’s second Kentucky Derby winner in 2016. A Reddam Racing homebred, Slow Down Andy is out of the Square Eddie mare Edwina E. Slow Down Andy’s fourth dam Northern Fable (by Northern Dancer) has established a quality family which includes Cara Rafaela, dam of Preakness S. (G1) winner Bernardini.
By Alastair Bull
|5||Slow Down Andy 5-1||$12.40||$3.40|