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