I came to sunny San Diego, and more specifically beautiful Del Mar, to get away from it. I expected a nice relaxing and enjoyable vacation in one of the nation’s most beautiful spots. Little did I know that I was about to get Drilled. It’s really not as bad as it sounds, though.
In the best juvenile race of the year so far, Drill announced himself as a leading contender for champion two-year-old male of 2011 with an impressive rallying win in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity. Besides being a race of high quality young performers, the closing day feature turned out to be a rough ride all the way to its thrilling finish in which the winner was able to overcome a sound bumping caused by Majestic City, who came out sharply late in the race to sideswipe race favorite Creative Cause into Drill.
Running for the familiar duo of Mike Pegram and Bob Baffert, Drill was quickly able to regain his stride and prove best at the wire by a neck over Majestic City, with Creative Cause checking in an unlucky third. Majestic City was rightly disqualified from 2nd to 3rd for his infraction. The result was made even tougher when Drill, running widest of all ran, and rider Martin Garcia, lost their whip for the final sixteenth. A son of first year sire, Lawyer Ron, Drill completed the seven furlongs over Del Mar’s Polytrack surface in a solid 1:22.16.
As impressed as I was with the winner, the most remarkable aspect of Drill's exciting victory surely was that it gave Baffert his 10th score in the Del Mar Futurity. As one of the nation’s most important juvenile races, this feat, completed over the past 16 years, is nothing short of a training marvel.
While Drill looks like a potential star, he was far from the only one to impress me in yesterday’s race. Creative Cause lost all chance yesterday, and I still believe he is one of the finest young horses in the land. Majestic City, despite causing the trouble, has now run four excellent races, and is clearly a force around one-turn. Fourth place finisher, Gun Boat, also a Baffert trainee, was making only his second career start and proved ultra-game as the race pacesetter, while fifth place finisher, Basmati, has yet to win in four races, but is getting better with every start, and may be better suited to running a bit more from off the pace as he matures. All five runners were within a length and a half at the exciting conclusion of the $250,000 stake.
A $300,000 Keeneland September yearling sale purchase for the team of Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman, Drill had disappointed when bet heavily in his career debut but then came back to win by a neck in his second start on August 13 at Del Mar. Since that win, he had impressed many onlookers with his development in the morning works. Yesterday’s score represented the second victory in three years for the ownership group, as they took down the race with two-time champion Lookin at Lucky in 2009. From what I saw in the Futurity, I would not be at all surprised if Drill soon joins him as a stable champion.