It may not include the most famous three-year-old to spend time this year at Los Alamitos, that would be Triple Crown darling California Chrome, but nonetheless, the inaugural running of the $500,000 Los Alamitos Derby could be one of the more interesting three-year-old stakes of the summer. To be run one day after the July 4 celebration, it should make its own fireworks. Afforded Grade 2 status by taking place of the Swaps Stakes, after the closure of Hollywood Park, the nine furlong affair looks to feature a rematch of the top two finishers of last December’s CashCall Futurity. Remember that was a race that clinched an Eclipse Award, as Shared Belief ran away and hid from a large field that included the Candy Boy, who was best of the rest to finish second.
Off the headlines for a few months, Shared Belief is once again a horse that people want to talk about. The most exciting juvenile in the nation last year, but away for nearly six months with nagging physical issues, the unbeaten son of Candy Ride made a triumphant return to the races on Memorial Day. The heavily favored gelding led his older allowance competition at Golden Gate Fields at every call, before easily pulling away down the stretch for a 4 ½ length win. Owned by Jim Rome’s Jungle Racing, and trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Shared Belief completed the six furlongs over the Tapeta surface in a sharp final time of 1:09.78.
On the way to a championship in 2013, Shared Belief impressively accounted for his career debut in the Bay Area, before a private purchase, and heading south to dominate in the Hollywood Prevue and Grade 1 CashCall Futurity. Now perfect in four starts, he has yet to face a serious challenge in any of his stretch runs.
Meanwhile, Candy Boy is coming off a pair of losses for trainer John Sadler, but both his third place finish in the Santa Anita Derby, and his 13th place finish in the Kentucky Derby, came at the hands of division leader California Chrome. The latter also comes with the strong excuse of being sharply checked while going wide on the first turn in Louisville. Before that, the good looking colt, also a son of Candy Ride, scored his first graded stakes win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, in what was his first race after his meeting with Shared Belief.
If the pair of Candy Rides don’t have you convinced that the July 5 contest will be a must watch, let’s not forget the ubiquitous Southern California conditioner, Bob Baffert. Any one of Baffert’s top three candidates; Hoppertunity, Bayern, or Chitu, would add flavor and another strong contender to the Los Al Derby.
Sweetening an already healthy pot for the Los Alamitos Derby is the new $1 million Bolton Challenge bonus. The seven figure bonus will be no easy task, though, as it involves three different tracks, and the final two races bring the older campaigners into the fray. In order to collect on the cool million, a horse would need to sweep the Los Alamitos Derby, the $1 million TVG Pacific Classic on August 24 at Del Mar, and finally the $5 million Breeders' Cup Classic on November 1 at Santa Anita Park.
Oh, and by the way, the final two races of the bonus just happen to be on the planned dance card of one California Chrome.