With four horses entered, all of whom are in with a chance, there is the very real possibility that the silver-haired, ubiquitous devil, better known as Bob Baffert, can be seen collecting his seventh CashCall Futurity trophy on Saturday afternoon. Formerly known as the Hollywood Futurity, the grade 1 affair at Betfair Hollywood Park has proven to be a launching pad for future success in Triple Crown races and Baffert’s roll call of previous winners are no exception. Let’s take a look at his half-dozen Futurity champions that I’ve ranked from 1-6 in order of awesomeness…
Known as T-Rex back in the barn, the impressively proportioned chestnut rebounded from a heartbreaking loss in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile to end his juvenile season with his first grade 1 win of many in the Hollywood Futurity. The following year he would prove almost unbeatable, winning six of seven. Unfortunately, his lone loss in his championship three-year-old season came in the Kentucky Derby, preventing Triple Crown glory. Point Given would make up for the Louisville disappointment by winning the Preakness, Belmont, Haskell, and Travers, before injury ended his career prematurely. He remains the only horse in history to sweep the impressive grade 1 quartet. Not only does he take the first spot on this list, but I also consider him America’s finest three-year-old of the 21st century.
He may not have been as large and in charge as numero uno on this list, but the Fish accomplished nearly as much in his three-year-career. Losing races in New Mexico is not the way most champions do it, but Real Quiet began improving in the fall of his juvenile season as the races got longer. By the time mid-December rolled around, he was ready to earn his first stakes win in the Hollywood Futurity. Still not a consistent winner, Real Quiet put it all together on the first Saturday in May, and only a last gasp rally by his excellent rival, Victory Gallop, prevented him from becoming our 12th Triple Crown champion. Real Quiet came back for a short but productive four-year-old season, adding wins in the Pimlico Special and Hollywood Gold Cup to his list of accomplishments.
The third colt to complete the Hollywood Futurity-Preakness double for Baffert, Lookin at Lucky can boast one thing that no other horse on this list can … he’s a two-time champion. In fact, he’s the only juvenile champion to come back to repeat the feat as a three-year-old since the great Spectacular Bid turned the trick back in 1979. Never the luckiest horse in the world, Lookin at Lucky may be somewhat remembered for his inability to get it done in two Breeders’ Cup attempts, as well as, the Kentucky Derby, but it should be remembered that he was a horse who never failed to fire. With 9 wins in only 13 starts, and 8 of those wins coming in graded stakes, I could have easily placed this one a spot higher.
Captain Steve may not have won a Triple Crown race like the first three on this list, but he was able to put them all well back in the rear-view mirror when it comes to career earnings. A big portion of his near $7 million in the bank came from a win in the world’s richest race, the 2001 Dubai World Cup, but this consistent son of Fly So Free was anything but a one-hit wonder. Never considered the best of his generation, the bay colt named after a Louisville policeman, was among the best in each of his three seasons on the track. Including the Hollywood Futurity, Captain Steve was a multiple stakes winner in each year from 1999 through 2001, and a grade 1 winner each season. He also was no stranger to travel, collecting his eight career stakes wins at seven different racetracks.
Pioneerof the Nile was an easy selection for number five on this list, but not because of a shortage of both talent and potential. The winner of 5-of-9 lifetime starts, the Zayat Stables runner was retired from racing after a soft tissue injury in July of his sophomore season. After making the CashCall Futurity his initial grade 1 victory, he rattled off three more graded stakes wins at Santa Anita the following spring to head to Louisville as one of the favorites for the Kentucky Derby. A second-place finish maintained his spot among the leaders of the division, but a disappointing finish as the second choice closed his career on low note.
The lowest ranked of Bob Baffert’s impressive list of CashCall Futurity winners is also his most recent. After a very solid season last year that saw the son of Indian Charlie win three straight races, including the Real Quiet Stakes, he has been unable to transfer that success over to his sophomore season. To his credit he has continued to keep the best of company year, due in large part to good enough finishes that keep hope alive in his connections, but his 0-for-8 record this year leaves me with little recourse other than to rank him sixth of six.