04/12/2016 11:05AM

Baffert has two good shots on opening day


LOS ALAMITOS, Calif. – It is no surprise the condition book favors trainer Bob Baffert on Thursday, opening day of the three-week spring meet at Los Alamitos.

Baffert has won more races (29) than any Los Alamitos trainer since the track became the Southern California stopgap in 2014 and took some of the dates previously allotted to the shuttered Hollywood Park. He led the standings in two of the six meets, and has started more runners (107) than all trainers but Mike Harrington (130) and Doug O’Neill (122).

The totals will increase Thursday when Baffert, Los Alamitos-based assistant trainer Mike Marlow, owner Kaleem Shah, and jockey Martin Pedroza team with leading contenders in the two top races for winners on the card.

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Fusaichi Samurai is expected to be heavily favored in the race-7 feature, a first-level allowance route. Wish I Understood gets ideal conditions when she returns in race 3, a starter-allowance sprint.

Fusaichi Samurai heads a field of seven in race 7, a one-mile race in which he figures for a comfortable trip pressing the pace likely to be set by Carlsbad Mountain. Both geldings have a forwardly placed style that is ideal for the speed-friendly track profile.

The 1,380-foot Los Alamitos stretch is the longest in North America, yet late-runners tend to struggle. At three meets last year, 50 of 71 mile races (70 percent) were won by a horse within a length of the lead at the quarter pole. Only 13 races (18 percent) were won by a horse more than two lengths behind at the quarter pole.

A continuation of the profile would benefit Carlsbad Mountain and Fusaichi Samurai, expected to be positioned one-two. The others in race 7 are Gold Treasure, It Is Living Water, Picasso’s Mandolin, Howdy, and Royal F J.

The speed-friendly profile is tempered at six furlongs, the distance of the race-3 starter allowance which includes Wish I Understood. At three meets last year, 24 of 45 races (53 percent) were won by a horse within one length of the lead at the quarter pole. Ten races (22 percent) were won from more than two lengths behind at the quarter pole.

The six-furlong profile perhaps is similar to that of most dirt tracks. As the saying goes – “Early speed is the universal bias.”

Wish I Understood, who is unraced since August, figures for a front-running/pace-pressing trip outside Stir Fry. The others in the field are Alexita, Yodelsong, Silver Mojave, and Tiz Sweet Bliss.


Fusaichi Samurai, by Street Cry
(Last 3 Beyers: 93-88-75)

* He won his career debut at Los Alamitos in December, followed by two runner-up finishes in allowance races at Santa Anita – a sprint in which he lost by a neck to Grade 1-placed Calculator, and a neck loss last out in his first route race.

*Fusaichi Samurai was odds-on last time, and ran well in defeat. He dueled early, put away his pace rivals, fought back when collared by a closer, and finished more than three lengths clear of third.

Carlsbad Mountain, by Sharp Humor
(Last 3 Beyers: 83-91-79)

* Since stretching to two turns last fall, Carlsbad Mountain has four wins and two seconds from six starts. He has won both starts since being claimed for $20,000 by trainer Robertino Diodoro.

* Stewart Elliott rides.

* Carlsbad Mountain, 6 for 19 overall, is the first foal produced by Del Mar Cat, a Forestry filly who was trained by Baffert in 2005-07.

* Carlsbad Mountain is making his first start at Los Alamitos.

Howdy, by Sundarban
(Last 3 Beyers: 93-87-90)

* A pace collapse would benefit Howdy, a California-bred allowance winner last out for trainer Pete Eurton.

* Mario Gutierrez rides him back.


Wish I Understood, by Concord Point
(Last 3 Beyers: 59-54-46)

* A 3-year-old filly, Wish I Understood is making her first start since August. Baffert is 5 for 9 at Los Alamitos with comebackers off 180 days or more.

Alexita, by Elusive Quality
(Last 3 Beyers: 48-63-66)

* She has a series of sharp works at San Luis Rey, and will be racing for the first time since September.

* Apprentice Brayan Pena rides.