09/03/2010 2:47PM

Baffert without a starter for the Futurity


DEL MAR, Calif. – Wednesday’s closing day of the Del Mar meeting will be an awkward afternoon for Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

When the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity is run, Baffert will be reduced to an expert spectator. Baffert has won the race a record nine times, from 1996 to 2002, and in the last two years. This year, he will not have a starter.

“I know. That’s wrong,” Baffert said Friday, reflecting on the situation.

Through Thursday, Baffert had won 10 races at the meeting, but only one with a 2-year-old - Bull Creek, who won a maiden race over 5 1/2 furlongs on Aug. 28. Bull Creek’s win was too close to the Futurity to run the colt back in the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity.

The stable had four 2-year-old winners at Hollywood Park in July, including an impressive maiden race win by Smash, but that colt has not worked since late July and is being pointed to an autumn return.

“We’ve had some setbacks,” Baffert said. “Some of them got down here and had setbacks. I didn’t want to push them.”

Baffert had better luck with the 2-year-old filly A Z Warrior, who finished second in the Grade 3 Sorrento Stakes last month and was entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Darley Debutante.

Baffert said some of his juveniles did not perform well training on Del Mar’s Polytrack synthetic surface. Others just needed more time to be ready for racing. He said they will be sent this fall to Hollywood Park, which has a Cushion Track surface. Baffert is typically based at Santa Anita, but that track will not be open this fall while a conventional dirt track is installed.

Smash could be based at Hollywood Park or part of a small group that will be sent to Belmont Park this fall, Baffert said. He said Friday he was unsure which horses would be sent to Belmont Park.

While his 2-year-old division was not successful, Baffert won the richest race of the Del Mar meeting, the $1 million Pacific Classic on Aug. 28, with Richard’s Kid, who won the same race in 2009. Baffert also won the Grade 1 Pat O'Brien Stakes on Aug. 28 with El Brujo, a candidate for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint at Churchill Downs in November.

There are no plans for Misremembered, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap in March, his last start.

“He was training but he had a little setback,” Baffert said. “He’ll be all right. He needs a few weeks off. He had a foot issue.”

Lookin At Lucky, who won the 2009 Del Mar Futurity, is currently galloping, having recovered from an illness following his win in the $1 million Haskell Invitational at Monmouth Park last month.

Baffert said the long-range goal for Lookin At Lucky is the Breeders’ Cup Classic on Nov. 6.

J P’s Gusto tops Futurity probables

The $250,000 Del Mar Futurity is expected to have a field of nine, led by J P’s Gusto, winner of the Grade 3 Hollywood Juvenile Championship in July and the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on Aug. 15.

The list of probable starters includes another stakes winner in Road Ready, who won the Lost in the Fog Stakes at Golden Gate Fields in his lone start June 12, as well as Western Mood and Comma to the Top, who were third and fourth behind J P’s Gusto in the Best Pal Stakes.

There is even a European import in Major Art, who was third in the Group 2 Vintage Stakes over seven furlongs on turf at Goodwood racecourse in England in July and sixth in the Prix Francois Boutin at Deauville, France, on Aug. 15.

Major Art has been acquired by Class Racing Stable, according to new trainer Eric Kruljac. Major Art was scheduled to be released from quarantine at Hollywood Park on Saturday. He will be supplemented to the Del Mar Futurity for $10,000.

“If everything looks good, we’ll supplement and see what we can do,” Kruljac said. “He’s been training over [in England] on synthetics.”

Mike Smith will have the mount on Major Art, Kruljac said.

Mullins ends drought in claimer

Trainer Jeff Mullins won his first race of the Del Mar meeting when Light of a Star won an $8,000 claimer in Thursday’s fifth race.

Light of a Star was not with Mullins for long. The 4-year-old filly was claimed for $8,000 on Aug. 5 and was claimed away from Mullins in a three-way shake by Gary Stute on Thursday.

Mullins, who won 17 races at Del Mar in 2008 and 13 in 2009, has a 40-horse stable based at Hollywood Park this summer. His best result in major races at this meeting came with Battle of Hastings, who was second in the Grade 2 San Diego Handicap and fourth in the Pacific Classic.