09/02/2013 12:58PM

Del Mar Futurity: Alberts Hope faces Baffert, O'Neill colts

Benoit & Associates
Alberts Hope (left) beats Celtic Moon in the Best Pal. They will meet again in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity on Wednesday.

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DEL MAR, Calif. – Alberts Hope rose to the top of California’s male 2-year-old division with a win in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes earlier this meet, and he’ll try to retain that position Wednesday in the Grade 1, $300,000 Del Mar Futurity, highlight of the closing-day card here.

The Futurity, at seven furlongs, drew a field of 11, and there is no standout. Alberts Hope is the only horse in the race who has run more than once and is still unbeaten. He defeated maidens at Betfair Hollywood Park on July 14, scoring a 33-1 upset, then won as the 5-2 favorite in the Best Pal on Aug. 4.

His trainer, Mike Puype, believes Alberts Hope can improve off the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal. He came back on three weeks’ rest for the Best Pal, but has had a full month coming into the Futurity.

“I don’t like bringing my babies back as quick as I did with him in the Best Pal, but we needed to see where he belonged,” Puype said Monday morning.

[DEL MAR FUTURITY: Get PPs, watch handicapping previews]

Alberts Hope had been purchased last October at Barretts for $40,000, making him eligible to the $100,000 Barretts Juvenile at Barretts Sales and Racing at Fairplex Park in Pomona on Sept. 15.

“I didn’t want to wait on him until the Futurity, but I wasn’t sure if the Futurity was going to be the right race for him or the race he’s eligible for at Pomona,” Puype said. “We needed to see where he fit.”

Puype got his answer. Alberts Hope beat, among others, Celtic Moon and Guns Loaded, who are back to try again in the Futurity. In his debut, Alberts Hope beat Futurity entrants Rum Point and Dance With Fate, both of whom won next time out to frank the form of that maiden race.

“He beat a good field that day,” Puype said. “We knew he could run, but he surprised us in that I hadn’t really cranked on him.”

Because of what Alberts Hope has accomplished, Jason Tackitt, who races as Jaam Racing, put up a supplementary fee of $10,000 to make Albert Hope eligible to the Futurity.

“His works coming into this race have been stronger each time,” Puype said. “I’m confident in my animal, but you’ve got to get a good trip to be live here.”

One of the Futurity horses Alberts Hope has yet to face is Can the Man, who won his lone start Aug. 17 for Bob Baffert, who has had a hammerlock on this race. Baffert has won the Futurity a record 11 times, all since 1996. Can the Man is named for Baffert’s son Canyon, 25, who works for Can the Man’s owner, Kaleem Shah.

“That’s a lot of pressure,” Baffert said Monday morning.

“He ran well first time out,” Baffert said. “He’s worked well since. I expect a good race out of him.”

Rum Point was third to Alberts Hope on July 14 when both made their debuts, then returned to beat maidens second time out when starting from the rail going 5 1/2 furlongs Aug. 3.

“He’s a pretty handy horse,” said Doug O’Neill, who trains Rum Point. “He’s a beautiful-looking horse with a pretty way of going. I think the extra furlong and a half will only help him.”

Rum Point is owned by Paul Reddam, who also sends out Indexical, who is trained by Ben Cecil. Indexical added blinkers for a fast win against maidens Aug. 17, and the third-place finisher in that race, New Year’s Day, came back and won over the weekend. Mario Gutierrez rode both Indexical and Rum Point in their first two starts. He winds up on Indexical, with Patrick Valenzuela landing the mount on Rum Point.

Guns Loaded was a debut winner here July 20 before finishing third in the Best Pal just 15 days later. His trainer, Cody Autrey, thinks the extra time into the Futurity can only help.

“That was a tight timetable going into the Best Pal, back in two weeks,” Autrey said. “Now we’ve had a month to build him back up.”

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Alpine Luck, fifth in the Best Pal, and Skydreamin, sixth in that race, are both seeking to bounce back. Alpine Luck had won two straight coming into the Best Pal, including the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. Skydreamin is adding blinkers.

California Chrome bypassed the I’m Smokin against California-breds on Monday to shoot for the big money here. He owns a win over the track in the Graduation for statebreds on July 31.

Tamarando beat California-bred maidens in his third start last time. Though this is his first race in open company, he has improved with each start and has the style to suggest seven furlongs will suit him.

The Futurity is the eighth race on a 10-race card that includes three others stakes. The Oak Tree Juvenile Turf matches impressive debut winners Diamond Bachelor and Station House. The Pirate’s Bounty, for male sprinters, lured graded-stakes performers such as Private Zone, Rail Trip, and Roman Threat. The CERF Stakes for female sprinters includes Gypsy Robin, making her second start for Puype.

Because it is closing day, there will be mandatory payout in the pick six.