09/09/2010 12:28PM

Hofmans confident J P's Gusto can go longer

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Benoit & Associates
J P's Gusto and Patrick Valenzuela dominate the Del Mar Futurity.

DEL MAR, Calif. – J P’s Gusto is by Successful Appeal and out of a mare by Caller I.D., not exactly a pedigree that suggests distance racing would be his forte. But the manner in which he won the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity on closing day Wednesday gives his trainer, David Hofmans, the confidence that J P’s Gusto can stretch out, at least to 1 1/16 miles, the distance of his next scheduled race, the Norfolk Stakes on Oct. 2 during the Oak Tree meeting at Hollywood Park.

“He’s got a great attitude,” Hofmans said. “He waits for the rider to give him his cue. That’s what makes me believe he’ll go on.”

J P’s Gusto, owned by the Gem Inc. stable of Dr. John Waken, ran his best race yet in the Futurity. He romped by 4 1/2 lengths to secure his fourth straight victory and securely stamp himself as the best 2-year-old male in California. Hofmans on Thursday morning said J P’s Gusto had come out of the race well and already had been sent to his barn at Hollywood Park.

The Norfolk will be part of what is shaping up as a sensational Breeders’ Cup preview day at Hollywood Park. Other races there Oct. 2 include the Lady’s Secret Stakes, in which the unbeaten Zenyatta will be shooting for her 19th victory in what is scheduled to be her final start in her home state, and the Goodwood Stakes, in which the unbeaten 3-year-old Twirling Candy, the winner of the Del Mar Derby, is expected to take on two-time Pacific Classic winner Richard’s Kid.

In the seven-furlong Del Mar Futurity, J P’s Gusto set or forced the pace for five furlongs, then kicked clear at the top of the stretch under jockey Patrick Valenzuela.

J P’s Gusto was timed in 1:22.95 for seven furlongs on Polytrack.

The victory was the highlight of terrific summer for Valenzuela, who found the Fountain of Youth at age 47, finishing third in the standings here. Twenty years ago, Valenzuela won the Del Mar Futurity with Best Pal.

“Just like Best Pal, he’s a very feisty horse,” Valenzuela said.

While J P’s Gusto may have been on edge in the post parade, he showed great maturity in the race, patiently waiting to receive his cue from Valenzuela despite outside pressure from Comma to the Top.

“He’s so smart. Around the turn, with the horse lapped on him, he was waiting for Patrick,” Hofmans said. “He was just galloping, waiting for Patrick to give him his cue.”

Valenzuela appreciative of big meeting

With the exception of Valenzuela, it would be hard to imagine anyone thinking he would have had the impact he did this summer at Del Mar. Valenzuela was not a strong factor during his last go-round on this circuit more than two years ago, and had earned a solid, but unspectacular, living during his exile in Louisiana.

Back on home turf, and given yet another chance by the California Horse Racing Board, Valenzuela made good on his latest opportunity.

“You know how optimistic I am,” Valenzuela said. “I thought I could be leading rider. But I picked up some very good horses for the Breeders’ Cup. I can’t complain.”

Hofmans said he has seen a level of maturity in Valenzuela previously absent.

“He’s always had a great attitude,” Hofmans said. “But there was something different this time. He’s not as excitable. He’s waiting with horses now.”

Consensus sought on Santa Anita surface

Meetings are scheduled for next week at Santa Anita among the track, the racing board, the Thoroughbred Owners of California, and the California Thoroughbred Trainers as the track seeks a consensus on the composition of the dirt surface scheduled to be installed by the opening of the winter meeting Dec. 26, according to George Haines, the track’s president.

“We’re in the process of getting permits from the city of Arcadia, doing engineering studies, working with the various groups, going over what we have in order to have a consensus,” Haines said. “We’re looking at various parts of the country for material. We want this done by three weeks before the meeting starts, Dec. 5.

“We’re committed to the best surface possible. We want this to be the best track, and give it its best opportunity.”