09/06/2010 3:38PM

Hollendorfer takes two shots at J P's Gusto in Futurity

Benoit & Associates
Western Mood (left) will take another run at J P's Gusto (right) in the Del Mar Futurity.

DEL MAR, Calif. – Trying to beat J P’s Gusto, trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has found out, is difficult with just one bullet. So when the Grade 1, $250,000 Del Mar Futurity is run on Wednesday’s closing-day card here, Hollendorfer will put a couple of rounds in the chamber, hoping either Indian Winter or Western Mood can knock off the pro-tem leader of the 2-year-old division in California.

It will not be easy. J P’s Gusto heads into the Futurity riding a three-race winning streak, including a victory one month ago in the 6 1/2-furlong Best Pal Stakes, Del Mar’s major prep for the Futurity. But J P’s Gusto will be trying to stretch his speed to seven furlongs, which, with his sprint-based pedigree, might be the outer limits of his optimum range.

Western Mood was a distant third in the Best Pal after losing by just a neck to J P’s Gusto in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship. The biggest threat from Hollendorfer’s barn just might be Indian Winter, an Indian Charlie colt who, when closing sharply to win his debut going six furlongs Aug. 21, acted like he would appreciate more distance.

“The thing I liked about his race is that he was down inside, taking a lot of stuff flying at him, and it didn’t bother him at all,” Hollendorfer said. “He acted like an older horse. He won by a half-length, but I think he was best by a lot more than that.”

Hollendorfer’s biggest concern is that he is coming back in just 18 days. But the lure of a Grade 1 race, versus sitting on the sidelines until Oak Tree starts later this month, was too tempting.

“If you wait until Hollywood, you’re starting to get behind,” Hollendorfer said.

The Futurity is the eighth race on a 10-race card that begins at 2 p.m. Pacific. The undercard includes the return of Dancing in Silks, last year’s Breeders’ Cup Sprint winner, in the fourth race, the $75,000 Pirate’s Bounty Stakes. Because it is closing day, there will be a mandatory payout in the pick six. And since there is no racing in New York on Wednesday, the pools figure to be larger than usual, with simulcast players focusing their attention here.

This Futurity is notable for the absence of any runners from the barn of trainer Bob Baffert, who has won this race nine times in the last 14 years.

Western Mood pressed the pace in the Best Pal before tiring to finish third. In his two prior races, he sat back and made a run, a strategy that seemed to work better. Joel Rosario, who has ridden Western Mood in all three races, is back aboard.

“Last time was the rider’s choice, and it was the right choice,” Hollendorfer said.

J P’s Gusto has trained sharply since the Best Pal and will be a deserving favorite. In two of his four starts, his Beyer Speed Figure has topped 90. No one else in this race has run better than an 81.

Patrick Valenzuela replaced the injured Joe Talamo on J P’s Gusto in the Best Pal and is back aboard.

Valenzuela rode McKenzies Way to a front-running maiden win on Aug. 7 going 5 1/2 furlongs, but with Valenzuela opting to ride J P’s Gusto, David Flores will take over on McKenzies Way.

“He was impressive,” Bobby Troeger, the trainer of McKenzies Way, said Monday morning. “There wasn’t much speed, and he went wire to wire. He’s a real athletic colt with a good mind and all that. I lost my jock, but I understand.”

Troeger is worried about the extra distance.

“Seven-eighths will probably be stretching him,” he said.

Major Art invades from Great Britain, where he won once in four starts on turf for trainer Richard Hannon, the king of 2-year-old racing there. This will be his first start on a synthetic surface and for trainer Eric Kruljac, who has had a sensational meeting.

Though stuck on the rail in the Futurity, Jaycito merits respect off his debut, in which he finished second to Indian Winter after breaking poorly and rushing up.

Road Ready won his debut in a stakes race at Golden Gate on June 12, but has not raced since then.