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Hovdey: Reddam may get to present CashCall Futurity trophy to himself
By Jay Hovdey
In terms of being among the serious contenders for the Kentucky Derby the following year, it can be argued that by winning the CashCall Futurity a young horse has peaked too soon. Or too late. Or not at all.
Such is the mish-mash of conclusions to be drawn from 31 runnings of the 1 1/16-mile event, which has been won by an array of 2-year-olds that lack for nothing in terms of variety.
In 1981, the first Futurity winner, Stalwart, beat the one-eyed Cassaleria and the filly Header Card, then sustained tendon damage and never raced again. The second Futurity winner, champion Roving Boy, missed the 1983 classics with a minor injury, then returned that fall with a winning effort in the Alibhai Handicap at Santa Anita only to sustain fatal injuries in the process.
There have been Futurity winners like Best Pal, Snow Chief, King Glorious, A.P. Indy, Real Quiet, Captain Steve, Point Given, and Lookin at Lucky, all of them very good horses who went on to satisfying careers at the top of the game. Other Futurity winners with names like River Special, Matty G, Tactical Cat, and Into Mischief ended up compromised by injury or lack of development and were never better than they were on that day.
Of course, to have a late 2-year-old keyed up to run big against a deep field at this point on the calendar is always to risk the future. But there is reward. For eight of its early years the purse for the Futurity was worth a million dollars, a sum sufficiently impressive to tempt the connections of Breeders’ Cup race winners Brave Raj, Success Express, and Outstandingly to have another roll before season’s end.
Prior to 2007 it was known as the Hollywood Futurity before its flagging purse began to receive a healthy contribution from racehorse owner Paul Reddam. How much longer the $750,000 CashCall Futurity will offer such a prize I suppose will depend upon, (a) the health of Reddam’s mortgage and lending company of the same name, and (b) whether or not Hollywood Park ever offers a late-season meet again. So far, track officials have not announced an intention to run at this time next year.
This would be the least of any worries for trainer Doug O’Neill, who will try to provide Reddam with his first victory on Saturday in the race he sponsors with the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up, He’s Had Enough.
“That’s shocking,” O’Neill said Thursday morning after training hours. “I thought he’d won it every year, but it was Paul presenting the trophy, not receiving it.”
He’s Had Enough is a robust gray son of Tapit out of the Dixieland Band mare Amelia, who in turn is out of a full sister to 1983 champion filly Althea. The female side puts Never Bend in the pedigree picture, always a good thing, since Never Bend was not only the 2-year-old champion of 1962 but second in one of the deepest Kentucky Derby fields ever in 1963.
“He’s kind of a big playboy,” O’Neill said of He’s Had Enough. “If he’s got his mind on running – and he’s sure telling us in the mornings lately that he does – I think he’s got as good a chance as anybody.”
Those other anybodys are led by four runners from the Bob Baffert stable – including the winners of all three open stakes for 2-year-olds at the meet – as well as Nashua Stakes winner Violence from the well-stocked Todd Pletcher batch of 2-year-olds.
Pletcher also trains pro tem leader and likely champion Shanghai Bobby, who withstood a challenge in the final furlong from He’s Had Enough and Mario Gutierrez to win the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Santa Anita by a head. You hate to come that close and lose, but O’Neill is not 100 percent certain that running it again would change things.
“Mario did have to tap the brakes a couple times that day,” O’Neill said. “You could say it might have made the difference, but I’m not so sure that didn’t make our horse bear down a little bit and get serious. The important thing is he’s been doing great since then.”
He’s also been doing it on the dirt at Santa Anita, putting in a pair of three-quarter-mile drills since the Nov. 3 Breeders’ Cup, rather than over the synthetic track at Hollywood, where O’Neill operates his main barn.
“I’ve been real happy with the surface at Santa Anita,” O’Neill said. “Since we’re dreaming of the spring classics, all of them on dirt, and since things were going well I wasn’t real eager to ship him over to Hollywood. We might even do a little bit with him Saturday morning and run him right off the van that afternoon.”
He’s Had Enough was part of the Lasix-free experiment applied to the 2-year-olds running this year in Breeders’ Cup races.
“We’re blessed he ran well without the Lasix, and it didn’t seem to affect him in any negative way,” O’Neill said. “He will be back on a low dose of Lasix for the Futurity, but I really don’t think it’s a factor for him. I look at Lasix as a medication that has had enough study to show it is a healthy approach as a preventative, especially if you’ve seen a horse bleed and realize what hurdles that can create in terms of possible infection and administering antibiotics.”
If nothing else, a big run in the Futurity by Reddam’s colt would put a neat bow on a year during which O’Neill has experienced all the highs, the lows, and more than a few of the strange detours the racing game can provide.
At once hailed by the media for his work with Reddam’s Derby and Preakness winner I’ll Have Another and excoriated for his record of past medication rules violations – many of them adjudicated over long, drawn-out hunks of time – O’Neill became the default target for anyone who wanted to criticize horse racing for anything from drug use to poor taste in hat style. The nadir came in late summer when he served a 45-day suspension after dropping further appeals of a pair of TCO2 violations.
“Everything is behind me now and I feel good about that,” O’Neill said. “As I’ve gotten a little longer in the tooth – actually shorter, because I grind my teeth at night – the one thing I’ve learned is that if you’re fortunate enough to accomplish more you are also held to a higher standard. And what an honor that is.”
Hoping for a safe run for all. I'm rooting for TEAM O'NEILL. to come in first. HHE & Mario
And stand in front of a full-length mirror while the presentation is being held.
Doug O'Neill has a great sense of humor. I like that. Wishing the connections all the best tomorrow. My dough's definitely down on 'HHE.
Very exciting! Hastings peeps have their fingers & toes crossed :)
Doug O'Neill is a class act around the track. Our society thrives on negativity not the positive, and those who would denigrate Doug are wrong headed in their thinking. He is at once gregarious and is totally in his element around horses. He is a true horseman and a good man. His "team" admires, respects and work hard so that the "team" is successful ,and it is a team effort as Doug has said on many occasions. It would do other trainers well to emulate his style, class and horsemanship.
I just want to see speed. There has not been a two year old race yet that has shown speed. A mile and a 1/16 should be run in at least 1.42.
Best Pal gets my vote for the best Hollywood/CashCall Futurity winner ever. He was amazing.
Oneill and pletcher boxed over baffert any way you please
How well can a horse run wen they detox of lasix then go back on lasix. Not a good choice he needs at least one race with that lasix again
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