12/11/2013 3:32PM

Jay Hovdey: A two-turn futurity in the offing for Los Alamitos


It is safe to say that no race for 2-year-old Thoroughbreds has had more impact on what happens next than the CashCall Futurity.

(There will be a brief musical interlude while my nerd base thumbs through their American Racing Manuals for possible refutation. Good luck.)

The race was called the Hollywood Futurity from 1981 through 2006, at which point owner Paul Reddam stepped up to sponsor the race through his CashCall financial loan company. Along with it came a history to die for.

In 32 runnings of the Futurity, between 1981 and 2012, there have been a half-dozen Futurity winners to go on to win at least one of the Triple Crown classics (Stephan’s Odyssey, Snow Chief, A.P. Indy, Real Quiet, Point Given, and Lookin At Lucky). Four colts finishing second or third in the Futurity became classic winners the following spring (Ferdinand, Giacomo, Alysheba, and Thunder Gulch). And if they did not win a classic, seven other Futurity winners made a successful Grade 1 impact at some point in their 3-year-old season, including Temperate Sil, King Glorious, Best Pal, Afternoon Deelites, Lion Heart, Brother Derek, and Pioneerof the Nile.

For context, always handy, the 32 winners of the Champagne Stakes between 1981 and 2012 have included an admirable five classic winners: Easy Goer, Sea Hero, Timber Country, Birdstone, and Union Rags. The Remsen Stakes, Aqueduct’s post-Breeders’ Cup answer to the CashCall, boasts a distant past of classic winners like Johnstown, Phalanx, Carry Back, Northern Dancer, and Damascus among its winners. Since 1981, though, there has been only Pine Bluff, Go for Gin, and Thunder Gulch (ball’s in your court, Honor Code).

As for the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, supposedly the high-water mark for the 2-year-old division, its roster of champs between 1984 and 2012 has produced exactly two winners of the 87 Triple Crown races available from 1985 through 2013. A prize to anyone who can name them without looking.

The obvious conclusion follows. Of all the major stakes that could have dropped off the map because of the closing of Hollywood Park at the end of the current meet, it’s pretty clear that the loss of a race like the Hollywood Futurity would leave the biggest hole.

An early pass at a renovated racing schedule for 2014 and beyond proposed that Del Mar extend its new fall meeting into early December to be able to present races corresponding to the CashCall Futurity and its sister race for fillies, the Starlet Stakes. However, when a three-week December meet at Los Alamitos was added to the mix, the traditional date for a CashCall-like futurity landed smack in the middle. Brad McKinzie, a consultant for the Los Alamitos transition to the Thoroughbred rotation, was asked if there were plans to present a rich futurity this time next year.

“A futurity?” McKinzie shot back. “Heck, we’ve got a two-million dollar Quarter Horse Futurity this weekend.”

At this point it must be recommended that if the Thoroughbred racing community of California is going to get along with its new digs at Los Alamitos, where Quarter Horse values run deep, they’d better get used to McKinzie’s slightly twisted sense of humor. McKinzie was referring, of course, to the $2 million Los Alamitos Futurity for the fastest young Quarter Horses in the nation, to be run Sunday night.

Of more concern, is the fact that it was only last Monday that the Cypress City Council approved the track’s plans to expand its dirt racing surface from five-eighths of a mile to the one-mile circumference Thoroughbred horsemen prefer. Hollywood Park will close its stable area for training come the end of January, and Los Alamitos needs to be online with its 500 Thoroughbred stalls and a road-tested racing surface by then, or there will be animals wandering the streets of Inglewood. Dennis Moore, the Hollywood Park track superintendent who has taken the same post with Santa Anita, is ramrodding the Los Alamitos project as well.

“By Tuesday morning at 8 o’clock we were clearing land,” McKinzie said. “You remember that scene from ‘Patton’ where he was pushing his tanks across France? That’s what it’s looking like out here with scrapers and bulldozers and every other kind of road-building vehicle. We’re rolling.”

On Saturday afternoon, the $750,000 CashCall Futurity will be run for the last time, with Del Mar Futurity winner Tamarando, Hollywood Prevue winner Shared Belief, and Reddam’s FrontRunner Stakes winner Bond Holder topping the field. McKinzie wanted to assure all concerned that it will not be the last Futurity.

“We plan on keeping both the CashCall and the Starlet in some sort of fashion, with the appropriate Grade 1 purse levels,” McKinzie said. “We’ve talked to Paul Reddam, and he has expressed interest in continuing his sponsorship of the CashCall.”

This is good news, because the impact of the Futurity was not derived from where it took place, but when. One stage is being torn down as another is being built, and the show will go on.

In the meantime, if Thoroughbred race fans want to get a taste of what it’s like to go racing at Los Alamitos, this might be the weekend to give it a try. In addition to Sunday’s $2 million Futurity, the $750,000 Champion of Champions – a Quarter Horse version of the Breeders’ Cup Classic – will be run on Saturday night. Cowboy hats preferred, but not required.