12/10/2016 7:00PM

Mastery shows he can handle two turns in Futurity

Benoit & Associates
Mike Smith rides Mastery to an easy victory in the CashCall Futurity on Saturday.

CYPRESS, Calif. - Mastery won the $300,000 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity by 7 1/4 lengths Saturday in his first start around two turns.

His status among prospects for the 2017 Triple Crown is equally significant.

Mastery is unbeaten after three starts. Ridden by Mike Smith, Mastery ($2.40) disputed the early pace and pulled away in the final furlong, finishing 1 1/16 miles in a quick 1:41.56.

“It looked like he handled it pretty well,” trainer Bob Baffert said. “I was impressed with the way he kicked on.”

The margin was the widest in the 36-year history of the Grade 1 race, surpassing the seven-length margin by Matty G at Hollywood Park in 1995.

The win gave Baffert a record ninth win in the race – six at Hollywood Park, which closed in 2013, when the race was known as the Hollywood Futurity or CashCall Futurity – and all three runnings since the race was renamed and transferred to Los Alamitos in 2014.

Mastery was a massive favorite against four rivals, his reputation established with convincing wins in a maiden race at Santa Anita on Oct. 22 and the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes at seven furlongs at Del Mar on Nov. 19.

After a clean start, Smith had Mastery in second for the first six furlongs, closely tracking pacesetter Bobby Abu Dhabi, a 7-1 shot who set early fractions of 23.37 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45.65 for a half-mile. Mastery raced outside of Bobby Abu Dhabi and took the lead with less than three furlongs to go. Smith urged Mastery early in the stretch and got a quick response, but only after the colt appeared to pause for a few strides.

“He started looking around a little when he made the front in the stretch, but after I gave him a reminder he rebroke and was strong,” Smith said.

Baffert noticed that Mastery appeared to wait on his rivals in early stretch before pulling clear.

“He looked like he hit a little lull,” Baffert said.

Mastery was fitted with blinkers for the Los Alamitos Futurity. He wore them in his maiden race win, but not in the Bob Hope Stakes.

Baffert did not state any race plans for Mastery in early 2017. The colt, by Candy Ride, races for Everett Dobson’s Cheyenne Stables. Mastery was purchased for $425,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September Yearling Sale.

Irap, a maiden who was the 23-1 longest shot in the field, closed from fourth to finish second, 5 3/4 lengths in front of 11-1 Dangerfield. Bobby Abu Dhabi faded to finish fourth, followed by the Baffert-trained Show Me Da Lute.

Doug O’Neill trains Irap and Dangerfield. He said Irap’s performance was a surprise. Irap, by Tiznow, was third and fourth in his first two races.

“We’re happy,” O’Neill said. “We need to digest that. We thought we were helping to fill a Grade 1 in our backyard. He’s got the pedigree and he exceeded our expectations.”

Dangerfield, by Into Mischief, won the minor Oak Tree Juvenile Stakes at Pleasanton on Oct. 1 in his fourth start and was third in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot Stakes, a $1 million race in Louisiana on Nov. 18. Drayden Van Dyke rode Dangerfield for the first time in the Los Alamitos Futurity, and told O’Neill the race was a learning experience.

“Drayden said if he could do it all over again he wouldn’t have left him with so much to do,” O’Neill said. “He kept coming.”

O’Neill suggested Dangerfield could appear in a Triple Crown prep race throughout the nation in 2017.

“He’s mentally sound and physically sound,” O’Neill said. “He’s shown he can ship.”