12/16/2014 2:31PM

Taking a gamble on Pioneerof the West

Churchill Downs/Reed Palmer Photography
Dortmund (above) will put his 2-for-2 record on the line against Mr. Z and Pioneerof the West in Saturday's Los Alamitos Futurity.

CYPRESS, Calif. – Owner John Oxley paid a $20,000 supplemental entry fee to give Pioneerof the West a spot in the gate for Saturday’s $500,000 Los Alamitos Futurity. While the fee represents a gamble for Oxley and trainer Mark Casse, the race will provide an indication of where the colt stands in the division.

Pioneerof the West beat maidens over a mile in his last start, the fourth of his career, at Del Mar on Nov. 20. Casse saw enough from the performance and subsequent workouts to run Pioneerof the West in the Grade 1 Los Alamitos Futurity, run over 1 1/16 miles.

Pioneerof the West will not have many rivals. As of Tuesday, the race had five or six probable starters, led by the unbeaten Dortmund and Mr. Z, who was second in the Delta Downs Jackpot Stakes on Nov. 22. Other candidates are Bench Warrant, Firing Line, and possibly No Problem.

:: LOS ALAMITOS FUTURITY: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live

The small field is one reason why Casse is planning to run Pioneerof the West.

“With that size of a field, we’ll give it a chance,” Casse said Tuesday. “I don’t want to go if it’s going to be a huge field.”

Dortmund, a winner of his two starts, will be favored in his stakes debut. Mr. Z, trained by D. Wayne Lukas, has placed in four stakes this year.

Casse knows Pioneerof the West must improve to beat those two.

“We’ll find out if he’s good enough,” Casse said. “It’s hard to say if we’re in that caliber or not. It will be a big test.”

There are three notable absences from the field: American Pharoah, who won the FrontRunner Stakes at Santa Anita in September; Ocho Ocho Ocho, the winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot; and Texas Red, who won the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. All are based at Santa Anita and are being prepared for races next year.