12/11/2016 10:47AM

Watchmaker: Not quite ready to pile on the Mastery bandwagon

Benoit & Associates
Mastery, with Saturday's CashCall Futurity win, is now 3 for 3 in his career.

It’s easy to see why some have already fallen for Mastery. He just won the Grade 1 Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity on Saturday by more than seven lengths in his first start around two turns to make it 3 for 3 in his young career. He’s by Candy Ride, which makes you think he will only appreciate added distance. And he’s trained by Bob Baffert, who knows a thing or two about winning big races.

Mastery is clearly very talented. And I’ll take talent over just about anything else. That said, I’m moving a little slower in my relationship with Mastery than others apparently are. I prefer the wait-and-see approach with horses like Mastery, who build big reputations and big wins on the backs of very, very easy trips.

As noted in this space at the time, Mastery absolutely walked on the early lead as the 1-5 favorite in last month’s Bob Hope Stakes. The one aspect to Mastery’s Bob Hope that stood up to scrutiny was that he finished very strongly, which augured well for the stretch-out to two turns he negotiated with such aplomb Saturday. But that did not completely compensate for the fact that Mastery was in a common gallop for the first six furlongs of the seven-furlong Bob Hope.

Mastery got another sweet trip in the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity, again as the 1-5 favorite. To be fair, the interior fractions that Mastery prompted Saturday were considerably faster than the corresponding splits 2-year-old fillies posted in the Starlet Stakes two races later. However, Mastery's first quarter was notably slower than the Starlet’s opening quarter. And though Mastery looked strong visually drawing off late, his final time of 1:41.56 was only .69 seconds faster than the final time of the Starlet. The Starlet, a race for this year’s much-maligned juvenile filly division, did not appear to be unusually strongly run.

Let’s also not forget that Mastery had to work in upper stretch to dispose of a challenge from runner-up Irap, a maiden who was running on dirt for the first time after earning Beyer Figures of 58 and 59 in his first two career starts.

Look, Mastery has done everything asked of him so far, and has done it with some style. And there is something to be said for having a promising colt begin his career in easy races the way Mastery has, where he can gain confidence and his sea legs before his feet are held to the fire. I just want to see what Mastery does when everything doesn’t go his way against legitimate opposition. I wouldn’t be surprised if Mastery were able to handle both. But I want to see it.

One thing for sure, nothing Mastery did Saturday will cause his future book Kentucky Derby odds to go up. According to the latest future book Kentucky Derby odds issued by the smart people at the Race and Sports Book at Wynn Las Vegas, Mastery was the 12-1 third choice for the Derby before his victory in the Los Alamitos CashCall Futurity.

Not surprisingly, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and Breeders’ Futurity winner Classic Empire is currently the 7-1 favorite for the Derby, followed at 10-1 by McCraken, visually impressive winner of the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes. McCraken, like Mastery, is also 3 for 3. He also won the Street Sense Stakes, and, notably, all three of his wins came at Churchill Downs.

Wynn had 11 horses listed at 40-1 or less in their latest Derby future book odds update, and I’ll list the other eight below. So if you’re interested in someone else, just know their odds are AT LEAST 50-1. Also, keep in mind that the Wynn odds are based on wagers they have received, and represent a balance meant to entice action while minimizing their exposure risk.

Mo Town, going-away winner of the Remsen, was the fourth choice, pegged at 18-1, followed at 25-1 by Practical Joke, winner of the Champagne and Hopeful, but a distant third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

There are four horses listed at 30-1 by Wynn: Gunnevera, winner of the Delta Downs Jackpot; Lookin At Lee, runner-up in the Breeders’ Futurity and Iroquois before finishing fourth in the BC Juvenile; No Dozing, second in the Remsen; and Wild Shot, second in the Kentucky Jockey Club and third in the Breeders’ Futurity.

Finally, there were two listed at 40-1: Beach Bum, another Baffert trainee who aired in his debut at Santa Anita the day after the Breeders’ Cup; and Theory, winner of his first two career starts, including the Futurity, before finishing a tired 10th in the BC Juvenile.