The Brock Talk

Monday, December 12, 2011

CashCall Stars Can Emerge From Long Shadows Cast by Breeders' Cup Juvenile

Our last look into the 2011 chrystal ball that is next year’s road to the Kentucky Derby presented by Yum! Brands presents itself Saturday in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park. Run in the shadow of the Grey Goose Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, the CashCall Futurity has neither the $1 million purse nor history of producing divisional champions like the more prestigious Juvenile, but they are both grade 1 and their winners have donned an equal number of rose blankets – one each. Street Sense is the only horse to win both Juvenile (2006) and Kentucky Derby (’07) while Real Quiet won the 1997 CashCall and the Derby the following year.

Both races are also run at distance of 1-1/16 miles.

Championship voters don’t seem to emphasized the similarities between the two races however, and have given the Juvenile significantly more weight in determining their selections. For disclosure, I agree the Juvenile should have greater importance than other grade 1 races in determining the year-end champion. If the industry is going to call the Breeders’ Cup a World Championship, they (we) need to treat it like one. The Eclipse Award voters have that well since the Breedeer Cup first ran some 27 years ago.

Since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile was first won by Chief’s Crown in 1984, 20 winners have been named Champion Two-Year-Old Colt or Gelding for that year. Since Roving Boy won the CashCall (then Hollywood Futurity) in 1982 and the corresponding divisional championship, only CashCall winners Declan’s Moon and Looking at Lucky have been honored with Eclipse Awards. The four others named divisional champions during that 27-year span without winning either the CashCall nor the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile were Forty Niner (1987), Easy Goer (1988), Dehere (1993) and Maria’s Mon (1995). All four were named 2-year-old male champions after winning their respective Champagne Stakes in New York but losing or not running in the Juvenile.

Forty Niner, Maria Mon’s and Declan’s Moon were champions that did not start in the Breeders’ Cup while Looking at Lucky, Dehere and Easy Goer won the divisional honor after losing in the Breeders’ Cup. Looking at Lucky and Easy Goer were second to long shot Vale of York and Is It True in 1988 and 2009 Juveniles respectively. Dehere was eighth as the odds-on favorite in the 1987 Juvenile won by Success Express before winning his 2-year-old male championship.

What makes the CashCall of more interest is the annual participation and sometimes domination by three-time Derby winning trainer and Hall of Famer Bob Baffert. Baffert has won two of the last three CashCall Futurities and a record five total. Known as the other silver-haired fox from
Arizona (former University of Arizona basketball coach Lute Olsen being the first white-haired legend from the Grand Canyon State), Baffert has won the CashCall with Real Quiet, Captain Steve (1999), Point Given (2000) (photo left), Poineerof the Nile (‘08) and Looking at Lucky.

Also adding to the uniqueness of the CashCall is the artificial Cushion Track material that makes up the main track at Hollywood Park. Last year, Comma to the Top made the CashCall his fifth-straight win, but all were on artificial main tracks or grass. In his first race on natural dirt, Comma to the Top came back to run second in the Santa Anita Derby and then last in the Kentucky Derby, also on dirt. Looking at Lucky would eventually win the Preakness and then repeat as the division champion and show he could run on natural dir and Pioneerof the Nile was second on natural dirt in the Kentucky Derby.

Now, Santa Anita will have their natural dirt for the second time for their winter prep races leading up to the Derby, so any natural dirt-challenged winner of the CashCall will now likely be exposed sooner or prepare the Kentucky Derby over the PolyTrack surfaces at Turfway Park and/ or Keeneland. (see 2010 Derby winner Animal Kingdom.) Any plans to take the Southern California, New York, Arkansas, Florida or Louisiana roads to Kentucky, mean running on natural dirt.

According to Daily Racing Form’s Steve Andersen, Baffert will again be loaded for the CashCall with three 2-year-olds set for the 1-1/16-mile race. Del Mar Futurity winner Drill will try to return to the winners’ circle after graded stakes loses in the Norfolk, Juvenile and Delta Jackpot. Maiden winner Sky Kingdom and Real Quiet Stakes winner Liason will also be saddled by Baffert in this CashCall Futurity.

Not sure other CashCall contenders Basmati and Longview Drive, the place and show horses in the Delta Jackpot in their last start, don’t appear to have enough credentials for the championship, even with a big performance in the CashCall.

No matter, the CashCall winner is sure to move up near the top of many Kentucky Derby 2012 lists of contenders. Winter Future Books will be adjusted and for some, rosy dreams will begin to bloom for others. Regardless of who gets honored with the 2-year-old male title, it will be the Derby that holds all the glamour and history and the CashCall Futurity is more than a month closer than its Breeders’ Cup brother-race. The CashCall Futurity now crawls from beneath the long shadow cast by the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and at least one shining star will emerge and walk into the Hollywood Park winners’ circle Saturday.

Then on to the road that may lead to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.

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