Pioneerof the Nile had trainer Bob Baffert thinking Kentucky Derby after he scored a thrilling victory over I Want Revenge in Saturday's $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park.
Baffert, who has saddled three Derby winners, equaled the record of four Futurity victories set by D. Wayne Lukas as Pioneerof the Nile fought off gritty 6-1 shot I Want Revenge in deep stretch to win the Grade I event by a nose under jockey Garrett Gomez.
The Futurity has been a launching pad for six Kentucky Derby winners since being inaugurated in 1981, which is no secret to Baffert. He sent out Real Quiet to win the 1997 Futurity en route to Kentucky Derby and Preakness wins in 1998.
Pioneerof the Nile covered 11⁄16 miles in 1:41.95 to earn his second win in five starts.
I Want Revenge finished 1½ lengths clear of Chocolate Candy in third, while Bittel Road was two lengths farther back in fourth.
Second-choice Azul Leon finished fifth in the field of 11 2-year-olds, followed by Axel Foley, Mark S the Cooler, Hype, Frumious, J P Jammer and Ventana.
The victory was special because Baffert had the best 2-year-old in the nation in Midshipman, who was sold prior to the Breeders' Cup and sent to Dubai by Darley Stable after winning the Juvenile. Now Baffert has another serious juvenile.
"He's totally different than all my other Futurity winners," said Baffert, who also won the race with Captain Steve in 1999 and Point Given in 2000. "Of all of them he probably reminds me a little bit of Real Quiet. He's a nice horse, he's improving and he's well-bred. The last couple times I worked him he seemed like a pretty serious horse, so I told my wife that this could be the horse to get us back to the Derby."
'Macho,' Turf War fall short
Jimmy Simms made a stretch rally for a 31/4-length win in the $60,000 Woodchopper States for 3-year-olds Saturday at Fair Grounds.
Jimmy Simms defeated a field that included graded stakes winners Macho Again and Turf War.
Jimmy Simms increased his career earnings to $103,085 with his third win in seven starts and covered about one mile in 1:39.21 over the firm grass footing.
Evade finished second and Acting Zippy was third.
Macho Again, the second-place finisher in the Preakness, finished a well-beaten sixth as the betting favorite in his turf debut.
"I thought he handled the turf," jockey Kent Desormeaux said. "I had to make him want to race. He just wanted to go out for a gallop. The next race, we need to man up."
Turf War, who won the $1 million Delta Jackpot last year before three disappointing starts in the Kentucky Derby prep season, finished seventh. The Woodchopper was Turf War's first race since finishing eighth in the Derby Trial at Churchill Downs on April 26.
Turfway canceled Sunday
With expected strong winds and frigid temperatures forcing cancellation of Sunday's card, racing will resume at Turfway Park on Friday, Dec. 26. Post time Dec. 26-31, including Monday and Tuesday, is 1:10 p.m.