Friday, December 9, 2016

Handicapper's Corner: Los Alamitos Futurity (G1)

Mastery to Show Skills in Los Alamitos Futurity  

By: Reinier Macatangay  

Two-year-old races are difficult to analyze because young horses evolve rapidly. While it might surprise handicappers to see an older, more established horse with a consistent pattern suddenly gain or drop 20 points on any speed figure scale, a younger colt barely starting his career is more liable to change unexpectedly.

This fact makes the $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) on Saturday difficult to handicap, as two of the five entrants are making their second start, one is making his third start and another debuts on dirt after failed grass attempts.

Of course, most eyes will focus on Mastery, a 2-year-old colt from the loaded Bob Baffert barn.

Owned by Cheyenne Stable, Mastery sports a perfect 2 for 2 record so far, with his second win coming in the seven-furlong Bob Hope Stakes (GIII) at Del Mar. From a visual standpoint, Mastery looked perfect as well. Jockey Mike Smith guided him to an easy victory over the more accomplished California Diamond.

Pace matters and Mastery initially slipped away with opening fractions of 23 1/5 and 47 flat to open the Bob Hope. For a sprint race, those are sluggish numbers and he converted the soft half into the victory people are praising.

Before the Bob Hope, the promising colt also broke his maiden by over four lengths. This particular maiden race had a nice gap between runner-up Sheer Flattery and the third-place finisher, which signals a fast race. Sheer Flattery failed to hit the board in his return race, but perhaps an awkward start hampered his performance.

Regardless, Mastery offers a lot of promise and deserves the role as favorite. He is not a lock, although many will single him to open the Pick 4. Bettors need to decide whether swallowing 3-2 odds on this horse is worth it.

Remember, not every horse race has a bettable angle and no one scores extra analysis points for thinking Mastery will win, because the majority of handicappers and casual fans believe he is a nice runner already.

To the left of Mastery, Bobby Abu Dhabi tries for his second win in as many starts for trainer Peter Miller and Rockingham Ranch. Auction money does not always equal talent, but they sure paid a lot for him at $335,000.

Bobby Abu Dhabi’s final winning margin in his career debut was “only” a head. From watching the replay, it appeared more impressive than on paper. Norberto Arroyo Jr. knew he had the race wrapped after the far turn.

Unfortunately, Bobby Abu Dhabi faces a tough pace scenario in this spot because Mastery receives blinkers for this race and will hound him if he attempts to steal the contest up front. Even so, he is not without a small chance.

In the fourth post, Mastery’s stablemate Show Me Da Lute also offers bettors a reasonable chance, although his maiden win required extra effort from Martin Garcia, who had to use the whip late in order to encourage his mount.

Still, Show Me Da Lute, a son of stakes-filly Tough Tiz’s Sis, could improve given the connections and pedigree.

On the outside, Irap makes his dirt debut after two unsuccessful tries on turf. Handicappers will dismiss him, but there are a few positive points about Irap at 20-1 to consider.

For one, Irap’s dam Silken Cat won her first three races, all on dirt (back when Woodbine had dirt). In addition, Tiznow progeny are notorious for developing at a slower pace than horses from other sires. Plus, the auction price on Irap reads $300,000 at “OBSMAR 2016,” which means Reddam Racing saw something nice in this colt not too long ago. It is too early to dismiss Irap as an overpriced disappointment.

Mastery will capture the attention of most bettors while routing for the first time and facing a worthy pace foe in Bobby Abu Dhabi. He may well prove several lengths better, but it will not hurt to include other horses. 

Handigambling ($100):

This is a “non-betting situation.” If someone forced me to play and gave $100 though...

$40 Trifecta Wheel ($80 total)
Mastery / Bobby Abu Dhabi, Show Me Da Lute / Irap
(Irap keyed underneath in third)

$20 Exacta
Mastery / Irap

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