When Silver Charm won the Del Mar Futurity for trainer Bob Baffert in 1996, it started a trend that shows no sign of abating. Twenty-six horses have won the race — now the Runhappy Del Mar Futurity — from Silver Charm to Pinehurst this year, and Baffert has trained 15 of them.
Pinehurst became the latest Baffert Futurity hero as one of two good maiden winners in the field that Baffert trains for a large partnership headed by SF Racing, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables. Murray turned in the more impressive initial win, 10 3/4 lengths vs. Pinehurst’s “mere” half-length triumph, though that came after Pinehurst stumbled at the start. Bettors rewarded Murray with 3-5 favoritism, making Pinehurst the second choice at 4-1.
Baffert’s reputation in the Futurity kept Pappacap from the favorite’s role, despite the fact that the Mark Casse trainee had twice the experience and a graded stakes win in the Grade 2 Best Pal Stakes on the Del Mar main track. Pappacap drew the rail, however, and he never could get out for a clear path.
When the gate opened, American Xperiment, a shipper from the red-hot Steve Asmussen stable, broke on top, with Pinehurst quickly surging to the front to overtake him. Jockey Mike Smith had Pinehurst traveling easier than his fractions of :22.09 for the first quarter-mile and :44.77 for a half-mile would indicate.
Murray also broke well and soon raced in second, the Baffert runners ahead of American Xperiment and the other three entrants. American Xperiment made a bid outside of Pinehurst on the turn, while longshot Finneus, who was bumped at the start, raced even wider as he closed ground from last early.
Not one horse could get within spitting distance of Pinehurst, though. The colt floated along on the lead, widening his advantage and scoring by an easy 4 1/2 lengths in 1:23.55 for the seven furlongs on a track rated fast. Finneus ran on well for second with American Xperiment third.
“When we ran last time, he stumbled pretty badly coming out of there, but he still made the lead,” Smith said. “So, I knew he was plenty quick. When you ride for Bob, you ride with confidence. He puts so much foundation under them, and they all come running.”
Baffert not only has 15 Futurity wins, he has run second three other times, including last year when Spielberg finished second to Dr. Schivel. SF, Starlight, and Madaket also owned Spielberg, along with Golconda Stables, Siena Farm, and Robert Masterson. All of those owners are part of Pinehurst’s ownership group, along with Stonestreet Stables, Jay Schoenfarber, Waves Edge Capital, and Catherine Donovan.
“I’ve been blessed over the years with so many good owners and so many good young horses,” said Baffert.
Pinehurst is the first stakes winner produced by Giant Win. The 10-year-old mare hails from the family of Grade 1 winner Harmony Lodge and graded stakes winners Graeme Hall, First Passage, Berned, and Win McCool.