February 28, 2024

Cave Rock blitzes to stakes record in Del Mar Futurity

Cave Rock blazes home in the Del Mar Futurity (Photo © Benoit Photo)

Cave Rock conquered Sunday’s $302,000 Del Mar Futurity (G1) in stakes-record time, completing the second half of a juvenile Grade 1 double for late sire Arrogate. On Saturday, Arrogate’s daughter And Tell Me Nolies captured the Del Mar Debutante (G1). One race earlier on Sunday’s closing day card, Packs a Wahlop did just that in the $104,500 Del Mar Juvenile Turf (G3).

Del Mar Futurity (G1)

Judging by his six-length debut romp here on Aug. 13, Cave Rock was the leader of trainer Bob Baffert’s trio in the Del Mar Futurity. Fellow debut winner Newgate had looked sharp, but not as gaudy. Their accomplished stablemate, Best Pal (G3) scorer Havnameltdown, appeared more of a question mark over seven furlongs. And leading rider Juan Hernandez stuck with Cave Rock as well. Thus he was bet down to 2-5 favoritism, and ran accordingly.

Cave Rock had a slight hiccup at the start, where he wasn’t the fastest away and got bumped. Yet he recovered swiftly, and his natural speed carried him to the front through the opening quarter in :21.56. Havnameltdown had the pace to keep close as Cave Rock blazed through a half in :43.65, but not the stamina to hold his ground beyond midstretch.

After clocking six furlongs in a torrid 1:08.55, Cave Rock still had finishing power in the seventh and final furlong. The dark bay widened his margin to 5 1/4 lengths while crossing the wire in 1:20.99, eclipsing the old stakes mark of 1:21.29 set by champion Declan’s Moon (2004). Cave Rock was extending Baffert’s stranglehold on the Del Mar Futurity, as his 16th winner of the track’s signature event in the division.

“He’s a good horse; very professional,” Hernandez said. “And he’s fast. He broke a step slow, but then he got right in gear and made the running. I tried to slow him down some, but he wasn’t having it. So I just let him go on and do his thing. When we hit the quarter pole, I asked him and he changed leads and took off. He just wanted to go. He’s something.”

Havnameltdown remained a clear second to round out the exacta for the winning connections, longtime Baffert backers Mike Pegram, Karl Watson, and Paul Weitman.

Mike Smith, who rode Havnameltdown, tipped his cap to the winner.

“He’s a beast,” Smith said of Cave Rock. “I gave myself a chance to be with him, but he just took off.”

The John Shirreffs-trained Skinner rallied from last to overtake Newgate for third, preventing a Baffert trifecta. Skinner had finished with interest for fifth in Havnameltdown’s maiden, and the son of Curlin is worth watching on the stretch-out.

The Big Wam raced evenly in fifth at every call. Mixto, like Skinner a well-bred maiden, made some headway for sixth on the eight-day turnaround. On Sept. 3, Mixto closed for fourth to Baffert’s National Treasure in his debut, and promises to do better for Doug O’Neill. Classical Cat, who was near the pace early, tired to seventh. Next came Agency and the tailed-off Pop d’Oro.

Now 2-for-2, Cave Rock has earned $228,000. The son of 2011 Schuylerville (G3) victress Georgie’s Angel (by Bellamy Road) was bred by Anne and Ronnie Sheffer Racing in Kentucky. Initially sold for $210,000 as a Keeneland November weanling, Cave Rock went to his current owners for $550,000 as a September yearling.

Del Mar Juvenile Turf (G3)

Smith had better luck in the Del Mar Juvenile Turf with Red Baron’s Barn and Rancho Temescal’s Packs a Wahlop. The 8-1 chance prompted the steady pace and kicked away to a 4 1/4-length victory. Relishing the step up to a mile after breaking his maiden in an Aug. 5 turf sprint, he completed the circuit in 1:35.96 and paid $18.

Packs a Wahlop ended up spearheading a trifecta for trainer Jeff Mullins, but only after a lengthy stewards’ inquiry led to an amended result for the minor awards. While Don’tthinkjustdoit muscled his way through to a second-place finish at the wire, the stewards took note of the chain reaction affecting to varying degrees Wound Up, Valiancer, Dandy Man Shines, and De la Luna.

According to track announcer Trevor Denman, it was a majority decision by the stewards to disqualify Don’tthinkjustdoit, ruling that he hampered others from attaining a better placing. He was demoted to seventh.

The official order of finish therefore elevated the other Mullins runners, Valiancer and Dandy Man Shines, into second and third. Ah Jeez was placed fourth, De la Luna fifth, and Wound Up sixth. After the demoted Don’tthinkjustdoit came Mas Rapido, Syntactic, Stone Point, Tahoma, Park City, and Ti Sento. President Z, who began to lose contact with the field on the backstretch, was pulled up by the far turn and walked off.

Packs a Wahlop’s resume reads 3-2-0-0, $110,000. His only loss was a debut fourth in the slop at Gulfstream Park June 3, so he’s perfect on turf.

“Mike’s worked him every time,” Mullins said of his Hall of Fame rider, “and he’s had all the confidence in this horse. We all have. I was surprised he went off at 8-1.”

“Jeff and his crew did a great job getting this colt ready for this race,” Smith said. “They were actually only going to run the other one, and this horse was doing so good Jeff said we got to run them both.

“He’s (Pack a Wahlop) training unbelievable, and I came out and worked him every time, so I feel like I was a part of it. I didn’t think they were going to beat this colt, not today anyway. Nice comfortable pace and he had plenty left. ” 

Bred by Oak Ridge Farm in Kentucky, the $27,000 Keeneland September yearling commanded $270,000 at OBS in April. The gray is a son of Creative Cause and the multiple stakes-winning City Zip mare City by the Bay, who is also responsible for stakes scorer Sheltered Bay.