A suggestion made by owner J. Paul Reddam paid big dividends Saturday at Los Alamitos.
Rather than run in the $100,000 King Glorious Stakes Sunday, an ungraded event restricted to 2-year-olds bred or sired in California, Reddam wanted to try the Grade II, $300,000 Los Alamitos Futurity with his homebred Slow Down Andy.
Making his first start against open company and first beyond seven furlongs, the son of 2016 Kentucky Derby winner Nyquist was up to the challenge, upsetting heavily-favored Messier under jockey Mario Gutierrez.
Reserved off the pace set by longshot Olympic Legend and stablemate Durante, Slow Down Andy, who is trained by Doug O’Neill, took over the lead early in the stretch, surrendered it to Messier, the 1-2 choice, when he lugged in, but regained his momentum and went on to win by one length. He completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.33.
Out of the Square Eddie mare Edwina E, Slow Down Andy ended Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert’s stranglehold on the Futurity. Baffert had won all seven of renewals at Los Alamitos since daytime thoroughbred racing returned in 2014.
The 5-1 third choice in the field of five, Slow Down Andy returned $12.40 and $3.40. There was no show wagering. Messier, who had won his two previous races by a combined 10 lengths, paid $2.10 while finishing nine lengths clear of stablemate Barossa. Durante and Olympic Legend completed the order of finish.
The victory was worth $180,000 and increased Slow Down Andy’s earnings to $249,850. He graduated first time out at 5 ½ furlongs Oct. 9 at Santa Anita before finishing second as the favorite in the Golden State Juvenile last month at Del Mar.
“He’s showed us from the beginning he’s a nice horse,’’ said Reddam. “I suggested we run in here. I think everybody thought I was nuts, but they didn’t have the nerve to say so.’’
O’Neill, who missed winning the 2020 Futurity by a nose with 33-1 shot The Great One, admitted he would have chosen the King Glorious for Slow Down Andy’s third career start rather than the Futurity.
“One hundred percent that’s what I would have done,’’ he said. “This was strictly Paul wanting to take a chance and having faith in Slow Down Andy and thank God he did.
“We figured (Durante, who finished fourth) would show speed and being in post five with Slow Down Andy we hoped (Gutierrez) would get good position and ride his race.
“Down the stretch it looked like we had it, then we didn’t and then we did, so it was very exciting.
“He doesn’t really remind me of Nyquist. This horse has a lot of different gears and Nyquist was just a beast, so precocious. This horse is pretty calm and more mentally versatile at this stage than Nyquist ever was.’’
Although Baffert failed to win the Futurity for the first time since fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer took the final running at Hollywood Park with Shared Belief in 2013, he did win three races Saturday at Los Alamitos. He took the fifth with Under the Stars, the seventh with Essential Wager and the eighth with first time starter Doppelganger.
Entering the final day of the Winter meet, Baffert tops the standings with five wins. Kyle Frey leads the riders with six, one more than Flavien Prat, who was aboard all of Baffert’s winners Saturday, Abel Cedillo, Diego Herrera, Tyler Baze and Ricardo Ramirez.
Trainer Art Sherman saddled the last runner of his illustrious training career on Friday at Los Alamitos in Cypress, Calif. Unfortunately, he didn’t add to his 2,261 career wins as Chasing Alchemy, a 9-1 shot in the $50,000 maiden claimer for 2-year-olds, finished seventh under jockey Wayne Barnett.
Sherman, 84, was honored in a winner’s circle ceremony after the race. Best known for training two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome (2014, 2016), Sherman finished with more than $45 million in stable earnings. His first starter was Lady Lenda, who finished fourth in the seventh race at Golden Gate Fields April 4, 1979. Sherman’s first victory came later that year when Chase Me Round won a $8,500 allowance Sept. 25 at Bay Meadows.
Chasing Alchemy is a 2-year-old gelded son of California Chrome.
“I appreciate all (Los Alamitos president and chairman of the board) Doc (Edward) Allred has done for me,’’ said Sherman, who stabled California Chrome locally for most of his career after the closure of Hollywood Park in 2013. “We’ve been good friends for a lot of years. We’ve had a wonderful time. I love the people in Orange County. They’ve always been close to my heart and I’m going to miss them.
“I got lucky enough to win a Kentucky Derby which is every trainer’s dream and winning the (2016) Pacific Classic (at Del Mar) meant a whole lot to me. California Chrome was a once in a lifetime horse.’’