INGLEWOOD, Calif. (December 17, 2011)—Five weeks removed from a half-length victory in his stakes debut in the Real Quiet, Liaison became a Grade I winner, defeating Rousing Sermon and 11 other 2-year-olds in the $750,000 CashCall Futurity Saturday at Hollywood Park.
In the process, the son of Indian Charlie, who was euthanized Thursday in Kentucky at age 16 after battling cancer, and the Victory Gallop mare Galloping Gal became the second consecutive Real Quiet winner to repeat in the Futurity. Comma to the Top completed the parlay en route to Horse of the Meet honors in 2010.
Owned by Arnold Zetcher and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Liaison, who won by a neck, gave Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert a record sixth Futurity win.
Before Saturday, Baffert’s victories included Real Quiet (1997), Captain Steve (1999), Point Given (2000), Pioneerof the Nile (2008) and Lookin At Lucky (2009).
Saving ground while racing just behind the pacesetters – Handsome Mike and the Baffert-trained Drill with 3-1 favorite Majestic City poised to their outside – Liaison angled outside for room entering the stretch, gained the advantage with less than a furlong to run and held off the surge of the California bred runner-up. Rousing Sermon also finished second in the Real Quiet Nov. 12.
The final time of 1:42.88 for the 1 1/16 miles over Cushion Track was the fastest since Pioneerof the Nile (1:41.95). The 5-1 second choice, Liaison paid $12.20, $7.20 and $4.80. The margin of victory equalled the smallest in race history, matching Roving Boy (1982), Temperate Sil (1986), A.P. Indy (1991) and Stormello (2006).
Rousing Sermon, a 13-1 shot whose lone stakes win came in the California Cup Juvenile Oct. 29 at Santa Anita, returned $12.40 and $6.40.
If the son of Lucky Pulpit had been successful Saturday, Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer would have become the first trainer to win both the Futurity and the Hollywood Starlet in the same year. The Hollendorfer-trained Killer Graces, a 14-1 shot, captured the Starlet Dec. 10.
Brother Francis, a maiden making his first start beycond seven furlongs, paid $8 to show. The son of Lion Heart made a menacing move at the winner, but couldn’t sustain his rally. He wound up 1 ½ lengths behind Rousing Sermon and a half-length in front of the Baffert-trained Sky Kingdom.
Victor Espinoza, Brother Francis’ rider, lost his whip inside the eighth pole.
A $290,000 purchase at the Keeneland September sale in 2010, Liaison has won three of four. The $375,000 payday pushed his bankroll to $469,560.
Empire Way was fifth, followed by Blingo, Handsome Mike, Cozzetti, Drill, Majestic City, who lost for the first time in four starts at Hollywood Park, Basmati, Desormais and Groovin’ Solo.
The longest shot in the field at nearly 88-1, Groovin’ Solo was pulled up by jockey Alonso Quinonez. The rider’s right rein broke at the mile pole.
The latest Futurity victory had extra meaning for Baffert. He trained Indian Charlie, who won four of five races in his brief career, including the 1998 Santa Anita Derby.
“We’ve had emotions all week about Indian Charlie,’’ said Baffert. “He was such a good horse and he didn’t get going as a sire until the very end.
“Winning this race is very important. It’s the last chance to run at a big pot other than the Breeders’ Cup. This race is very pivotal for future stars. It’s where they start separating themselves. I’m glad I was on the front end of the separation.’’
Bejarano is looking forward to more successes with Liaison.
“He’s just going to improve off this race,’’ he said. “I’m really happy with this horse. (Baffert) has done an awesome job with him.
“He broke so well, but I knew there were a few speed horses in there, so I just put him right in behind them. I was just waiting and waiting and when I found the right opportunity, I swung him out in the stretch and he showed a big kick.’’
Thanks largely to an 85-1 shocker by Bud I Crushed It in the first leg of the Pick 6, there will be a carryover of $93,036 Sunday, which wraps the 26-day Autumn meet.
Since it is closing day, there will be a mandatory payout. The Pick 6 commences in the fifth race. Post time is 12:30 p.m. and approximate post time for the beginning of the Pick 6 is 2:33 p.m. PST.
Trainer Mike Mitchell doubled Saturday, enabling him to clinch the training title.
Mitchell, who won the sixth with McKenzies Way and the eighth with Bluegrass Reward, has 18 victories, three more than Baffert and Doug O’Neill. Both Baffert and O’Neill have only one scheduled starter Sunday.
The title is the 19th of Mitchell’s career and his seventh at Hollywood Park. It was his third Autumn championship, but first since 1996.
The feature attraction Sunday is the $80,000 On Trust Handicap.
Restricted to California breds, the On Trust will be run at 7 ½ furlongs over Cushion Track. Mensa Heat, a four time winner since he was claimed for $25,000 April 15 by trainer Ted H. West for owner Peter Redekop BC Ltd., is the 122-pound highweight and will have six opponents.The On Trust is the ninth race. Scheduled post time is 4:37 p.m. PST.
As part of the closing day festivities, there will be drawings between races for gift cards and various other prizes.
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