Futurity barely blip on Derby road


The $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Betfair Hollywood Park on Saturday is the year's last major 2-year-old stakes. It is the beginning for most of the 11 starters on the road to the 2013 Kentucky Derby.

Its importance is defined by this: The meager 10 Derby points awarded to the Futurity winner is the same as Shanghai Bobby received for winning the Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

The Futurity is a race worth winning for the rich purse money alone. But what it means to earning a berth in the 20-horse field for the Kentucky Derby is almost negligible. The heavy lifting begins in the spring when 50- and 100-point races will be run.

Meanwhile, trainer Bob Baffert has four colts entered in the Futurity: Den's Legacy, Carving, Really Mr Greely and Title Contender. None of these likely compare with Baffert's top juvenile, Flashback, who easily won his debut race Saturday with Julien Leparoux up.

What Baffert is doing here is a good example of how the new Kentucky Derby point system might affect how trainers get to Churchill Downs for the first Saturday in May.

The 2-year-old stakes offer little in the way of points, though the experience gained still is invaluable. Baffert can afford to be patient with a top colt such as Flashback. If he can win one 100-point race with this colt, like the Arkansas Derby or Santa Anita Derby, he'll make the Derby field.

As for the Futurity, I'm intrigued by Violence, a New York shipper from trainer Todd Pletcher. Violence won the Nashua at Aqueduct last time while running as green as grass. This is a colt with a high ceiling.

■ BLACKER, HOOVER JOIN HRTV - The announcement that Christina Olivares Blacker and Kurt Hoover are joining the HRTV team of on-air talent might be agate news to most racing fans. I think it speaks a lot louder than that.

Blacker arguably was the most respected reporter on TVG. I know that whenever sports host Jim Rome wanted a racing perspective on his radio show, he would interview Blacker.

Hoover is like the baseball player who hits .300 every season. Hard working and dependable with an honest, insightful opinion.

This might cement which way TVG and HRTV are going. HRTV always has been more serious about racing. You won't see an on-air "yuk-fest" anytime soon.

TVG typically has been more adventurous, willing to push the envelope to make horse racing more appealing to newcomers. The new talent on TVG is younger and, I suppose, hipper to the audience.

Regardless, the sport is much better off with these two horse racing networks in play.

■ COAST CASINO QUALIFIER - The second of four Coast Casino live-money qualifiers for the 2013 Horseplayer World Series is today. You can play at the Gold Coast, Orleans, Sam's Town or Suncoast.

Richard Eng's horse racing column is published Friday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He can be reached at rich_eng@hotmail.com. Follow him on Twitter: @richeng4propick.

 

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