Uncle Chuck and his Bob Baffert stablemate, Thousand Words, headline a small, but eclectic field at Saturday’s Grade 3 $150,000 Los Alamitos Derby.

Thousand Words-Anneau d'Or-Los Al Derby
Thousand Words (right) outdueled Anneau d’Or in last fall’s Los Alamitos Futurity. The two slumping 3-year-olds will contend with each other and fast-rising Uncle Chuck in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Derby. (Image: Benoit Photo)

And, should one of the two Baffert charges win, they’ll not only bring in 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, but bring Baffert his fourth consecutive Los Alamitos Derby victory and 10th overall. He won the 2017 event with West Coast, went back-to-back with Once On Whiskey, then three-peated last year with Game Winner.

The 1 1/8-mile Los Alamitos Derby serves as the marquee event on that small track’s short Thoroughbred window and joined the Kentucky Derby Trail for the first time this year. It offers 20-8-4-2 qualifying points to the top four finishers.

This is rarefied air for Los Alamitos. By way of reference, the track normally runs quarter horses and is one of the top quarter horse tracks in the country. Since 2014, after Hollywood Park closed, Los Alamitos offered two Thoroughbred meets a year. This summer meet serves as a bridge between Santa Anita’s late June closure and Del Mar’s mid-July opening.

Los Alamitos Kept California Racing Going During Pandemic

The small track, located in Orange County, ran during the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring. Before then, it gained fame for being the home of 2014 Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes winner California Chrome, who was based there.

Any of the five horses entered would take Chrome’s career and run with it. The likeliest candidate is Uncle Chuck, who broke his maiden on June 12 at Santa Anita. Uncle Chuck, who earned a solid 95 Beyer Speed Figure for that seven-length victory, upgrades to stakes competition for his second career start. He does so as the Kentucky Derby futures favorite in this field at 16/1 on Circa Sports’ Kentucky Derby Futures board. He is 20/1 at Bet365.

And, Uncle Chuck does so with pinch-riding jockey Luis Saez in the irons. Mike Smith rode Uncle Chuck in his maiden victory, but Baffert dispatched him to New York to ride McKinzie in Saturday’s Met Mile at Belmont Park.

Does Thousand Words Have Anything to Say Here?

“The Other Baffert” is Thousand Words, last seen finishing a miserable 11th as the 5/2 favorite in April’s Oaklawn Stakes. Prior to that, he finished a well-beaten fourth in March’s Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. Before that, Thousand Words won his three previous races, including the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes with a career-best 107 Equibase Speed Figure. That race doubled as Baffert’s 3,000th career victory.

Once a top-10 Derby contender, Thousand Words is anywhere from 25/1 to 33/1 at the overseas books.

Behind those two, you’ll find Anneau d’Or, who finished second to Thousand Words at last year’s Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity. That’s rather appropriate for the quintessential Derby prep also-ran, who would take that second right about now.

After winning his debut last year, Anneau d’Or hasn’t found the board in three 2020 starts. He finished ninth in one division of the Risen Star, fifth in the Arkansas Derby’s weaker first division, and fourth in last month’s Santa Anita Derby.

Anneau d’Or Seeks First Win on Fourth Track This Year

Anneau d’Or was the Risen Star favorite. And he wasn’t remotely competitive in any of his 2020 starts. Circa has him at +7,500 and the overseas books have him anywhere from 50/1 to 100/1.

Rounding out the field is one-time winner Great Power and maiden Cosmo. Don’t spend a lot of time or effort pondering their chances.

The pick: Uncle Chuck. Value hunters should look elsewhere as Baffert appears ready to win his 10th Los Alamitos Derby.

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