This is how meaningful the Los Alamitos Futurity is when it comes to defining Kentucky Derby prospects. The inaugural Futurity, run at the late Hollywood Park in 1981, sent a couple of Derby contenders named Gato Del Sol and Laser Light to Churchill Downs for the 1982 Derby.

Red Flag-Los Al Futurity
Red Flag comes into the Los Alamitos Futurity as the even-money favorite. He won his last race by nearly eight lengths. (Image: Benoit Photo)

They finished 1-3 in the Derby – after finishing seventh and ninth at the Los Alamitos Futurity.

Ferdinand failed to win the 1985 Futurity, but that didn’t prevent him from winning the 1986 Derby. One year later, Alysheba couldn’t find the winner’s circle in the Futurity, but he found it in the 1987 Derby. Thunder Gulch finished second in the 1994 Futurity, yet captured the 1995 Derby. And the poster child for Derby upsets – 50/1 Giacomo in 2005 – finished second in the 2004 Futurity.

You get the idea. When it comes to establishing Derby prospect bona-fides, the 1-1/16-mile Los Alamitos Futurity is one of the country’s hidden gem prep races. Even downgraded from Grade 1 to Grade 2 in 2019, the Futurity demands respect for its alumni.

Los Alamitos Futurity Comes with Crystal Ball

The Futurity winner’s roll could run with horses anywhere: Stephans Odyssey, Snow Chief, Best Pal, A.P. Indy, Shared Belief, Point Given, and Lookin at Lucky, among others.

Those latter two come from the endless barn of Bob Baffert, who won a dozen of these between 1997 and 2019. Point Given won the 2001 Preakness and Belmont. Lookin at Lucky, the 2010 Preakness. In fact, Baffert won all six Futurities at Los Alamitos. The race moved from Hollywood Park in 2014, and Baffert’s six-pack of Los Alamitos Futurities winners introduced Dortmund (2014), Mor Spirit (2015), Mastery (2016), McKinzie (2017), Improbable (2018), and Thousand Words (2019) to horseplayers and fans.

Los Alamitos Futurity

Morning Line (Jockey)

  1. Red Flag, Even (Victor Espinoza)
  2. Petruchio, 4/1 (Mike Smith)
  3. The Great One, 15/1 (Abel Cedillo)
  4. Weston, 10/1 (Tyler Baze)
  5. Positivity, 8/1 (Drayden Van Dyke)
  6. Spielberg, 5/2 (Flavien Prat)

So who’s next? Will Baffert win his seventh in a row? The hopes rest on Spielberg (5/2), the heretofore disappointing Union Rags progeny who is 1-for-5. Last seen finishing a poor fourth by 9-½ lengths as the 3/5 favorite in the Bob Hope Stakes, Spielberg hit the board twice in Grade 1s.

Baffert’s Futurity Streak Rests on Spielberg

Even with Baffert’s wizardry, the shock and awe turned to pitiful awwwws as Spielberg repeatedly showed enough to raise hopes, but not enough to find the winner’s circle.

That brings us to Red Flag, your even-money favorite, and the horse Spielberg and everyone else chased across the Bob Hope Stakes finish line. Nobody was within 7-¼ lengths of the 10/1 John Shirreffs-trained son of Tamarkuz, who made his first start on dirt after breaking his maiden on turf.

Currently on the top shelf of Derby futures bettors (35/1 at Circa and William Hill Nevada), Red Flag brings a versatile running style that underscores those odds. In his maiden victory, he overcame a slow start with a closer’s kill shot. In the Bob Hope, Red Flag pressed the pace and pulled clear.

Can a Shakespeare-Inspired Horse Shake Up Futurity?

The other interesting contender is Petruchio (4/1). Put aside the fact the Richard Mandella trainee took four races to break his maiden and that he’s finished third the two times he ran on dirt. This newly gelded son of Into Mischief – the 2007 Futurity champion — brings adaptability, tactical speed, and the skill of Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith to the proceedings.

He thrived stretching out, breaking his maiden on Halloween in a Del Mar mile race by 1-¾ lengths. Along with that, Petruchio showed he can navigate two turns.

The pick: Red Flag. He’s better than a Baffert streak-stopper. He’s a legitimate Derby contender. Should he win this race, you’ll look wistfully as those 35/1 Derby futures odds get hacked in half.