The Bob Baffert Invitational, otherwise known as the Los Alamitos Futurity, goes off on Saturday as the penultimate day of Los Alamitos’ short Thoroughbred Winter Meet. And as you would expect, the 1 1/16-mile test for 2-year-olds has that usual Baffert flavor to it.

Messier-Los Alamitos Futurity
Messier and Flavien Prat controlled the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes last month at Del Mar. Oddsmakers make the pair a 1/2 morning-line choice to give Bob Baffert his eighth consecutive Los Alamitos Futurity title. (Image: Benoit Photo)

There’s Messier, the prohibitive 1/2 favorite. Want to beat him? How about keeping it in the barn with Barossa? He’s 5/1 and comes from the same high-powered ownership group: Golconda Stable, Madaket Stables LLC, SF Racing LLC, Sierna Farm LLC, Starlight Racing, et-al as his stablemate.

Those two Baffert charges figure to draw most of the money. And why shouldn’t they? After all, a Baffert colt has won every Los Alamitos Futurity since the race moved from Hollywood Park in 2014. That’s seven consecutive Los Alamitos Futurities covering a span from Dortmund in 2014 to Spielberg last year.

Don’t confuse that with Baffert’s six winners of this race when it ran at Hollywood Park as the Hollywood Futurity, among other names. Those included the likes of Real Quiet, Point Given, and Pioneerof the Nile.

Messier shoots, scores in his last two races

So, even if his entries aren’t eligible for the 10-4-2-1 Kentucky Derby qualifying points due to his suspension from Churchill Downs, it’s natural to start with any Baffert offering. And Messier provides the perfect starting point. The Empire Maker colt comes in off his second consecutive victory in the Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar. Named after NHL Hall of Fame center Mark Messier, the Canadian-bred Messier won that race by 3 1/2 lengths as the 6/5 favorite, and his last two races by a combined 10 lengths.

This will be Messier’s first jaunt beyond seven furlongs. As an Empire Maker progeny, going two turns shouldn’t be too steep a hill for that climber. And yet, he’s been beaten once by a horse in this compact field.

That would be Olympic Legend, who beat 1/2 favorite Messier in his June 27 debut. That came the last time these two visited Los Alamitos. That came as an 11/1 shot, making Olympic Legend the only horse in the field who visited the Los Al winner’s circle.

Can Olympic Legend become Los Alamitos Futurity legend?

He’s 15/1 now, sporting that as his only victory in four races. And you can likely dismiss Olympic Legend and his career-best 63 Beyer Speed Figure, the lowest top Beyer in the field.

Meanwhile, the “other Baffert,” Barossa, comes in off a non-threatening ninth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. That came after his one and only victory, an Oct. 15 maiden race at Santa Anita that came with an 87 Beyer, tops in this field. He too, is 1-for-4.

Los Alamitos Futurity/Los Alamitos

Morning Line (Jockey/Trainer)

  1. Olympic Legend, 15/1 (Jose Valdivia/Luis Mendez)
  2. Durante, 9/2 (Umberto Rispoli/Doug O’Neill)
  3. Messier, 1/2 (Flavien Prat/Bob Baffert)
  4. Barossa, 5/1 (Juan Hernandez/Bob Baffert)
  5. Slow Down Andy, 5/1 (Mario Gutierrez/Doug O’Neill)

Should you want to beat the Bafferts, there’s Doug O’Neill’s pair: Durante (9/2) and Slow Down Andy (5/1). Durante broke his maiden on Nov. 15 as the 1/2 favorite in a Del Mar mile race. That came a month after he finished second to Barossa in that Santa Anita maiden. He’s owned by the same connections who own Hot Rod Charlie, Greg Helm’s Roadrunner Racing and Bill Strauss, who owns last year’s Los Alamitos Futurity runner-up – The Great One. He finished second to Spielberg by a nose at 33/1.

Slow Down Andy broke his maiden by nearly five lengths in his Oct. 9 debut at Santa Anita, then came back and ran second in the Golden State Juvenile as the 11/10 favorite. The Cal-bred son of 2016 Kentucky Derby champion Nyquist comes in with a 77 top Beyer, second-lowest to Olympic Legend.