Bob Baffert appears, yet again, to have the field for a California Grade 1 juvenile stakes over a barrel in Saturday’s Los Alamitos Futurity. He’ll enter impressive Breeders’ Cup undercard winner Improbable as well as Bob Hope Stakes winner Mucho Gusto. The two of them appear headed for heavy wagering support. And while the field hasn’t been drawn as of this writing, I’m wondering if the interesting play in the Futurity might be one of the two likely entrants for Jerry Hollendorfer, Dueling.
Dueling was favored over Game Winner in that one’s career debut if you can believe that. And his performance in defeat that day was by no means disappointing. He’d win his next start before heading to Churchill Downs as a longshot in the Juvenile, and he certainly didn’t disgrace himself, finishing 6th. I was at Churchill Downs that day, but I was in a room away from the track and didn’t see the post parade. I heard that Dueling was extremely agitated in the moments before the race, and a review of the NBCSN race coverage features a blimp shot that shows he had kind of an erratic trip. To me, it looked like he was all out of sorts. We can’t fault him for being wide the entire way around, which he was, because Game Winner was even wider at times. It’s very possible that Dueling just wasn’t ready for a race like the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile having only a maiden win to his credit. He may STILL not be ready.
That said, Jerry Hollendorfer saw fit to ship him from California to Louisville even as he had Gunmetal Gray already signed on for the race. So it’s fair to assume that Hollendorfer really believes that Dueling not only belonged in the BC, but that he’s ready for another Grade 1 test.
We stil have a few days to formulate a wagering strategy for Saturday’s Los Al card. But I’m going to be interested to see how Dueling ultimately stacks up to the rest of the field on paper. He might be shaping up as a sneaky long shot in a field where we all know the Bafferts will get pounded. I bet Dueling in the Juvenile. And I can see myself using him heavily on Saturday.
Give a look to the BC Juvenile replay. Dueling is #1.