INGLEWOOD, Calif. -- For most of the owners and trainer chasing Saturday's $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park, the focus of the race is the lucrative prize. A win or placing in the Grade 1 race would greatly help the chances of gaining a berth in the Kentucky Derby in May, a field determined by graded stakes earnings.
For owner John Waken and trainer David Hofmans, who start J P's Gusto, money is not the primary issue. A four-time stakes winner, J P's Gusto has already earned a robust $350,000 in graded stakes. What Waken and Hofmans are seeking from J P's Gusto in the CashCall Futurity is confirmation that the ridgling can be effective over 1 1/16 miles.
"He has to show us he can run this far for us to be excited about next year," Hofmans said in reference to the Triple Crown build-up.
J P's Gusto's most recent win came in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity over seven furlongs on Sept. 8, when he stormed home to win by 4 1/2 lengths over Jaycito. In the Grade 1 Norfolk Stakes over 1 1/16 miles here on Oct. 2, J P's Gusto led to the eighth pole but was beaten a length by Jaycito. In the Breeders' Cup Juvenile at Churchill Downs on Nov. 6, J P's Gusto was in traffic on the first turn, never reached the front or even a stalking position, and finished 15 1/2 lengths behind division leader Uncle Mo.
"The trip he got was horrible, getting shuffled back," Hofmans said.
Since J P's Gusto returned to serious training in late November, the focus has been on harnessing the speed that resulted in stakes wins from 5 1/2 furlongs to seven furlongs from May to September.
"We've been working him behind horses and he's settling very well," Hofmans said. "The way he's been behaving since the Breeders' Cup, I don't think he'll have trouble getting a mile and a sixteenth."
J P's Gusto will be ridden by Joe Talamo, who was aboard for the first three races and then lost the mount to Patrick Valenzuela after suffering a wrist injury in August. In the CashCall Futurity, Valenzuela will ride Clubhouse Ride, who was third in the Delta Jackpot Stakes in Louisiana on Nov. 20.
The CashCall Futurity has a probable field of 12, including Boxeur des Rues, Comma to the Top, Gourmet Dinner, High Level Jeff, Industry Leader, Riveting Reason, Rustler Hustler, Prayer for Relief, Ronin Dax, and Slammer Time.
Two of the leading contenders are likely pacesetter Comma to the Top, who has won two stakes at Hollywood Park this fall around two turns, and Gourmet Dinner, the upset winner of the Delta Jackpot Stakes.
Crimson China, the winner of a maiden race in England this fall, was not sent to California for the CashCall Futurity because a flight earlier this week was delayed nearly a day, an international racing official said on Tuesday.