I finally had the chance to really watch the Del Mar Futurity this morning which, if you’re a regular reader, you will know caused me to spaz out like a spaz on the first watch-through. Well, normally when a race intrigues me I watch it about a squillion times and pick it apart–like a spaz–until I’ve memorized the flight path of most of the horses that ran. Often when I do this, the lustre of the first go-round fades a little because I come to understand the luck of the trip, or the little mistakes the jockeys made, or whatever.

Not this time.

This wild and wacky Futurity only gets better with age. New things I noticed? First, how many runs Drill made. Bob Baffert said that Martin Garcia was supposed to teach the promising youngster how to rate in the Futurity, and boy howdy did he: tracking beautifully in the third flight, Drill shot up on the rail on the backstretch, actually lost some ground on the turn only to swing out and kick like he meant it in the stretch. A very promising aspect of this run was how well he kicked despite a) not being bred or really looking like a horse who would like the polytrack and b) the unforgiving-to-kickers nature of Del Mar in particular. You’re not supposed to get away with losing ground on the turn at this racetrack. This is the second time Drill has done so.

And of course: the incident in deep stretch. Shying from a left-handed whip, Majestic City (who had the lead in mid-stretch as five horses lined up imposingly across the racetrack) bolted to the outside. He crashed first into favoured Creative Cause, who checked hard but could not avoid collision with Drill. So it was that Creative Cause’s shoulder slammed full-force into Drill’s haunch, which twisted wildly out for a single stride before the son of Lawyer Ron called upon his evidently boundless athleticism and not only righted himself but won the photo finish with Majestic City. Majestic City was then disqualified to third behind Creative Cause.

In the usual side-view replay you can’t really see the full extent of the incident except inasmuch as it affected Creative Cause. To really appreciate it, you gotta see the front view, which plays after the race in the video I linked above. And then have a look at this spectacular photograph by Benoit Photo.

Baffert has announced that Drill’s road to the Breeders’ Cup will pass through the GI Norfolk Stakes at Oak Tree at Santa Anita. But despite having just won a Win And You’re In BC Challenge race, the son of Lawyer Ron is not Breeders’ Cup nominated; his owners will have to fork out a hundred thousand dollars to make him so. I don’t imagine they’ll want to do that until after the Norfolk, which will be Drill’s first race on natural dirt. I don’t think they’ll have much to worry about; the horse runs like a dirt horse, comes from many lines of dirt horses (Lawyer Ron, Storm Cat, Fappiano, Lord Avie) and lives under the tutelage of a trainer who has made the transition from poly to dirt both a work of art and a casual habit.

But the best part of all this? I get to fall in love with a two-year-old. I really do. In an age dominated by one-hit wonders and babies made of porcelain, Bob Baffert is one of the few trainers left who can keep a horse sturdy, fast and dollar-sound for years. Lookin at Lucky won the Del Mar Futurity and Norfolk, then ran second in the Juvenile and won the CashCall Futurity before being crowned two-year-old Champion, only to come back and win the Eclipse as a three-year-old as well; it’s not as though this is the road less traveled for Baffert’s horses. I don’t have to worry about Drill breaking, as a horse in the care of Todd Pletcher or Steve Asmussen would be almost guaranteed to do. If Drill is the real deal, and boy does he run like it, he could be the Derby favourite in December and remain so until May. He could set early light to the Derby fires, ignite the spark that is so quick to douse itself these days. He could really be special, and tough enough to prove it.

And in a day and age like this, that’s goddamn exciting as hell.

For the record, my favourite babies of the season are:

Colt: Drill
Filly: Miss Netta
Though if I employ my logic gland, I’m stuck between My Miss Aurelia, Millionreasonswhy, Stopshoppingmaria and Weemissfrankie as well as Miss Netta, who’s only a debut winner for now. But Miss Netta made me some monies when I pegged her at 7-1 and beat her field with surprising authority, so maybe the racing gods will smile on me with her as they did with Munnings (Munniiiiiings).