Before the $300,000 CashCall Futurity S. (G1) was run Saturday at Los Alamitos, Mastery's trainer Bob Baffert said the race was where he thought next year's Triple Crown trail began.
If Mastery's 7 1/4-length victory is any indication, Cheyenne Stables' magnificent 2-year-old will be a force to reckon with in the months leading up to the 2017 Kentucky Derby (G1).
Undefeated in his two prior starts, Mastery turned in his best performance to date in the Futurity, his first start around two turns. Going comfortably in second for six furlongs while well off the rail under Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith, Mastery assumed command from Bobby Abu Dhabi in upper stretch, and after shaking off a brief challenge from Irap, Mastery powered away in the final furlong.
The final time of 1:41.56 was less than a second off the track record.
"You don't know how they are going to do going two turns for the first time until they try it," Baffert said. "Turning for home he hit a bit of a lull and l didn't know if he was going to go on or flatten out. The last part he threw it in another gear."
"He relaxed great," Smith added. "He started looking around a little when he made the front in the stretch, but after I gave him a reminder he re-broke and was strong."
The victory, worth $180,000, increased Mastery's career earnings to $271,200. In addition to Saturday's wins, Mastery won his maiden special weight debut Oct. 22 at Santa Anita, earning a TDN Rising Star tag, then took the Bob Hope S. (G3) Nov. 19 at Del Mar.
Baffert has won the Futurity, previously run at Hollywood Park until 2014, a record nine times, including his first victory in 1997 with Real Quiet, who would go on to win next year's Kentucky Derby (G1) and Preakness S. (G1).