All sorts of history was made at Del Mar Sept. 5, when Arnold Zetcher's Rolling Fog won the $300,000 Del Mar Futurity (gr. I).
There was a closing-day crowd letting a horse trained by Bob Baffert go off at 7-1 (a rare occurrence in modern times). There was the 2-year-old son of Posse hanging tight over 8-5 favorite Know More for his first stakes score. There was jockey Rafael Bejarano's single-season record, 13 stakes wins at the Del Mar meet, not to mention a record 11th winner saddled by Hall of Famer Baffert in the seven-furlong juvenile test.
There was also a delay at the start when Yankee Rebel, then 32-1 in the wagering, turned himself around in the starting gate and backed out, injuring jockey Victor Espinoza in the process. Espinoza went to first aid and was replaced on his remaining two mounts on the card.
Through it all, Rolling Fog responded like a pro. He broke well under Bejarano and settled into a stalking spot just off the outside hip of pacesetter Caballo Del Cielo, who went a quarter in :22.91 and a half in :45.89. Bejarano said "go" entering the far turn and, after idling just a bit at the head of the lane, Rolling Fog found another gear and kicked clear to win the Polytrack test by 1 1/4 lengths in a final time of 1:22.96.
"This horse had been training so great, and today he ran to it," Bejarano said. "Great trip today; everything worked out perfect. The distance was a bit of a question in my mind with him, but now I see he can handle it. In fact, I think he'll go longer. A really good race for him. He's a nice horse. A very nice horse."
Know More, winner of the Best Pal Stakes (gr. II) in his first outing, swung four wide and closed from seventh mid-stretch but could only manage second under jockey Garrett Gomez, while Scherer Magic was third.
Baffert was not at Del Mar to celebrate the win—his first stakes score since his father, Bill Baffert, passed away two days ago at age 88—but assistant trainer Jim Barnes handled post-race interviews.
"This is the race to win; we're all about grade Is," Barnes said. "The Del Mar Futurity has been ours for many years and it will continue to be our race."
Horses previously saddled by Baffert and his team won every edition of the Futurity from 1996-2002, and in 2008, 2009, and 2011.
"This horse was ready to run when we left Santa Anita," said Barnes. "He was one of our top horses when we left Santa Anita, but we got down here and worked him a couple of times and he was struggling with the track a bit. We entered him and he got in, then he ran a low-grade fever and we had to scratch.
"That was probably the best thing, because then we worked him a couple more times and won the first time out. He just kept improving on this track and he really likes dirt, I know that. Look for better things from him in the future."
Bred in Florida by British Mist Racing and Breeding out of the Unbridled's Song mare Fog Dance, Rolling Fog was purchased by Zetcher for $62,000 at the 2012 OBS April sale from the Classic Bloodstock (Danzel Brendelmuehl) consignment. A modest broodmare purchase from Denali in 2009, Fog Dance was sold by Denali at Keeneland November. He sold for $7,500 at the 2011 OBS winter mixed sale and was a $13,000 RNA at the 2010 OBS fall mixed sale.
Rolling Fog has a sire's pedigree if he continues on, his dam is a half sister to the dam of Horse of the Year Saint Liam and his second dam is a half sister to champion Minstrella and Grade II winner Misty Gallore. He is the first stakes winner for his dam by Unbridled's Song.
The Futurity win gave Rolling Fog, now 2-for-2, an automatic berth in the $2 million Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) at Santa Anita Nov. 3. He came into the Del Mar Futurity off a 2 1/4-length maiden special weight score going 5 1/2 furlongs at Del Mar Aug. 4, and now has earnings of $222,000.