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Liason takes CashCall Futurity

CASHCALL FUTURITY | PURSE: $750,000 | GRADE 1 | 2-YEAR-OLDS | 1 1/16 MILES

Liaison, whose sire Indian Charlie was euthanized two days earlier, outlasted his rivals in a calvary charge to win the $750,000 CashCall Futurity at Hollywood Park Dec. 17.

Trainer Bob Baffert captured his sixth win in the lucrative event for 2-year-olds with Liason. It was his third victory in the past four Futurity renewals, following Pioneerof the Nile in 2008 and Lookin At Lucky in 2009.

"It's only fitting," Baffert said afterward in reference to Indian Charlie, the 1998 Santa Anita Derby winner he also trained. "This horse has really been climbing up the ladder, every race improving.

"When you win this race you start thinking about the road to the Derby," he added. "It never gets old. All my other [Futurity] winners went on to be good horses, so I hope this one does, too."

Indian Charlie succumbed to cancer at Airdrie Stud in Kentucky Dec. 15.

With Rafael Bejarano aboard, 5-1 shot Liaison took the lead past mid-stretch and held off the strong- closing 13-1 chance Rousing Sermon by a neck. The maiden Brother Francis finished third after making a big threat in the lane, with the Baffert-trained Sky Kingdom fourth. The winning time was 1:42.86 on Cushion Track.

Baffert's third entrant in the Futurity, grade I winner Drill, dueled Handsome Mike on the pace and was ninth after fading in the stretch. Majestic City, the 3-1 favorite, was a close third as they made their way into the homestretch but weakened to 10th.

Liaison, a $290,000 Keeneland September yearling purchase owned by Arnold Zetcher, was coming off a victory in the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood Nov. 12 -- defeating Rousing Sermon by a half-length. He has won three consecutive races since debuting with a third-place effort on th Del Mar Polytrack Sept. 3.

William A. Carl Estate bred the winner in Kentucky. The bay colt is out of the Victory Gallop mare Galloping Gal.

Drill broke on the lead for Martin Garcia before Handsome Mike pulled his way up along the inside to vie for the early advantage. Those two led the 13-horse field through solid quarter-mile splits of :23.27, :46.83, and 1:11.11, with Drill taking a narrow edge into the homestretch. Handsome Mike was ahead in front of Drill at the eighth pole.

Liaison, who stalked the pace in fourth for Bejarano, loomed up on the leaders along with Brother Francis, ridden by Victor Espinoza, and those two quickly took over as the pacesetters tired. Liaison disposed of the challenge from Brother Francis. But he had to dig deep under strong urging approaching the wire as a determined Rousing Sermon, ridden by Joe Talamo, charged from 10th down the center of the track.

Rousing Sermon was cutting into the lead with each stride late but was unable to get on even terms with the winner as they hit the wire.

The runner-up finished 1 1/2 lengths in front of Brother Francis, with the late-arriving Sky Kingdom another half-length farther behind in fourth. Then came Empire Way, Blingo, Handsome Mike, Cozzxetta, Drill, Majestic City, Basmati, and Desormais. The maiden Groovin Solo was pulled up on the backstretch with a broken rein.

The fast-developing Liaison broke his maiden for Baffert in his second start. The seven-furlong test over dirt at Santa Anita Oct. 14 came a month before the Real Quiet win at the same 1 1/16-mile distance as the CashCall Futurity. His latest victory, worth $375,000, increased his career total to $469,560.

Under equal weights of 121 pounds, Liaison paid $12.20, $7.20, and $4.80 as the second choice in the bulky field.

Rousing Sermon, who could have given trainer Jerry Hollendorfer a sweep of Hollywood's grade I tests for 2-year-olds, returned $12.40 and $6.40. Hollendorfer won the Hollywood Starlet a week earlier with 14-1 shot Killer Graces. The Futurity exacta was worth $94.

Brother Francis, coming off a runner-up finish in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes at seven furlongs Nov. 24 for trainer James Cassidy, paid $8 to show.