Yes, the road that leads to the first Saturday in May has begun and there are more than just a few cases of Kentucky Derby fever reported. One West coast colt in particular has the mercury rising following his run in the Cash Call Futurity on December 10.

Mastery is a striking son of Candy Ride that has done nothing but impress. The Cash Call at Los Alamitos was supposed to be a good test for this late foal as this would be his third start and first around two turns. When the gates opened he rated just off a respectable pace and then took command at the top of the stretch. When challenged, hall of fame rider Mike Smith gave Mastery a little urging and away he went. Pulling away, the great grandson of A.P. Indy won by a widening 5 lengths and covered the mile and a sixteenth in 1:41.56.

“I think he is the real deal,” says hall of fame trainer Bob Baffert of his undefeated colt. “I thought going in he was way above average, we just wanted to see how he responded around two turns.”

Baffert has enjoyed more than his fair share of success over the years. Having captured the blanket of roses awarded to the Kentucky Derby winner an incredible 4 times (Silver Charm 1997, Real Quiet 1998, War Emblem 2002, American Pharoah 2015), the California-based trainer knows a thing or two about bringing young horses along. The proto-type Baffert runner over the years has usually possessed a lot of front-end speed and Mastery appears to have plenty in that department. Yes, it is way early, but so far his crafty conditioner likes what he sees.

“He is one that gets me excited,” says Baffert. “He’s a tall colt that is getting better all the time. I have got a pretty good crop of young horses and he is certainly one of the better ones.”

The win at Los Alamitos provided Mastery with 10 valuable qualifying points on the road to Kentucky Derby 143.