It’s Bob Baffert vs. Doug O’Neill as top Derby prospects Flashback
head a field of eight 3-year-olds set to contest
Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, final
major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 6.
The O’Neill-trained Goldencents comes off a sensational win in
the Grade III Sham Stakes going one mile on Jan. 5 and his three
victories also include a gate to wire score in the Grade III Delta
Jackpot going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 17. His only defeat in four starts
was a second place finish to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner
Shanghai Bobby in the Grade I Champagne, a one-turn mile at Belmont Park
on Oct. 6.
Lightly raced Flashback, an emphatic 6 ¼ length winner of the
Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 2, will be
making only his third career start for Baffert but the grey son of Tapit
has brilliant speed and a seemingly limitless future.
The complete field for Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe, from the rail out is as follows:
Owned by world famous downhill skier Bode Miller and Jill
Baffert, he is without question the “other Baffert” in this context.
Purchased last May for a bargain $55,000 at a 2-year-old in training
sale, this colt by Any Given Saturday broke his maiden for an $80,000
claiming tag first out at Del Mar on Aug. 23. He then won a minor
stakes at Fairplex Park going the two-turn distance of seven furlongs
and showed good speed before tiring to finish fourth in the Grade I
FrontRunner going 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 29.
A subsequent winner of the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes going 1
1/16 miles at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 10, he then made no impact
from off the pace in the Grade I CashCall Futurity on Dec. 15. Bet to
5-2 in his most recent start, the Grade III El Camino Real Derby going 1
1/8 miles at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 16, Carving was 10 lengths off
the leader leaving the half mile pole and was beaten 6 ¾ lengths after
steadying a furlong out.
Look for him to be back on the giddy-up with Bejarano aloft on
Saturday. With three wins from six starts, he has $171,900 in earnings.
A rousing 3 ½ length first-out maiden special weight winner
going seven furlongs on Dec. 8, Flashback earned a Beyer Speed figure of
93, and followed that up by earning a 92 Beyer in the Robert Lewis.
Owned by Gary and Mary West, he fetched $260,000 at the Keeneland Nov.
2010 yearling sale. Off at even money in his debut, this flashy colt
was 1-2 in the four-horse Lewis.
Baffert has overseen a steady series of drills since the Lewis
win, his most recent being a bullet five furlong move in 59 flat on
March 3—best of 63 at the distance. Jockey Julien Leparoux, who rode
last year’s Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags, appears to have
something very special again this year.
Purchased for just $62,000 at a 2-year-old in training sale in
Ocala, Florida a year ago, Goldencents overcame significant adversity
going into the Club House turn and garnered a San Felipe best last-out
Beyer of 98 in winning the Sham. Regular rider Kevin Krigger further
proved his big-race mettle in the Sham, maintaining his cool while
calmly negotiating contested waters.
A 7 ¼ length first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs on Sept.
2 at Del Mar, O’Neill then sent the son of Into Mischief to Belmont
Park for his second place run in the Grade I Champagne. Well traveled
and battle-tested Goldencents has an amazing five bullet works on his
tab since his Sham score, his most recent a six furlong drill on March 2
in 1:11.60 “breezing,”—best of eight at the distance.
Owned by W.C. Racing, Kenney, and RAP Racing, O’Neill is hoping
this already gold-plated colt can follow in the footsteps of I’ll Have
Another, winner of last year’s Robert B. Lewis, Santa Anita Derby,
Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
He is by far the leading money earner in the field with $782,000 in the bank from a record of 4-3-1-0.
A first-out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside
turf course on Jan. 4, Kochees, a Kentucky-bred colt by Lion Heart, was
fourth, beaten 6 ½ lengths in his subsequent start, a one mile first
condition allowance on Jan. 31.
The San Felipe is obviously a tall order, but trainer Mike
Pender and owner B.J. Wright don’t often consult the tote board before
entering and have had great success with horses such as Ultimate Eagle
and Jeranimo. Regular rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. knows him and Valdivia,
who has a win in the Breeders’ Cup, Belmont Stakes and one tally in the
Santa Anita Derby to his credit, is no stranger to the Derby Trail.
Based at Betfair Hollywood Park (as I’ll Have Another was last year),
Kochees has worked three times since his last start. His five furlong
drill in 59.80 on March 2 was the fastest of 28 at the distance.
HEAR THE GHOST
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who is currently third in the Santa
Anita trainer standings with 20 wins, five behind Bob Baffert, will roll
the dice with lightly raced Hear the Ghost, a Kentucky-bred gelding by
A first-out maiden special weight winner going six furlongs on
Dec. 15 at Betfair Hollywood Park, Heart the Ghost gave a good account
of himself when running second in the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at the
same distance on Jan. 21. Corey Nakatani will take over for the first
time and Hear the Ghost, co-owned by Hollendorfer and Halo Farms, will
make his initial start going a route of ground.
Although he is a sprinter stretching out, Hear the Ghost has
rallied from off the pace in both of his starts and may sit a stalking
trip on Saturday. Hollendorfer appears to have him on edge, as he’s
worked six times at his Betfair Hollywood Park base since his last
TIZ A MINISTER
A last to first winner of the $300,000 Cal Breeders Champion
Stakes going one mile on Jan. 26, California-bred Tiz a Minister will
again be ridden by Garrett Gomez and it’s most likely he’ll employ
similar tactics in the San Felipe.
With nine starts to his credit, Tiz a Minister, a colt by
California-based Ministers Wild Cat, has far more race-day experience
than anyone else in the field. Claimed out of his second start for
$40,000 on Aug. 2 at Del Mar, trainer Paul Aguirre and owner S.A.Y.
Racing LLC are hoping for a fast pace to run at. His overall record
stands at 9-2-4-1, with earnings of $246,780.
Salutos Amigos, an impressive maiden allowance winner on Feb. 9,
will stretch out for the first time in the San Felipe and the
Kentucky-bred colt by Salute the Sarge has the look of a dangerous
Off at 7-1, Salutos Amigos pressed the pace through splits of
21.20, 43.40 and 55.60 before winning by 3 ¾ lengths in a rapid
1:08.40—good for a sizzling 94 Beyer Speed figure. Originally trained
by Kathy Walsh, Salutos Amigos was sold privately to Southern Equine
Stable LLC and Smith following a second place finish in his maiden
special weight debut on June 21.
Trained by the often loquacious Cajun Eric Guillot, Salutos
Amigos could make it tough on anyone with front-running designs in the
San Felipe. With a win and a second from three starts, Guillot could be
talking a blue streak if the son of Salute the Sarge is able to execute
his marching orders. Ridden by Leparoux in last two starts, he’ll be
handled for the first time by Martin Garcia.
One of two California-breds in the San Felipe field, Omega Star
comes off a second place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the Cal Breeders
Champion Stakes going one mile on a wet fast surface Jan. 26. Beaten 1 ¼
lengths by Tiz a Minister, after making the lead turning for home,
Omega Star will be making his fourth career start and his third start
for trainer John Shirreffs.
A gelding by Candy Ride, Omega Star began his career in New York
for owner/breeders Herman Sarkowsky and Martin Wygod. Trained in New
York by Jimmy Jerkens, Omega Star was second at 22-1 from the rail going
six furlongs at Aqueduct on Dec. 13. He was then transferred to
Shirreffs and broke his maiden going 6 ½ furlongs against state-breds
on Dec. 31, breaking from the one post and winning by three lengths at
Ridden by Leparoux in his last two starts, Joe Talamo will take
over for the first time on Saturday. Omega Star has had four works at
his Betfair Hollywood Park base since his last start and like so many,
appears to be coming to the race in fine fettle.
The complete field for Saturday’s San Felipe, to be run as the
seventh race on a nine-race program, with jockeys and weights in post
position order: Carving, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Flashback, Julien
Leparoux, 123; Goldencents, Kevin Krigger, 120; Kochees, Jose Valdivia,
Jr., 118; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani, 118; Tiz a Minister, Garrett
Gomez, 118; Salutos Amigos, Martin Garcia, 118, and Omega Star, Joe