Hear the Ghost
was a horse few people saw or heard coming until
Saturday at Santa Anita. Six lengths behind well fancied favorites
Flashback and Goldencents at the quarter pole, Hear the Ghost suddenly
appeared larger than life as he unleashed a furious stretch rally under
veteran Corey Nakatani to take the Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes
going away by a half length over Flashback and Julien Leparoux, covering
1 1/16 miles in 1:42.34, thus stamping himself as a leading candidate
for the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 6.
In a race that set up for a closer, 22-1 longshot Salutos Amigos
went to the front into the Club House turn, 1 ½ lengths clear of even
money favorite Flashback, who was just a head clear of 2-1 second choice
Goldencents, who was ridden by Kevin Krigger.
As the field headed down the backstretch, Goldencents and
Flashback blew by Salutos Amigos and raced as a team to mid-stretch,
with Goldencents tiring at the rail and Flashback faced with the
daunting task of holding off a pair of closers—Hear the Ghost and Tiz a
Minister, who rallied from last in the field of eight under Garrett
With fractions of 22.97, 45.95, 1:09.94 and 1:35.70 to run at,
the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained Hear the Ghost, who was trying two turns
in only his third career start, won going away in a manner that suggests
he may be capable of getting longer distances such as the mile and one
eighth Santa Anita Derby and the mile and a quarter Kentucky Derby on
“I got a lot of enjoyment out of buying this horse and racing
him with my partner, Ted Aroney (who races as Halo Farms). We’ll find
out about longer distances. That’s where we have to go next. I think
we’ll stay home for the Santa Anita Derby.
“I just told Corey to watch the pace and try to be tactical and
not get caught down inside…I have a great deal of confidence in this
guy. He’s won some very big races for me along the way, so he can ride
anything of mine.
“I thought this horse would have a very good chance to run them down today…I thought they would put up a pretty good pace.”
Purchased for $40,000 at the 2011 Keenland September yearling
sale, Hear the Ghost is owned by Hollendorfer and Aroney’s Halo Farms.
Off at 5-1, the Kentucky-bred gelding by Ghostzapper paid $13.80, $4.60
With the winner’s share of $180,000, Hear the Ghost hiked his
bankroll to $224,400 and he now has two wins and a second from three
“I’d like to get on the Derby trail with a horse, and this is
it,” said Nakatani, who picked up his third career San Felipe win
Saturday. “…The horse has done everything Jerry has asked him to do so
far, so hopefully, he’ll be on that road.”
Like the winner, Flashback was making only his third career
start, but loomed a standout on the strength of his 6 ¼ length win in
the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 2.
“On the first turn, he (Julien Leparoux) said he was behind
horses,” said Flashback’s trainer, Bob Baffert. “I think if he had
stayed inside it probably would have been better. He took him out of
there (so he wouldn’t) get trapped, and then all of a sudden,
Goldencents came and engaged him and it turned into a match race down
“I think he ran well despite all that. He had a nice, tough
race and he got tired at the end, considering he went so fast, but I
think we learned a lot about him today…I think we were just intimidated
by the free speed today, and the rail, so you learn from racing. That’s
what these preps are all about.”
Flashback returned $2.60 and $2.40, while Tiz a Minister, who
was outrun by the winner from the top of the stretch home, paid $4.00 to
As to the way the race set up, jockey Krigger had a decidedly different post race “take” than did Baffert.
“Coming into the first turn, I got him to turn off (relax), and I
was surprised, as good of a rider as Julien is supposed to be, the move
he made around the turn to make us have a dogfight race all the way
around,” said Krigger. “Turning into the backstretch, that’s like
committing suicide, you know?
“If we’re going that fast easily, that’s understandable, but to
pressure a race like that…being on a favorite, that’s not a favorite’s
ride at all. He (Leparoux) had the ideal scenario going into the first
turn, and I mean, my horse came up tired today. There’s not much else I
Trained by Baffert’s arch rival Doug O’Neill, Goldencents had to
settle for fourth money, 5 ¾ lengths in front of early leader Salutos
“I thought Martin Garcia (on Salutos Amigos) would go, but I was
shocked that Flashback was so close up,” said O’Neill. “I thought he’d
be a little farther back…If he (Goldencents) comes out of it good and
we’re still thinking about the (Kentucky) Derby, we’ll have to look at a
Under the new Kentucky Derby qualifying points system, Hear the
Ghost picked up 50 points, while runner-up Flashback bagged 20, giving
him 30 points overall. Third place finisher Tiz a Minister got 10
points. Fourth place was good for five points, bringing Goldencents’
total to 29.
The Grade III, $100,000 Las Flores Stakes will highlight a nine-race card on Sunday, with first post time at 12:30 p.m.