Victor Espinoza found himself in an unfamiliar position when he rode Rookie Sensation
in the Grade I Hollywood Derby on Dec. 1: he was on the lead from the start until hitting the homestretch in the mile and a quarter turf race, eventually finishing fifth, beaten less than three lengths.
Rookie Sensation set the pace for the first time in his career of six races. In four of five previous starts, the gray son of Unbridled’s Song trained by John Shirreffs for owner/breeder Frank Stronach, Founder and Chairman of the Stronach Group, which owns Santa Anita, came from far back, winning the Grade II Twilight Derby at The Great Race Place on Nov. 1.
Espinoza expects a return norm for the 3-year-old colt when he runs in the Grade II Sir Beaufort Stakes at one mile on turf opening day.
“This race should be much more suitable to his natural style,” Espinoza said of the Sir Beaufort. “Last time there was not much speed and I ended up on the lead and let him run on the front. I was forced to try something different, the way the race set up.
“But he’s coming up to this race good. His best races are from well out of it. He’s really talented. Everything went wrong for him last time, but Saturday should be like old times.”
Probable for the Sir Beaufort: Gervinho, Rafael Bejarano; No Jet Lag, Joel Rosario; Rookie Sensation, Espinoza; and Tom’s Tribute, Mike Smith.