Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 San Felipe Stakes

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2021 San Felipe Stakes
Photo: Benoit Photo

The Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes brings together a short field of seven to contest the 1 1/16-mile, $300,000 event. One could also just refer to this as "The Bob Baffert Show" as the iconic trainer brings two of his top runners to face off with each other again. As a Road to the Kentucky Derby points race, the top four runners will earn points on a 50-20-10-5 scale in addition to their purse winnings.

[Related: HorseCenter: Kentucky Derby trail, Big 'Cap picks]

Laurie Ross of Pedigree Power and Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast sort out the contenders from the pretenders.

LAURIE

ASHLEY

1. Life Is Good

The only undefeated runner in the San Felipe, the hyped "Life" had it all his own way in the Sham Stakes (G3), opening up by four lengths. Medina Spirit came close to upsetting the apple cart in the Sham Stakes, cutting into his stablemate’s four-length lead while Life is Good drifted late. The overconfident jockey, Mike Smith, had to shake up Life is Good late. Baffert and Smith teamed in 2017 to win the San Felipe with Mastery.

Life Is Good is undefeated in two starts, including winning the Sham (G3) by a measured 3/4 of a length over stablemate Medina Spirit. Mike Smith never even asked him for his best, simply urging him a bit inside the final sixteenth as Medina Spirit tried to close the gap between the two. We have yet to see this colt’s best.

2. Dream Shake

Dream Shake is placed in an ambitious spot. He looked good beating maidens in his debut, earning a 90 late-pace speed figure, which is easily the highest in the San Felipe field. Dream Shake hails from a winning family. His dam is a half-sister to Grade 3-winner Chocolate Kisses and to multiple graded winner Synchrony. His second dam is the hardy graded winner Brownie Points. The $300,000 question is whether Dream Shake will progress or regress off that eye-catching victory. Peter Eurton has only a five-percent win rate with horses stretching out in their second career start.

Dream Shake debuted a winner for Peter Eurton, rallying from off the pace to win going away off 20-1 odds. That win I am taking with a grain a salt as only one competitor from that day has raced since: Tivoli Twirl, who finished last, came back to finish last again next out. Like Laurie said, this colt comes from a winning family, so the potential is there. Use underneath.

3. Medina Spirit

You have to give Medina Spirit a lot of credit. He was the only one closing in the Sham Stakes and almost caught Life is Good. He was hustled to the lead in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) and was pressed the entire way. In the stretch, Medina Spirit refused to yield and won by a neck over Roman Centurion. The Baffert trainee was so determined that he galloped out in front.

Medina Spirit complimented stablemate Life Is Good when he won the Robert B. Lewis (G3) after having to settle for second in the Sham. While his stablemate has the highest speed figure in the field, Medina Spirit’s figures show that he should be taken seriously, too.

4. None Above the Law

None Above the Law finished second, beaten 1 1/2 lengths in the California Cup Derby, losing ground at the finish. Taking on graded stakes runners when he was unable to beat state-bred types is a tough order. Flavien Pratt takes the reins, so maybe the Peter Miller trainee can hit the lower exotics with a good trip.

 

Peter Miller is taking a huge shot here with None Above the Law. This gelded son of Karakontie debuted and won in state-bred company, but has not been able to garner a win since, either in open or state-bred events. He did run a solid race in the California Cup Derby, despite losing ground late, to get second in his 2021 bow, so maybe there was some improvement over the winter. Then again, maybe not. Pass.

5. The Great One

The Great One lost the head bob to Spielberg in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) last December, then graduated in his 3-year-old debut by a flashy 14 lengths against maidens. The aptly named The Great One recorded back-to-back triple-digit speed figures and the Doug O’Neil trainee could play the upsetter’s role.

 

Doug O’Neill bounced this son of Nyquist back and forth from turf to dirt to turf again with no success. Then he very nearly broke his maiden in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2), falling just a nose shy to Spielberg that day. In his fifth start, and with now regular rider Abel Cedillo in the irons, The Great One trounced a maiden field by 14-lengths. His last two efforts earned him triple digit speed figures. I fully expect that Cedillo and The Great One will try to go with the Baffert pair early.

6. Govenor’s Party

Govenor’s Party is the race’s “Why?” horse. He cuts back in distance after his distant third-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby. He has not shown ability against state-breds, so why is he in here?

Trained by Daniel Franko, Govenor’s Party has raced on all surfaces, though with little success. His lone win came over Golden Gate’s tapeta surface. Talk about a why entrant. Pass.

7. Roman Centurian

Roman Centurian gave Medina Spirit all he could handle in the Lewis. The son of Empire Maker is a one-run closer in a speed-filled race. If nobody establishes a big, comfy lead, he is another with a legit win shot.

 

You have to feel bad for Roman Centurian and Simon Callaghan. They were absolutely whipped by Life Is Good in their debut, and then hard as he tried, Roman Centurian just could not get by the stubborn Medina Spirit. With that said, this colt’s speed figures have improved with each start, and he proved he was willing to fight for it last out.

Final Thoughts

Laurie: The favorite won or finished second in nine of the last ten editions of the San Felipe Stakes. Yawn. 

Life is Good is speed on the rail. He may be pressed by The Great One, who has plenty of early speed. Medina Spirit will not be far off the pair, but I do not think he will hook Life is Good early; that would be counterproductive for both, and Smith and Medina Spirit jockey John Velazquez are too smart for that. If The Great One can soften up Life is good, then Medina Spirit will be the first to pounce, but will have to watch out for the late running Roman Centurian. If any of the top four do not run their race, Dream Shake could gain a piece.

Ashley: Nothing complicated here. As is typical in California, Bob Baffert has the best horses in the field. We have yet to see Life Is Good empty the tank, making him the clear favorite. Medina Spirit and Roman Centurian are fighters, while The Great One seems to be rounding into top form. 

Selections

Ashley 

Laurie 

1. LIFE IS GOOD (4-5)

1. LIFE IS GOOD (4-5)

3. MEDINA SPIRIT (7-2)

3. MEDINA SPIRIT (7-2)

7. ROMAN CENTURIAN (8-1)

7. ROMAN CENTURIAN (8-1)

5. THE GREAT ONE (4-1)

5. THE GREAT ONE (4-1)



Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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