Storm the Court may be a champion, but he is also a runner who struggles for respect.
The bettors certainly have not jumped on his bandwagon. Ignored at the windows in his career debut, the Peter Eurton-trained son of Court Vision won first out in solid fashion at odds of 12-1. Next, he was 14-1 when he was bumped and lost his rider in the Del Mar Futurity (G1). He was 19-1 when he checked in third in the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) in his third career start. And then, in his final start at 2, he was a gritty and determined winner of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile while dismissed at odds of 45-1.
You'd be hard pressed to find another champion who never raced at single-digit odds during their championship season, but Storm the Court earned the 2019 Eclipse Award nonetheless. Still, don't look for the trend of Storm the Court being overlooked at the windows to change when he enters the starting gate for Saturday's San Felipe Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.
As an important steppingstone to the 2020 Kentucky Derby, the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe offers 85 qualifying points, 50 of which go to the winner. More than that, this race is shaping up as one of the strongest preps so far this season.
A further sign of disrespect of the champ came with the decision by last year’s Kentucky Derby-winning jockey to get off in favor of a San Felipe rival. Flavien Prat has ridden Storm the Court in each of his five career starts but has chosen to ride Thousand Words in the San Felipe.
It's hard to fault the young Frenchman. After all, the Bob Baffert-trained son of Pioneerof the Nile is the undefeated winner of both the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). Thousand Words is expected to vie for favoritism in the San Felipe, but not with last year's juvenile champion. That distinction will instead fall to another colt from the Baffert barn. Authentic, also undefeated, was a dominant winner of the Sham Stakes (G3) in his second career start.
So where does that leave Storm the Court? Well, to start with he will only be the third or fourth choice in the San Felipe. The impressive maiden winner for John Shirreffs,
The jockey question has been taken care of, with one of the top riders in the nation, Joel Rosario, picking up the mount on Storm the Court. Rosario's patient style should suit him well on Saturday and moving forward.
Storm the Court should also come into the San Felipe ready to run. He turned in a nice workout on Saturday, finishing up five furlongs in :59.40. It was the fastest of 61 works at the distance at Santa Anita.
"I was very pleased with it," Eurton said. "He couldn’t look any better. This is his second race back and we’ve still got another two months (before the Kentucky Derby)."
The veteran trainer is showing patience with his champion, knowing that the big prize is still a few months away. Last year, he was able to get his colt to run his best race when it mattered most. For 2020, Eurton began the season with an old school approach.
Storm the Court wasn't his sharpest for the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) on Feb. 9. The experience should serve as a great tightener for bigger and longer races to come. Looking like a horse who will get better with more distance, Storm the Court ran well despite finishing fourth. He was between horses much of the way and finished with good interest down the lane to get within about two lengths at the finish.
The San Vicente was another race which figures to turn bettors away from Storm the Court. Ignore him at your own risk. Just as with the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, he could jump up again whether it's in the San Felipe or another major race this spring.