Sure, it’s nice for a trainer to get a fresh infusion of talented 3-year-olds approaching the Kentucky Derby, but there’s no better feeling than bringing along a contender yourself.
Tim Yakteen, who recently inherited eight talented sophomores from trainer Bob Baffert due to the latter’s suspension by Churchill Downs, saddled four starters in Saturday’s Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. But it was Practical Move, the lone runner who had been in his care from the start, who powered home to capture the 1 1/16-mile race by 2 1/2 lengths over Geaux Rocket Ride and virtually stamp his ticket to Derby 2023, assuming he remains healthy over the next two months.
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“He is a very healthy horse. He is a phenomenally gifted horse. I am amazed at how strong he is and how he has matured from a 2-year-old to a 3-year-old,” Yakteen said of Practical Move, who was making his first start since winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) on Dec. 22. “Everything has fallen into place.”
#3 PRACTICAL MOVE ($10.40) with another big victory in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) under @JockeyRamonVazq! The son of Practical Joke is trained by @timyakteen, and has now won three of six starts. pic.twitter.com/KYCDHXvpsk— TVG (@TVG) March 4, 2023
Yakteen also saddled the former Baffert runners Hejazi, Fort Bragg and Mr Fisk, who finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively, in the last significant West Coast prep for the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 8.
The race was worth 50 points to the winner, all but guaranteeing the son of Practical Joke a spot in the starting gate for Derby 149 on May 6. The remainder of the points went to the next four finishers. Geaux Rocket Ride earned 20 points, Skinner 15, Hejazi 10 and Fort Bragg 5.
Practical Move broke toward the rear of the pack from post 2 under jockey Ramón Vázquez but quickly recovered and began moving forward along the rail as Hejazi carved out fractions of 47.12 seconds and 1:11.08 through the first six furlongs, flanked by Geaux Rocket Ride and Fort Bragg to his outside.
By the time the leaders reached far turn, Vazquez had Practical Move parked right inside the top trio just waiting for daylight. He found it when Hejazi drifted out entering the stretch and gunned his mount into the void. Hejazi tried to battle with the winner but couldn’t keep pace and began to fade in mid-stretch, allowing Richard Mandella-trained Geaux Rocket Ride and a rallying Skinner to pass him approaching the wire, which the winner crossed at 1:42.01.
Practical Move returned $10.40 for a $2 win bet. He was the fourth choice in the field reduced to nine by the scratches of 3-1 morning-line favorite National Treasure due to a foot issue as well as long shot Crypto Ride.
Vázquez, who has ridden in one Kentucky Derby, said his mount gave him confidence despite being caught on the inside behind horses.
“This horse keeps getting better and better every day. He can go inside or outside. He is comfortable wherever. He lets me do my job, and he does the rest,” said Vazquez, who finished 13th in the 2015 run for the roses for Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas.
Practical Move was purchased for $230,000 at the 2022 Ocala breeders spring sale by Jean Pierre Amestoy Jr. and his wife Leslie, herself a former thoroughbred trainer, and Roger Beasley. She likely will make one more start before the Derby, Yakteen said, adding, “I want to leave the canvas blank now, and we’ll make the call later.”
The victory was the third from six starts for the bay colt, and it pushed his earnings to $434,200.
The Amestoys, who have experienced considerable success buying quarter horses, said they were thrilled to have a Kentucky Derby prospect under the care of “a hands-on trainer” like Yakteen.
“We are super excited, and we think he’s that kind,” Jean said. “We are ready to go all the way.”