Kentucky Derby Preview Series – The G2 San Felipe – By Eric Solomon

The second to last Derby prep in Southern California is the San Felipe Stakes, which drew a field of seven runners, five of which are eligible to earn points towards entry in the Kentucky Derby. Bob Baffert has live runners in this race and the Gotham (Rockefeller), so the more races his horses win in these prep races, the lower the points a horse would need to enter the Derby. I think there are three main win contenders in this race today.

 

Santa Anita Park Saturday  3/5/2022, Race 6: The Grade 3 San Felipe Stakes

85 Total Derby points (50/20/10/5)

 

 

1 – Happy Jack (8-1 ML, 200-1 Circa): He debuted like a good thing for Doug O’Neill in January, beating a nice field of maiden special weight runners in a six furlong sprint. He wheeled back in two weeks to face four other rivals in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes here and he was soundly defeated, finishing last, beaten 27 lengths. He’s had four weeks off since that last effort and has two average works since. I didn’t see anything in his performance last month to make me think that he could turn it around to be a contender at this level right now. 

2 – Worse Read Sanchez (20-1 ML): He also comes in for Doug O’Neill after a pair of solid races at two turns on the grass. While he definitely has improved since stretching out to a route, those solid efforts have all come against California bred company. He moves to open company, and is one of two horses in here that weren’t nominated to the Triple Crown. I know these connections like to take their shots, but this one feels like a big reach to me. 

3 – Armagnac (5-1 ML): The first of two Baffert runners is the only horse entered to have a win at the distance, which has to mean something in this spot. He debuted in a 6 and ½ furlong sprint, where he was bothered at the start. He hung around to finish a non-threatening third that afternoon, but he dramatically improved when taking his game around two turns. He made an easy early lead with a five horse field and was never challenged, winning by 2 and ½ lengths. He’s yet another six figure purchase that is owned by the SF Racing LLC, Starlight Racing, and Madaket Stables conglomerate. He draws inside position on Forbidden Kingdom, which should give him an early advantage with a clean break. He’s sired by Quality Road, out of a dam that did her best running in middle distance turf races. Despite having a very easy time of things in his lone victory, I see him as live in this spot. 

4 – Beautiful Art (12-1 ML): He broke his maiden in an unusual condition, a  $200K-$150K maiden claiming race contested over this oval last month, going six furlongs. While I’m sure that race was a decent race for a maiden claiming field, I don’t think it was on par with some of the maiden special weight fields that others have beaten. They paid $310K and were willing to risk losing some money on him even with a claim and win. He wasn;t nominated to the triple Crown, so I don’t think his connections have been high on his prospects. While I get taking a shot with a small field in a race like this, I think he’s up against it here. 

5 – Doppleganger (9-5 ML, 100-1 Circa): He finished 4th behind Forbidden Kingdom in the Grade 2 San Vicente last time out. That race played out like a merry-go-round with no change in position from anyone that day. The final time was sharp though and the 89 Beyer figure he earned is a legitimate number. There’s reason to believe that he can improve at two turns, and Baffert sure is working him like he does with his good ones. His dam wasn’t much of a runner and she hasn’t produced any world beaters thus far in her career. However, he was sold for $570K, at the Fasig-Tipton Select Sale in 2020, suggesting that he certainly looks the part. I’d be a little more confident in his chances had he finished his last race a little stronger. I think he’s got too much class to leave off your tickets, but I’m not completely sold on him.

6- Forbidden Kingdom (8-5 ML, 25-1 Circa): The winner of the San Vicente is out to prove he can pass the two turn test. Like his rival, he was also purchased at the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Select Sale, going for $300K to MyRacehorse and Spendthrift. He’s looked very good on the main track so far, winning twice and finishing second behind Messier in the Bob Hope back in November. Mandela has been working him at longer distances in order to build his stamina for this test. He’s sired by American Pharoah, so he’ll need his daddy’s stamina as there are some distance limitations on the dam side. He’ll likely have to work to get the lead from post 6, but I do think he’s quick enough to clear if that is what they want to do. He’s a definite contender here.  

7- Cabo Spirit (5-1 ML, 225-1 Circa): He did finish second in a Derby Points race, however he was 15 lengths behind the winner that day. He’s a steady horse that has gradually improved over his eight races. He’s probably better on the grass, but I can’t blame his connections for trying once more in a Derby prep, seeing as how they paid $575K for him at the April 2021 OBS Sale. He’s a nice horse, and he may be able to hang around for a piece, but I think the shorter prices are better suited to win this race. 

The verdict: 3-6-5

From a wagering perspective, this contest is the least intriguing of the four Derby Points races this weekend. The three short prices seem to have an advantage over their other four rivals. While Doppleganger and Forbidden Kingdom will likely take the bulk of the pari-mutuel action, you’ll be getting a short price on two horses that are both trying something new. Both trainers have been working them longer distances to try to build their stamina to get the two turn distance, and in the AM, both seem to be responding. 

However, I think the other Baffert, Armagnac might offer the best value in this race. He has inside position on both of his main rivals, and he gets the services of the Hall of Fame rider, John Velazquez. There’s no denying that he got an easy trip on the front when breaking his maiden last out, however, he did it at the same distance as this race. He has enough early speed that he could possibly make the lead if Hernandez isn’t uber aggressive with Forbidden Kingdom early on. If he doesn’t make the lead, he should sit a ground saving trip, just off the pacesetter. Either way, I think he will get a better trip than his stablemate, Doppleganger, who in all likelihood has a higher ceiling. If I’m playing this race in the various multi-race sequences, I’m likely going to be using all three of these runners. At 5-1 or better, I’d being well to play Armagnac on top.  

Each week, we’ll have an update on horses and races from the previous week that may produce starters for the 148th Kentucky Derby on May 7th, 2022. Current futures odds from Circa or Caesars-William Hill will be provided as they are available. Feel free to reach out on Twitter @EricSolomon718.

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