After some dismal early preps in Southern California, The San Felipe has come up as a strong, 10 horse field (Crypto Star (#6) has been scratched). Bob Baffert’s top three year olds have been transferred to Tim Yakteen, similar to last year, albeit earlier in the Derby Prep Season. Yakteen trains a whopping five horses in this race, four of which have been trained by Baffert prior to this race, and one that has been with him since his debut.
National Treasure (#2) and Hejazi (#7) are the headliners in this large field. National Treasure came up short in the Sham back in January. The top two from that race have come back to run strong races. Hejazi cost $3.55 million dollars last May. He’ll be expected to take a step forward here.
The first post for the 12 race program is set for 12:00 (PT) with the San Felipe scheduled to go off at 2:30 (PT).
Santa Anita Park, Saturday 3/4/23, Race 6: The Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes
100 Total Derby points (50/20/15/10/5)
1 – Chase the Chaos (12-1 ML, 300-1): The winner of the El Camino Real Derby could be using this race as a prep for the Jeff Ruby Steaks at Turfway on the Tapeta. However, this seems like as good of a time as any to see if he can compete on the main track. His only career dirt start came in an off the turf race in his debut at Canterbury this summer. He has improved over the last several months since being moved to Ed Moger’s barn. While I respect his last two starts, I’m not seeing anything in his pedigree to convince me that he’ll be able to beat these on the dirt.
2 – National Treasure (3-1 ML, 25-1 Circa): The first of five runners that Tim Yakteen is scheduled to be saddling in this race is one of two runners from the SF Racing, Starlight, Madaket conglomerate that has been scooping up high ticket horses at auction and sending them to Baffert. Many of these runners are now racing under Yakteen, who will almost certainly be following the Baffert program. He was a debut winner when sprinting at Del Mar, and then was beaten by Cave Rock in October and by Forte and Cave Rock in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. He made his return in the Sham as the 3-5 favorite where he just wasn’t as good as Reincarnate or Newgate that day. Both of those runners came back to run strong races with Reincarnate running a tough trip third in the Rebel and Newgate winning the Robert B. Lewis. While he might be good enough to beat this group, I do wonder if he’s better suited to one turn racing.
3 – Practical Move (4-1 ML, 50-1 Circa): He’s the O.G. Tim Yakteen runner, who won the Los Alamitos Futurity in a bit of an upset back in December. He’s been prepping for his three year old debut with a series of snappy five furlong drills here at Santa Anita. Practical Joke has been more effective siring horses that succeed at one turn and the dam did her best work at one mile on the turf, so I’m not sure how high his ceiling in these two turn dirt races. While he was very sharp at Los Al, that field has not come back as strong as some of the other So Cal preps. He’ll have support at the windows, but I’ll try to beat him here.
4 – Bluegrass Go Go (50-1 ML): Doug On”Neill loves to take big swings in these races and he’s doing it with this Sharp Azteca colt. He’s still a maiden, coming off a narrow loss in maiden/optional claiming company last month. He was a 20-1 longshot that day and will almost definitely go off at longer odds today. He’s tough to figure here.
5 – Genius Jimmy (20-1 ML): Michael McCarthy is going to try the dirt one more time with this son of Jimmy Creed. He debuted in a tough maiden allowance race when sprinting on the dirt back in October. Since then, he’s run three times in turf routes, getting the job done for the first time at nine furlongs last month. The dam was a three time winner, all of those races coming in sprints in lower level claiming races. He’s an improving colt for a good barn, but I’d prefer to see him try the dirt in an allowance race.
6 – Crypto Ride: SCRATCHED
7 – Hejazi (7-2 ML, 35-1 Circa): Zedan Racing Stables paid $3.55 million for this son of Bernardini in May of 2022. He made three starts as a two year old, finishing second while looking a little green in his debut back in August at Del Mar. His second start was much better, running second behind Speed Boat Beach in a very quick race. As Baffert likes to do with his better horses, he put him in a two turn route after a pair of sprint races. He was unlucky to draw post 8 in the American Pharoah Stakes, and he was wide every step of the way that day, finishing third, about 3 and ½lengths behind National Treasure. He was given a few months off and he returned in a maiden special weight sprint at Santa Anita where he was challenged by his stablemate, but his win was never in doubt. He’s been working well in the mornings and he’s bred to get two turns. Mike Smith will keep the mount on him as he makes his first start for Tim Yakteen. I think he’s going to be very tough in this spot.
8 – Geaux Rocket Ride (5-1 ML, 30-1 Circa): Richard Mandella tends to be a more conservative horseman, so for him to take this kind of shot with this Candy Ride colt is telling. He has one career start, which was a dominating gate to wire in maiden special weight company when going six furlongs at the end of January. He’s bred to handle longer distances, so I don’t fear him stretching out. I do find it interesting that he was bred by OXO Equine and sold, as opposed to being campaigned by them. Larry Best of OXO Equine typically spends a lot of money on horses at auction. He did that with the dam of this runner, Beyond Grace. She was 0-3 in her career, never really getting close in any of those races. Clearly they thought she would make a good broodmare though, as they never offered her for a tag. She sold for $350K at the Fasig-Tipton July Sale in 2021, and now runs for Pin Oak Stud. Flavien Prat takes the mount today on this horse that has a lot of potential upside.
9 – Fort Bragg (8-1 ML, 150-1 Circa): He’s another runner for Tim Yakteen, making his first start since the Los Alamitos Futurity. He finished seven lengths behind Practical Move that afternoon on a day where he didn’t have the best trip. Regardless, he wasn’t as good as the top that day. He ran his best career speed figure in a sprint, in the same race that Hejazi was second in. His dam was a talented turf sprinter for Todd Pletcher, so I do wonder if grass racing will be on the table for him in the near future. Even though he’s sired by Tapit, I’m not sure how effective he has been when going two turns. I prefer others here.
10 – Skinner (5-1 ML, 75-1 Circa): He was no match for Cave Rock as a two year old, losing to him twice in Grade 1 company, while still a maiden. Clearly his connections thought highly of this $510K son of Curlin, having him compete in those races as a two year old. He returned in a maiden special weight race three weeks ago where he came from off the pace to win going away, posting a strong Beyer Speed Figure (95) for his efforts. There should be a solid pace in this race with horses jockeying for position going into the first turn, and he showed he’s very comfortable closing late. Victor Espinoza has not ridden a ton at this meet, but he’ll get the call for John Shirreffs here. I think he could be a force in the stretch in this race.
11 – Mr Fisk (15-1 ML, 125-1 Circa): Frankie Dettori is stuck on the outside with this son of Arrogate, who is the 5th runner that Tim Yakten will be saddling today. He was not interested in sprinting in his debut, losing by double digit lengths. He came back to run a much better race at two turns in November, and he was able to break his maiden in his third start on January 2nd. He’s been off since, and is making his return in a challenging spot, while drawing a challenging post even if his plan is to be coming from off the pace. I don’t think he matches up that well with some of the better ones here.
The Verdict: 7-10-8
This is an interesting betting race, but I think Hejazi (#7) is going to be the one to beat. He is a physical specimen that needed a little time to figure some things out. He had a tough trip for his lone tilt with Cave Rock last year, but he still ran a game race for his trip at two turns. He returned from a brief layoff with a sparkling effort in sprint company. I’m looking for a breakout performance from him here.
Skinner (#10) appeared to make a big step forward since his Del Mar Futurity effort back in September. Something went amiss in the American Pharoah where he wasn’t himself. His connections have always been high on him and seems capable of coming from off the pace, which should help offset his lousy post.
The wild card in this race is Geaux Rocket Ride (#8) who has one career start and one dominating win. He’s bred to improve as the races get longer, and this is a big step up in class. However, Mandela doesn’t run horses in races like this unless he thinks they belong.
I’ll try to beat National Treasure (#2), who is the lukewarm 3-1 morning line favorite. He was facing the top level of competition as a two year old, coming up a little bit short. I didn’t love his effort in the Sham last time out, which makes me think that he might be more effective in one turn races. I would use him as a backup in the multi-race exotics, but I think there’s value in trying to beat him.
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