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TOP DERBY PROSPECTS FLASHBACK & GOLDENCENTS TO SQUARE OFF IN GRADE II SAN FELIPE ON SATURDAY, IT’S BAFFERT VS. O’NEILL AS EIGHT SET TO GO 1 1/16 MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 6, 2013)—It’s Bob Baffert vs. Doug O’Neill as top Derby prospects Flashback and Goldencents head a field of eight 3-year-olds set to contest Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles, final major steppingstone to the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on April 6.
The O’Neill-trained Goldencents comes off a sensational win in the Grade III Sham Stakes going one mile on Jan. 5 and his three victories also include a gate to wire score in the Grade III Delta Jackpot going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 17. His only defeat in four starts was a second place finish to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner Shanghai Bobby in the Grade I Champagne, a one-turn mile at Belmont Park on Oct. 6.
Lightly raced Flashback, an emphatic 6 ¼ length winner of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 2, will be making only his third career start for Baffert but the grey son of Tapit has brilliant speed and a seemingly limitless future.
The complete field for Saturday’s Grade II San Felipe, from the rail out is as follows:
Owned by world famous downhill skier Bode Miller and Jill Baffert, he is without question the “other Baffert” in this context. Purchased last May for a bargain $55,000 at a 2-year-old in training sale, this colt by Any Given Saturday broke his maiden for an $80,000 claiming tag first out at Del Mar on Aug. 23. He then won a minor stakes at Fairplex Park going the two-turn distance of seven furlongs and showed good speed before tiring to finish fourth in the Grade I FrontRunner going 1 1/16 miles on Sept. 29.
A subsequent winner of the $100,000 Real Quiet Stakes going 1 1/16 miles at Betfair Hollywood Park on Nov. 10, he then made no impact from off the pace in the Grade I CashCall Futurity on Dec. 15. Bet to 5-2 in his most recent start, the Grade III El Camino Real Derby going 1 1/8 miles at Golden Gate Fields on Feb. 16, Carving was 10 lengths off the leader leaving the half mile pole and was beaten 6 ¾ lengths after steadying a furlong out.
Look for him to be back on the giddy-up with Bejarano aloft on Saturday. With three wins from six starts, he has $171,900 in earnings.
A rousing 3 ½ length first-out maiden special weight winner going seven furlongs on Dec. 8, Flashback earned a Beyer Speed figure of 93, and followed that up by earning a 92 Beyer in the Robert Lewis. Owned by Gary and Mary West, he fetched $260,000 at the Keeneland Nov. 2010 yearling sale. Off at even money in his debut, this flashy colt was 1-2 in the four-horse Lewis.
Baffert has overseen a steady series of drills since the Lewis win, his most recent being a bullet five furlong move in 59 flat on March 3—best of 63 at the distance. Jockey Julien Leparoux, who rode last year’s Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags, appears to have something very special again this year.
Purchased for just $62,000 at a 2-year-old in training sale in Ocala, Florida a year ago, Goldencents overcame significant adversity going into the Club House turn and garnered a San Felipe best last-out Beyer of 98 in winning the Sham. Regular rider Kevin Krigger further proved his big-race mettle in the Sham, maintaining his cool while calmly negotiating contested waters.
A 7 ¼ length first-out maiden winner going 5 ½ furlongs on Sept. 2 at Del Mar, O’Neill then sent the son of Into Mischief to Belmont Park for his second place run in the Grade I Champagne. Well traveled and battle-tested Goldencents has an amazing five bullet works on his tab since his Sham score, his most recent a six furlong drill on March 2 in 1:11.60 “breezing,”—best of eight at the distance.
Owned by W.C. Racing, Kenney, and RAP Racing, O’Neill is hoping this already gold-plated colt can follow in the footsteps of I’ll Have Another, winner of last year’s Robert B. Lewis, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes.
He is by far the leading money earner in the field with $782,000 in the bank from a record of 4-3-1-0.
A first-out maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course on Jan. 4, Kochees, a Kentucky-bred colt by Lion Heart, was fourth, beaten 6 ½ lengths in his subsequent start, a one mile first condition allowance on Jan. 31.
The San Felipe is obviously a tall order, but trainer Mike Pender and owner B.J. Wright don’t often consult the tote board before entering and have had great success with horses such as Ultimate Eagle and Jeranimo. Regular rider Jose Valdivia, Jr. knows him and Valdivia, who has a win in the Breeders’ Cup, Belmont Stakes and one tally in the Santa Anita Derby to his credit, is no stranger to the Derby Trail. Based at Betfair Hollywood Park (as I’ll Have Another was last year), Kochees has worked three times since his last start. His five furlong drill in 59.80 on March 2 was the fastest of 28 at the distance.
HEAR THE GHOST
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer, who is currently third in the Santa Anita trainer standings with 20 wins, five behind Bob Baffert, will roll the dice with lightly raced Hear the Ghost, a Kentucky-bred gelding by Ghostzapper.
A first-out maiden special weight winner going six furlongs on Dec. 15 at Betfair Hollywood Park, Heart the Ghost gave a good account of himself when running second in the $75,000 San Pedro Stakes at the same distance on Jan. 21. Corey Nakatani will take over for the first time and Hear the Ghost, co-owned by Hollendorfer and Halo Farms, will make his initial start going a route of ground.
Although he is a sprinter stretching out, Hear the Ghost has rallied from off the pace in both of his starts and may sit a stalking trip on Saturday. Hollendorfer appears to have him on edge, as he’s worked six times at his Betfair Hollywood Park base since his last start.
TIZ A MINISTER
A last to first winner of the $300,000 Cal Breeders Champion Stakes going one mile on Jan. 26, California-bred Tiz a Minister will again be ridden by Garrett Gomez and it’s most likely he’ll employ similar tactics in the San Felipe.
With nine starts to his credit, Tiz a Minister, a colt by California-based Ministers Wild Cat, has far more race-day experience than anyone else in the field. Claimed out of his second start for $40,000 on Aug. 2 at Del Mar, trainer Paul Aguirre and owner S.A.Y. Racing LLC are hoping for a fast pace to run at. His overall record stands at 9-2-4-1, with earnings of $246,780.
Salutos Amigos, an impressive maiden allowance winner on Feb. 9, will stretch out for the first time in the San Felipe and the Kentucky-bred colt by Salute the Sarge has the look of a dangerous longshot.
Off at 7-1, Salutos Amigos pressed the pace through splits of 21.20, 43.40 and 55.60 before winning by 3 ¾ lengths in a rapid 1:08.40—good for a sizzling 94 Beyer Speed figure. Originally trained by Kathy Walsh, Salutos Amigos was sold privately to Southern Equine Stable LLC and Smith following a second place finish in his maiden special weight debut on June 21.
Trained by the often loquacious Cajun Eric Guillot, Salutos Amigos could make it tough on anyone with front-running designs in the San Felipe. With a win and a second from three starts, Guillot could be talking a blue streak if the son of Salute the Sarge is able to execute his marching orders. Ridden by Leparoux in last two starts, he’ll be handled for the first time by Martin Garcia.
One of two California-breds in the San Felipe field, Omega Star comes off a second place finish as the 4-5 favorite in the Cal Breeders Champion Stakes going one mile on a wet fast surface Jan. 26. Beaten 1 ¼ lengths by Tiz a Minister, after making the lead turning for home, Omega Star will be making his fourth career start and his third start for trainer John Shirreffs.
A gelding by Candy Ride, Omega Star began his career in New York for owner/breeders Herman Sarkowsky and Martin Wygod. Trained in New York by Jimmy Jerkens, Omega Star was second at 22-1 from the rail going six furlongs at Aqueduct on Dec. 13. He was then transferred to Shirreffs and broke his maiden going 6 ½ furlongs against state-breds on Dec. 31, breaking from the one post and winning by three lengths at even money.
Ridden by Leparoux in his last two starts, Joe Talamo will take over for the first time on Saturday. Omega Star has had four works at his Betfair Hollywood Park base since his last start and like so many, appears to be coming to the race in fine fettle.
The complete field for Saturday’s San Felipe, to be run as the seventh race on a nine-race program, with jockeys and weights in post position order: Carving, Rafael Bejarano, 118; Flashback, Julien Leparoux, 123; Goldencents, Kevin Krigger, 120; Kochees, Jose Valdivia, Jr., 118; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani, 118; Tiz a Minister, Garrett Gomez, 118; Salutos Amigos, Martin Garcia, 118, and Omega Star, Joe Talamo, 118.
First post time on Saturday is at 12:30 p.m. For more racing information, or to make dining and seating reservations, visit www.santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.