Santa Anita: The Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles
#1 Carving: The first of two from Baffert gets back to conventional dirt after a three-race synthetic campaign that started with a win in Hollywood Park’s Real Quiet in November and ended last month with a meek fourth in the GIII El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Son of Any Given Saturday is bred for the trip, but his lone dirt win came in a minor stakes at Fairplex last summer, so even with this ground-saving post, he’s got his work cut out for him; tough to tout.
#2 Flashback: Baffert’s second runner enters 2-for-2 after winning his stakes, two-turn and conventional dirt debut over the track and distance in the GII Lewis in February, where he wired three overmatched rivals. Things get much tougher today, as he meets a real stud next door in Goldencents and you know he won’t be able to go 48 3/5 like they let him do in the Lewis. Still, he’s undefeated and untested and gives the impression that there’s even more talent to be unearthed, not to mention he stalked and won in his maiden win, so they better have their running shoes on to beat this son of Tapit; formidable.
#3 Goldencents: Hotshot 2yo sure looked good showing a new dimension when he won his 3yo debut in the GIII Sham here in January after stalking the early pace and kicking clear late. In expert hands with O’Neill calling the shots, and he showed some brilliance at 2 when he won on the lead, so to see him come back and stalk and win at 3 shouldn’t be taken lightly. His post and experience over Flashback should come into play today and that might give him the upper hand over that classy gray; gets the tepid nod.
#4 Kochees: On paper, this lightly raced son of Lion Heart looks a bit out of his element, since he’s never won on dirt and enters off a fourth in a local optional claimer, but dig a bit deeper and you see he lost to Super Ninety Nine and Code West, and those two Baffert toughies have run huge off that race, so just maybe there’s something more here. Son of Lion Heart adds blinkers and enters off a bullet drill (with the hood on?), so he seems to be on the improve, and it’s not like there are any monsters after the big two; might spice up your exotics.
#5 Hear the Ghost: Intriguing newcomer enters off a second in the local six-furlong San Pedro for Hollendorfer, who rarely runs them over their head, so you probably should take notice. Son of the legendary Ghostzapper should relish the two turns and has the sprint speed to lay close early, so he should have every chance to prove his mettle, though the top pair are imposing; exotics threat.
#6 Tiz A Minister: Stretch runner sure looked good in his conventional dirt debut when he flew home over the track to win a pricey Cal-bred stakes going a two-turn mile in January, and now steps way up to see where he stands in the open ranks. Sure, they flew early that day, but he did close from 17 lengths behind going only a mile, so you know he’ll be firing late, and the pace does look like it could be fast, so at a nice price there’s a chance he can crack the number; not impossible for part of the purse.
#7 Salutos Amigos: Recent six-furlong MSW winner was visually impressive winning over the track last month but steps way up today as he stretches out and faces winners—not to mention stakes foes—for the first time. Still, we all know how these 3yo’s can jump up and improve open lengths overnight at this time of the year, so just maybe he’s finally turned the corner and is getting good at the right time. On paper he’s fast enough to lead these, so they could gun to the lead and hope he forgets to stop; the two favorites won’t be far behind, though, so that doesn’t sound like too enterprising of a position to be in; remembering him for down the road, but not today.
#8 Omega Star: Cal-bred made first run into the hot pace before getting run down by ‘Minister but did impress that day, as it was his first two-turn start and first against winners. Improving son of Candy Ride is tactical enough to get a good position from this wide draw, but he’s got a ways to go to be able to compete with the top pair, as it’s not like he’s any faster than even the threats for the minor awards; using underneath, if at all.