Brian’s Derby Preps: The San Felipe

Derby points on the line in two races this weekend, in California and Florida, so plenty of opportunities to earn points in our Derby fantasy league.  The scratch of Bayern doesn’t leave our players with much in the way of action on the West Coast, but the Tampa Bay Derby might spur some movement on the leaderboard.

Brian Nadeau will be back later today with his look at that race, but here’s his look at the San Felipe.

Santa Anita: The Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles, by Brian Nadeau of Horseplayer Now.

#1 Home Run Kitten: Longshot didn’t fire behind heavy hitter Midnight Hawk in his dirt debut in the local GII Robert Lewis last time and will look to turn the tables against that rival, not to mention a slew of other salty foes. Son of ace turf/synthetic sire Kitten’s Joy drew perfectly for this two-turn test and it’s nice to see Hofmans forge on, but this is one big ask for a horse with just a 6 1/2-furlong MSW down the hill to his credit. On paper, this draw and his tactical style should ensure a good trip, but that’s about where the positives end; not seeing it.

#2 Unstoppable Colby: Lukas runner exits a modest MSW win at Oaklawn Park when last seen, and while his draw and speedy style should play well here, it’s likely he made the trip to get some frequent flier miles with stud stablemate Will Take Charge running in the Big ‘Cap later on the card. Son of Pulpit is certainly bred for this and looks like a bargain, as they paid just 30k for him as a yearling, but like ‘Kitten next door, he’s being thrown into the deep end of the pool today. Of course, the Coach isn’t in the Hall of Fame by taking the road less traveled, so that does help, but on the face of it, he’s simply not fast enough; easy toss.

#3 Rprettyboyfloyd: The first of two maidens is entered in a MSW on the Friday card, and, after seeing the big guns who landed here, you’d have to think that he takes that much easier out. Breuer charge has kept good company in his three starts, running second to Bayern, who would have been favored here, in his debut, then finishing third to the highly regarded Kobe’s Back when last seen in the local GIII San Vicente, but that’s not scaring any of the big boys here. Son of Bluegrass Cat is bred for the added ground, but it’s tough to see him making a dent here if he’s in the starting gate; huge chance—Friday afternoon.

#4 California Chrome: Cal-bred son of Lucky Pulpit has made some big waves of late, winning a pair of state-bred stakes by open lengths, including the Cal Cup Derby—at this track and distance–by a widening 5 1/2 lengths in his last start, though obviously this is a different cup of tea altogether. Trainer Sherman has enjoyed a stellar meet from a limited number of starters, and he brings a rapidly improving colt who, on paper, should trip out beautifully just off the speed, which only adds to his appeal. Of course, there’s a rub, too, as his lone start against this type was a sixth over the synthetic in the GI Del Mar Futurity last summer, so you’re allowed to wonder if he’s simply been beating up on inferior foes and comes back to earth today. There’s also the chance, though, that he’s a bigger, stronger horse now than he was then, and he might just take it out on these guys here today; expecting another biggie.

#5 Sawyer’s Hill: The second maiden was beaten by ‘Floyd two-back and doesn’t have anywhere near the positives that runner does, as he’s run just twice and never outside the MSW ranks, so needless to say, this is essentially an impossible task. Son of Spring At Last is bred for the trip and could move up in his first two-turn assignment, and does project as the inside speed, but let’s just be kind and say that maidens aren’t supposed to be running against GII runners with designs on winning the Kentucky Derby; pop and stop time.

#6 Bayern: SCRATCHED

#7 Kristo: Tactical son of Distorted Humor was a game second to Midnight Hawk in the GIII Sham going a mile here in January, and now that Bayern is scratched, he moves way up as he figures to sit a dream one- or two-over stalking trip off the inside speed. Sadler charge has been a much improved commodity since stretching to two turns, and though he wasn’t visually impressive in the Sham and had the “someone had to be second” feel to him, while beating only two horses home, there’s still a ton of upside here, and you get the impression that there’s a bit more in the tank as well. Whether or not he’s a Derby horse remains to be seen, but today it simply looks like he gets everything his way after the scratch of the big horse; tepid call.

#8 Schoolofhardknocks: The wild card hasn’t started since winning his debut at Del Mar going a two-turn mile in August and sure does pick one heck of a spot to return, though anyone who saw his closing win that day no doubt left impressed. The second from Hofmans adds Lasix today as well, and as a son of Rock Hard Ten,  he’s certainly bred for the main track, though with Royal Academy on the bottom you’re allowed to wonder if turf is where he’ll show his true colors. It’s worth noting that this dude was entered in the GI FrontRunner in September over the track/distance before scratching, so the barn obviously has high hopes for him and his works do whisper ready, so at the very least he’s a name worth remembering; tabbing for down the road.

#9 Midnight Hawk: The lone Baffert runner after the scratch of Bayern lost a little luster and was possibly exposed when a meek third to Candy Boy in the Lewis last time after he became all the rage with his Sham win, so he’ll need to improve today to get back his once-lofty status. No doubt he got all the best of it in the Sham, too, as Kristo was pinned down inside and couldn’t get out until it was too late, and it’s not like this son of Midnight Lute is bred to relish some additional ground, either, so you have to be a bit wary of taking too short of a price, especially with this wide draw. On paper his numbers are good enough to win this and he’ll take plenty of support, but the gut says he’s just not as advertised; taking a stand against on top.

#10 Recanted: Turf runner took the worst of it from the draw, not to mention the fact that he makes his dirt debut against a sharp field of proven stakes runners. O’Neill runner is by Empire Maker and is out of a Pulpit dam, so not only is he bred for the switch, but he’s bred to relish it as well, so that’s not something to overlook. It’s a little disconcerting that he was 14-1 in his US debut down the hill last time, as you would have thought that if he were a runner he’d be more live than that, but the other side of the coin says that it was nothing more than a prep for the money run today. Still, from this draw against this crew, it’s tough to think he can threaten for anything more than a minor award; midpack finish seems likely.


#7 Kristo

#4 California Chrome

#9 Midnight Hawk

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