Santa Anita: The Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points 50-20-10-5)
#1 Lord Nelson (4-1): The first of two from Baffert has long been rumored to be a runner and finally showed it last time, when he won the local GII San Vicente last month to secure his first graded stakes, and he could be the one to catch from this draw on the stretch-out. Son of Pulpit is bred for the extra turn, but up to this point, he’s 3-for-3 sprinting and 0-for-2 at two turns, so this trip could pose some issues. The pace doesn’t look overly heated on paper, though, so if he breaks running, maybe he can make the front and slow things down, which would certainly enhance his chances late; exotics potential.
#2 Ocho Ocho Ocho (4-1): Undefeated juvenile makes his 3-year-old debut after a trio of wins last year that culminated in a game score in the GIII Delta Jackpot over Mr. Z and Far Right, who have gone on to do some good things in Arkansas this year. Cassidy runner has a nice blend of speed and stamina and is eligible to trip out nicely just off the speed today, which would put him in the right spot off the far turn. Street Sense colt has really turned it up in the AM with a pair of bullets of late, and while this is obviously just a stepping stone, don’t forget that he’s lacking points and will have only one more prep before the Derby, so it’s not like they can just ease back into the fray, either. Versatile sort no doubt has talent and showed last year that he can win a big one, but there are a few others that rank higher today; underneath, if at all.
#3 Dortmund (8-5): Baffert’s heavy hitter was a surprise entrant after it was initially suggested that he would pass on this and await the Santa Anita Derby after he won an all-out street fight with Firing Line in the local GIII Robert Lewis to up his mark to 4-for-4. Son of Big Brown showed a lot of heart coming back after he was passed in midstretch, but it could also be a bit of a mirage, as Firing Line was pulling himself up just as much as this colt was coming back. Either way, it was a huge run—on the stopwatch too—but don’t forget, he was originally not going to run here because his trainer thought that win would have taken a lot out of him. So yeah, it’s nice to see him here and it’s a confident move, but there’s still no doubt that he laid it all on the line last time, which might leave him vulnerable in this spot; second-best.
#4 The Gomper (15-1): Longshot steps way up for Ellis after running fourth to today’s rival Prospect Park in a local optional claimer in what was his first two-turn start, so, needless to say, he’s got his work cut out for him. Son of Sky Mesa has just a Los Alamitos Race Course maiden win to show from three starts and has failed at odds-on in his last two, so the fact that he’s even in here is a surprise. Respect this barn and the high percentages across the board, but this is just way too much too soon; easy toss.
#5 Kenjisstorm (50-1): Giant bomber is not only winless in five starts, but he hasn’t even hit the board, so there’s little hope for a form reversal in what looks like arguably the toughest Derby prep to date. Stormy Atlantic colt makes his first start for Papaprodromou, who has been known to pull off a surprise in his day, but this won’t be one of them; get home safely.
#6 Prospect Park (4-1): The buzz horse was simply devastating in his aforementioned local win when he had all sorts of traffic trouble inside but stayed plenty cool, tipped out off the far turn, and won in a common gallop in what was nothing short of an eye-popping run. Tapit colt is now 2-for-2 going two turns since the blinkers came off and has both the speed to lay close early and the stamina to punch home late, which is a mighty enviable combination. If there’s a knock, it’s that he hasn’t tested stakes foes yet and his main rivals are all battle-tested and then some in these ranks, but talent has a way of overcoming that, and there’s little doubt that this runner has a ton of that. Rapidly improving and definitely on the rise for Sise, and if they didn’t know him before this one, they sure will after it; announces his presence on the national scene with a win.
#7 Bolo (6-1): Turf runner made some waves when he blew the doors off the Eddie Logan on the local grass for his second straight win, but don’t forget that dad Tempe City was a long-distance California dirt specialist in his day, so he’s bred for this and beyond. Gaines charge has shown a brilliant turn of foot in his last two wins and deserves a start in this to see where he shapes up with the local dirt crew; he’s certainly trained well on the real stuff in the morning, which won’t hurt the cause. If you’re a believer, then you’re getting a nice price to find out, but even if he can dirt, that doesn’t mean that he’s going to be able to threaten what looks like a really salty group; mixed signals here.
#8 Pulmarack (20-1): You can hardly compare this colt to California Chrome, but he does have some similarities as he’s a Cal-bred by Lucky Pulpit and exits the California Cup Derby here in January, a race that last year’s Horse of the Year won. But getting back to reality, he’s got a lot of catching up to do to follow in those footsteps, and up to now he just hasn’t run fast enough to win a race like this. Still, you get Hollendorfer calling the shots, and this homebred has improved in both starts this year, so if he jumps up again, he could hit the number at a big price, though that seems to be asking a lot; for fans of the King only.
#9 Sir Samson (12-1): Speedy son of Smart Strike pressed the issue in the San Vicente before tiring to finish third, and Koriner will take the blinkers off today in the hopes of getting him to relax more. He sure has come a long way in three starts, as he was beaten a mere 75 lengths in his debut over the track in November, and now he’ll test two turns for the first time, though he’s surely bred for the distance. If no one goes early, he’s shown he’s fast enough to make the engine, but from this wide draw, that seems unlikely, and a free pass on the lead might be his only hope of hanging around for a share; playing against.
#10 Pain and Misery (15-1): Well-traveled runner makes his second start for Mandella after romping in a pair of Zia Park minor dirt stakes win last year for Rodriguez, but if nothing else, he showed when second in the local Baffle Stakes that he’s not out of his element in the big leagues. Of course, what a 6 1/2 furlong sprint down the hill means to today’s two-turn route on the main track is anyone’s guess, but dad Bob and John won the GI Wood at Aqueduct a few years back, so he should have no problem with the trip. It’s never wise to dismiss a Hall of Famer, and he could wake way up in his first dirt start for this barn, but you better demand every bit of this ML and then some if you’re coming along; tough to tout.
#6 Prospect Park
#1 Lord Nelson