UNBEATEN CAL-BRED SMOKEY IMAGE, UNCLE LINO & DANZING CANDY ALL HAVE BIG CHANCES IN FINAL PREP TO $1 MILLION SANTA ANITA DERBY WITH 85 KY. DERBY QUALIFYING POINTS AT STAKE
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 9, 2016)–Keith Desormeaux’s Exaggerator and Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit headline a talented group of seven three-year-olds in Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles. In addition to the top two, unbeaten California-bred Smokey Image and rapidly improving sophomores Uncle Lino and Danzing Candy all rate big chances with a total of 85 Kentucky Derby qualifying points at stake.
EXAGGERATOR: A big second to undefeated Eclipse Champion Nyquist in Santa Anita’s Grade II, seven furlong San Vicente Stakes Feb. 15, this Kentucky-bred colt by Curlin figures to improve with the added distance and a recent race under his belt. Owned by Big Chief Racing, LLC, Head of Plains, LLC, Rocker O Ranch LLC and Keith Desormeaux, he’s proven to be a versatile sort who can press the pace or stalk. With a pair of graded stakes wins to his credit, he has three overall wins and two seconds from seven starts, good for career earnings of $1,023,120. He’ll again be ridden by Desormeaux’s Hall of Fame brother, Kent.
MOR SPIRIT: A better-than-looked 1 ½ length winner of the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles Robert B. Lewis Stakes here Feb. 6, he took the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity at the same distance on Dec. 19. Although he’s proven a bit reluctant on occasion in the mornings, the Pennsylvania-bred ridgling by Eskendereya is progressing nicely for Baffert who won last year’s San Felipe with Dortmund, who provided him with his record fifth San Felipe win. Owned by Michael L. Petersen, Mor Spirit has been ridden to all three of his career wins by Gary Stevens, who’s back aboard on Saturday.
SMOKEY IMAGE: Much like California Chrome in 2014, undefeated California-bred Smokey Image will be trying graded stakes completion for the first time following a massive 8 ½ length win versus statebreds in the California Cup Derby at 1 1/16 miles on Jan. 30. Untouched in six starts, his last three versus Cal-breds, the chestnut colt by Southern Image tried two turns for the first time in the California Cup Derby Jan. 30, winning by 8 ½ lengths in gate to wire fashion. Trained by Carla Gaines, he’ll be ridden by California Chrome’s regular pilot, Victor Espinoza. Smokey Image is owned by Irvin Racing Stable and he’s banked $435,100.
UNCLE LINO: A sharp second in his first route try to Mor Spirit in the 1 1/16 miles Robert B. Lewis, this improving son of Uncle Mo will try to establish himself as a top tier Derby hopeful for trainer Gary Sherlock. Ridden in all four of his starts by Fernando Perez, Uncle Lino pressed a solid pace in the Lewis and finished well. Owned by Tom Mansor, Purple Shamrock Racing or Sherlock, Uncle Lino will get an “acid test” in the San Felipe.
DANZING CANDY: Trained by Cliff Sise, Danzing Candy has been ultra impressive in a pair of allowance wins at the current Winter Meet, his most recent a 5 ¾ length gate to wire romp going a flat mile here on Feb. 4. Lightly raced, this Kentucky-bred colt by Twirling Candy will make his stakes debut in the San Felipe, which will be his fourth career start and second around two turns. Bred by Ted Aroney’s Halo Farms and owned by Halo Farms, Bashor or Bashor, Danzing Candy has trained forwardly out of his most recent win and will be ridden for the third time in a row by Mike Smith.
THE SAN FELIPE STAKES FIELD IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 7 Approximate post time, 3:05 p.m. PT
- Uncle – Lino Fernando Perez – 120
- Danzing Candy – Mike Smith – 120
- Mor Spirit – Gary Stevens – 124
- Cupid – Martin Garcia – 120
- I Will Score – Rafael Bejarano – 120
- Smokey Image – Victor Espinoza – 120
- Exaggerator – Kent Desormeaux – 122
The San Felipe Stakes, final major steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 9, will award the winner 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The second, third and fourth place San Felipe finishers will earn 20, 10 and 5 points respectively.