By BETH HARRIS
AP Racing Writer
ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Mastery won the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths on Saturday before being pulled up after the finish line, leaving trainer Bob Baffert worried about the future of his top Kentucky Derby contender.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Mastery led all the way and ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.28 at Santa Anita. The 4-5 favorite paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10.
It was the latest setback among 3-year-olds on the Derby trail. Klimt and Syndergaard already have fallen out of contention.
Shortly after crossing the finish, Mastery was pulled up by Smith, who removed the colt’s saddle. He was vanned off for a trip back to the barn and an examination.
“I felt it about 10 jumps after the wire. All of a sudden he just picked his back leg up,” Smith said. “Then a minute or so and he put it down and he was fine. I’m hoping he just tweaked it and it’s nothing serious.”
Mastery was making his 3-year-old debut after winning all three of his starts last year. He earned the 50 points awarded to the winner, putting the colt near the top of the Kentucky Derby leaderboard that decides the 20-horse field for the May 6 race.
After watching from his box, an initially exhilarated Baffert made his way through the stands.
“I hear one of the fans say, `I hope your horse is all right,'” he said. “I thought, `What?'”
After arriving in a strangely empty winner’s circle, Baffert watched the race replay, looking for any hint of trouble.
Standing next to his wife and owner, Everett Dobson of Oklahoma City, Baffert tried to process his emotions after the roller coaster experience.
“We’ve been so high on this horse,” he said. “To see what he did today was just incredible. It was going to put him best 3-year-old in the nation.”
He was interrupted by a call from assistant Jimmy Barnes, who reported Mastery walked off the van seemingly in good order.
“It’s his left hind, whatever it is,” Baffert said. “Hopefully, it’s nothing obvious or nothing serious.”
San Vicente winner Iliad returned $3.40 and $2.60, while Term of Art was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third and paid $5.40 to show. Both colts are trained by Doug O’Neill. Iliad was trained by Baffert in his first two starts before a split between him and owner Kaleem Shah.
Sham Stakes winner Gormley finished fourth, followed by Ann Arbor Eddie, Bluegrass Envy and Vending Machine.
NOTE: Later in the afternoon, Baffert issued the following statement regarding Mastery’s injury: “When he got back to the barn, he seemed okay, but when he got off the wash rack, he showed some filling in his left front ankle. It’s a condylar fracture. He’ll be operated on this Monday and they’ll insert two screws. We won’t know until after the surgery whether or not this is career-ending.”