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BAFFERT’S BAYERN LIKELY FAVORITE IN SATURDAY’S GRADE II, $300,000 SAN FELIPE STAKES, FINAL MAJOR STEPPINGSTONE TO $1 MILLION SANTA ANITA DERBY ATTRACTS 10 SOPHS AT 1 1/16 MILES
ARCADIA, Calif. (March 5, 2014)—A dazzling 15-length one mile allowance winner on Feb. 13, Bob Baffert’s Bayern looms the horse to beat in Saturday’s Grade II, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes for 3-year-olds at 1 1/16 miles, the final major steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 5.
A gate to wire winner on Feb. 13, he was a first-out, 3 ¼ length maiden winner going seven furlongs in his debut Jan. 4. Bayern, a Kentucky-bred colt by Offlee Wild, has been odds-on in both of his starts and will again be guided by Gary Stevens, who will likely have him on the early lead.
Owned by Kaleem Shah, Inc., Bayern earned Beyer Speed figures of 92 and 98, respectively in his first two starts and will try stakes competition for the first time.
Baffert will also saddle Midnight Hawk, a winner of the Grade III, one mile Sham Stakes two starts back who ran a disappointing third as the 6-5 favorite in the Grade II, 1 1/16 miles Robert B. Lewis Stakes Feb. 8. Beaten 1 ¾ lengths by the highly regarded Candy Boy, Baffert is hoping Midnight Hawk will benefit from the experience and be a better focused horse in the San Felipe.
An impressive first-out maiden winner going 7 ½ furlongs Dec. 13, Midnight Hawk has been favored in all three of his starts and will hope to rebound in his third try around two turns. Owned by Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville, Atlanta Falcons offensive line coach Mike Tice, John Sikura’s Hill ‘n’ Dale Equine Holdings, Inc., Mike Kitchen and Mike Pegram, Midnight Hawk, a colt by Midnight Lute, was bred in Kentucky by Pegram.
One of the most promising 3-year-olds in training is Hronis Racing, LLC’s Kristo. Idle since an emphatic 6 ¾ length maiden win going 1 1/16 miles Oct. 31, he came back running in the one mile Sham Jan. 11, finishing second, 1 ¾ lengths behind Midnight Hawk.
Trained by John Sadler, Kristo, a Kentucky-bred colt by Distorted Humor, has had six works since the Sham, his most recent a six furlong move in 1:13.40 on March 3. The second choice in the Sham at 2-1, Kristo has been favored in three of his four starts and has a win and three seconds to his credit. Ridden in all of his previous starts by Rafael Bejarano, he’ll get the services of Joel Rosario in the San Felipe.
The Cinderella Story in the San Felipe would appear to be the flashy chestnut, California Chrome. The lone California-bred in the field and trained by Art Sherman, the Lucky Pulpit colt has won four of his eight starts and has more game-day experience than any of his rivals.
A daylight winner of his last two starts versus Cal-breds, the seven furlong King Glorious on Dec. 22 and the 1 1/16 miles California Cup Derby Jan. 25, California Chrome has been visually impressive and has his veteran conditioner thinking big this spring. He has worked four times at his Los Alamitos base in preparation for the San Felipe—his most recent drill a five furlong move in 1:00.40 over a wet-fast strip March 2.
Owned by his breeders, Steven Coburn and Perry Martin, California Chrome was a much troubled sixth, beaten two lengths, in his only other graded stakes try, the Grade I, seven furlong Del Mar Futurity on Sept. 4. He will again be ridden by Victor Espinoza, who has been aboard for his last two wins. A winner of the state-bred Graduation Stakes at 5 ½ furlongs July 31, he has four wins and a second with earnings of $354,850.
Legendary Hall of Fame trainer D. Wayne Lukas will be represented by Unstoppable Colby, a gate to wire, neck maiden winner going 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park Feb. 20. A Kentucky-bred colt by Pulpit, Unstoppable Colby was well beaten in the one mile Smarty Jones Stakes at Oaklawn Jan. 20 and will be two-turning for the third time in his sixth overall start Saturday. He’ll be ridden for the first time by Luis Saez, who rides Will Take Charge for Lukas in the Grade I Santa Anita Handicap later in the day.
Third, beaten 6 ¼ lengths in the Grade II, seven furlong San Vicente Stakes Feb. 16, trainer Denise Breuer’s Rprettyboyfloyd remains a maiden after three starts and will try two turns for the first time Saturday. Although he’s routing for the first time, it’s expected he’ll be back off the early San Felipe pace. A Kentucky-bred colt by Bluegrass Cat, he closed much ground in his debut Jan. 4, when second, beaten 3 ¼ lengths by Bayern.
Owned by Karl Pergola, Rprettyboyfloyd will be ridden for the first time by Corey Nakatani.
Trainer David Hofmans will be represented by a pair in the San Felipe, Home Run Kitten and Schoolofhardrocks. A maiden winner going 6 ½ furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course two starts back on Jan. 11, the colt by Kitten’s Joy was well beaten at 31-1 in the Robert B. Lewis Feb. 8. Owned by Tarabilla Farms, Inc., he’ll be making his fourth start on Saturday.
Idle since an impressive first-out maiden win from off the pace going one mile at Del Mar Aug. 31, Schoolofhardrocks will try natural dirt for the first time in only his second start. Owned by Amerman Racing, LLC, and bred in Kentucky by Mrs. Jerry Amerman, the colt by Rock Hard Ten will likely try to make a late run under Joe Talamo.
Although well fancied by the betting public in two sprint starts, Sawyer’s Hill remains a maiden and will try two turns for the first time in the San Felipe. Third in his 5 ½ furlong debut Sept. 4, he was third, beaten 2 ¼ lengths going 6 ½ furlongs Jan. 26 and should be close to the pace with Martin Garcia aboard for the first time.
Trained by Kristin Mulhall, Sawyer’s Hill is owned by Red Castle Farms.
Trainer Doug O’Neill will saddle the impeccably bred Recanted, who will try dirt for the first time in his sixth career start Saturday. A Kentucky-bred colt by Empire Maker, he was a first-out maiden winner June 13 in England and, in his final English start Oct. 8, was a non-threatening eighth at a mile and a quarter on turf.
Owned by Reddam Racing, LLC, Recanted was away slowly in his U.S. debut Jan. 16, and was well beaten going 6 ½ furlongs down the hillside turf course.
The complete field for the San Felipe Stakes, to be run as the fifth race on an 11-race program Saturday with jockeys and weights in post position order: Home Run Kitten, Alonso Quinonez, 118; Unstoppable Colby, Luis Saez, 118; Rprettyboyfloyd, Corey Nakatani, 118; California Chrome, Victor Espinoza, 118; Sawyer’s Hill, Martin Garcia, 118; Bayern, Gary Stevens, 118; Kristo, Joel Rosario, 118; Schoolofhardrocks, Joe Talamo, 118; Midnight Hawk, Mike Smith, 120, and Recanted, Mario Gutierrez, 118.
First post time on Saturday, Santa Anita Handicap Day, is at 12 noon. Admission gates will open at 10 a.m. Santa Anita will guarantee $500,000 in Saturday’s 50 cent Late Pick 4.