Dave in Dixie and American Lion will seek revenge against Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) winner Caracortado in the $150,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II), a key 3-year-old prep at Santa Anita March 13.
Interactif, switching from the turf for trainer Todd Pletcher, and runaway San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) victor Sidney's Candy also help make the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe an intriguing race even though just seven were entered.
Fast becoming the blue-collar favorite in the Triple Crown picture, the California-bred gelding Caracortado is undefeated in five starts, most recently registering a 1 3/4-length triumph over Dave in Dixie in the Lewis. He completed the 1 1/16-mile distance in a spirited 1:41.75.
Caracortado, who was sent off as the fourth choice in a field of five in the Lewis, hails from Michael Machowsky's small stable and is ridden by veteran journeyman Paul Atkinson, little known outside of Southern California. But since breaking his maiden in a $40,000 claiming race at Fairplex Park, the son of Cat Dreams out of the Maria's Mon mare Mons Venus has made a believer out of many. All of his wins have come in authoritative fashion.
“I read what everybody writes about him, that he is kind of off-bred, not a blue-blood, but he’s honest," said Machowsky, who also bred the gelding. "You can’t knock that. I think using a low-profile rider probably has kept him flying under the radar, but if he’s under the radar now, he shouldn’t be.”
Caracortado drew the far outside post and is the high weight at 119 pounds in the San Felipe, which is the ninth race on the program at approximately 4:38 p.m.
Machowsky, who owns a piece of the chestnut along with Don Blahut, calls Caracortado “M.C.” around the barn. “It stands for mentally challenged,” the trainer said. “He was a pain in the ass when I first got him, but now he’s a pro."
He said gelding him was important to getting Caracortado under control.
"If you see him from even three months ago, he’s changed a lot," Machowsky said. "His name’s gotten a little more popular but he’s filled out more and he’s actually hitting a little growth spurt. So he’s kind of filling out, looking like a pretty good size horse now."
Machowsky said he is targeting the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 3 with Caracortado. The horse's name, by the way, means "scarface" in Spanish. He was given the name after taking eight stitches along his nose after cutting himself on a fence or in his stall while he was growing up, the trainer explained.
An earner of $199,200, Caracortado’s victims in the Lewis included a pair of 3-year-olds, Tiz Chrome and American Lion, who were among the nation’s top 10 prospects for the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I) at the time.
Making his 2010 debut, American Lion pressed Tiz Chrome through solid fractions and weakened in the lane in his first-two turn race, losing second by a half-length to Dave in Dixie.
Jockey Julien Leparoux will be back aboard the WinStar Farm homebred son of Tiznow --Storm Tide (by Storm Cat). Trained by Eoin Harty, American Lion has won twice in four starts, including Hollywood Park’s seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) in November. He will be equipped with blinkers for the first time in the San Felipe.
Dave in Dixie, a son of Dixie Union--Risk (by Wavering Monarch) owned by Ike and Dawn Thrash, rallied late to turn in the best effort of his career in the Lewis. Dave in Dixie, a $310,000 yearling who broke his maiden at first asking at Del Mar last summer, goes for his first stakes victory with Joel Rosario again aboard for trainer John Sadler.
Pletcher, deep in talented 3-year-olds again this season, will be represented by Interactif, a two-time grade III winner last year. The son of Broken Vow --Broad Pennant (by Broad Brush) ran a close third to Pounced in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf (gr. IIT) at Santa Anita’s last November and is coming off a nose defeat as the odds-on choice in the Hallandale Beach Stakes on the Gulfstream Park grass Feb. 7.
Wertheimer & Frere’s Interactif, who has posted a 3-1-1 record in six starts for earnings of $288,250, brings the biggest bankroll into the San Felipe. Rafael Bejarano will take over in the saddle from Florida-based Kent Desormeaux as Interactif tries a synthetic surface for the first time following four races on grass.
Pletcher said Interactif will likely go to the Santa Anita Derby Derby (gr. I), the Toyota Blue Grass (gr. I) or Coolmore Lexington Stakes (gr. II) if he runs well in the San Felipe.
Sidney’s Candy, the Craig Family Trust’s highly promising son of Candy Ride --Fair Exchange (by Storm Cat), will be racing around two turns for the first time with regular rider Joe Talamo in the irons.
Also trained by Sadler, Sidney’s Candy drew off under steady handling to post a 4 1/2-length victory in the seven-furlong San Vicente Feb. 15. That followed a troubled but dull fourth-place showing as the 3-5 favorite in a first-level allowance event on Dec. 30. The chestnut has won two of four starts.
$150,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II, Race 9, 4:38 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles (Synthetic)
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Stephen's Got Hope (TX), T Baze, 115, D F O'Neill
2. Interactif (KY), R Bejarano, 117, T A Pletcher
3. Erbeia (KY), A O Solis, 115, R E Mandella
4. American Lion (KY), J R Leparoux, 117, E G Harty
5. Sidney's Candy (KY), J Talamo, 117, J W Sadler
6. Dave in Dixie (KY), J Rosario, 115, J W Sadler
7. Caracortado (CA), P Atkinson, 119, M Machowsky
Blinkers On: American Lion