Cheyenne Stables owner Everett Dobson has a simple mantra heading into the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) March 11 at Santa Anita Park.
"In Bob we trust," the Oklahoma City resident said with a laugh March 8.
For Dobson's first trek on the Triple Crown trail, sending his top colt Mastery to the barn of Bob Baffert on the Santa Anita backside has been the right move.
The undefeated son of Candy Ride got a relatively late start to his juvenile season, but has yet to misfire under the care of the Hall of Fame trainer who has won the Kentucky Derby (G1) four times.
Mastery began his career with a six-furlong debut win by 4 1/4 lengths in October at Santa Anita, then cruised to a score in the Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar and crushed an overmatched field to win the Los Alamitos Cash Call Futurity (G1) by 7 1/4 lengths to wrap up his season Dec. 10.
Fast-forward three months and Dobson deflects any worry of firing off a layoff to his white-haired trainer.
"He's been down this road before," said Dobson, who previously focused primarily on developing a broodmare band at his farm in Kentucky before teaming with bloodstock agent Gatewood Bell to buy classic and sire prospects. Mastery, a $425,000 purchase from the Keeneland September yearling sale in 2015, is from his first crop of buying colts with that in mind.
"We'll know more Saturday, but even before he broke his maiden, (Baffert) was telling us he had a chance to be a very special horse," Dobson said. "The San Felipe is a very important race. He needs the competition more than anything and we're anxious to see where he stands."
Mastery may not have a loss, but the San Felipe will undoubtedly be his toughest test yet, and a former stablemate, along with a relatively seasoned grade 1 winner, may try to steal the show.
After breaking his maiden at second asking for Baffert at Los Alamitos Race Course in December, Kaleem Shah's Iliad fired off a layoff in his first start for trainer Doug O'Neill, the seven-furlong San Vicente (G2) Feb. 12. The Ghostzapper ridgling, a half brother to grade 3-winning marathoner Melmich, raced just off the lead early with blistering fractions and pulled away late to win by 3 1/2 lengths.
"This is an exciting time to have a horse like that," O'Neill said. "Coming off that win, going two turns for the first time, are we going to move forward? He acts so special in the morning, so those horses get you jacked up for race day."
Shah moved his horses from Baffert to O'Neill and Art Sherman at the start of the year. The owner began 2017 at Santa Anita winless in his first six starts, but has won two of his last three with O'Neill at the Southern California racetrack with Iliad and maiden winner Aristocratic. O'Neill didn't comment specifically on a budding rivalry between the two camps, but continued to express excitement about Iliad.
"Honestly, in this business—especially the longer you're in it—I just get jacked up to run in these races, whoever you run against," O'Neill said. "When you can beat trainers like Bob Baffert that adds a little to all of it."
Jerry and Ann Moss' Gormley may not have the buzz of Mastery and Iliad, but he has proven himself at the top level. Although he didn't fire his best with a seventh-place run in the Sentient Jet Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1), the John Shirreffs-trained son of Malibu Moon defeated favored Baffert-trained runners in his last two victories. In the Oct. 1 FrontRunner (G1), he finished three lengths on top of 1-5 favorite Klimt and last time out just edged even-money choice American Anthem by a head in the Jan. 7 Sham (G3).
O'Neill also has Term of Art and Ann Arbor Eddie entered for the San Felipe, and the field is completed by stakes winner Vending Machine and maiden Bluegrass Envy. Owned by Loooch Racing Stables, J Stables, and Courtney Schneider, Bluegrass Envy is winless in five starts—all at Gulfstream Park—and finished sixth last time out Jan. 28 in a seven-furlong maiden special weight event at odds of 36-1.
Santa Anita Park, Saturday, March 11, 2017, Race 5
- 1 1/16m
- 3 yo
- 2:04 PM (local)
|1||1Term of Art (KY)||Tyler Baze||122||Doug F. O'Neill||20/1|
|2||2Vending Machine (KY)||Norberto Arroyo, Jr.||120||Peter Miller||20/1|
|3||3Ann Arbor Eddie (CA)||Mario Gutierrez||120||Doug F. O'Neill||8/1|
|4||4Mastery (KY)||Mike E. Smith||124||Bob Baffert||6/5|
|5||5Gormley (KY)||Victor Espinoza||124||John A. Shirreffs||9/5|
|6||6Iliad (KY)||Flavien Prat||120||Doug F. O'Neill||5/2|
|7||7Bluegrass Envy (KY)||Jacob Radosevich||120||Rasharn Creque||50/1|