Two grade I winners are in the lineup for the $250,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 12 at Santa Anita, but a ridgling son of Flatter making his first start against winners figures to draw plenty of attention as well.
West Point Thoroughbreds' Runflatout has raced just once for trainer John Sadler, but what a performance it was. The Kentucky-bred burst on the scene with 2 1/2-length triumph Jan. 29, running six furlongs in an eye-catching 1:07.70 while well in hand at Santa Anita. He earned a 98 Beyer Speed Figure rating. In spite of his lack of experience, Runflatout is no secret. He is listed as one of the 23 individual choices in this weekend's Kentucky Derby Future Wager pool.
The San Felipe, for 3-year-olds, and the Santa Margarita Invitational (gr. I), for older fillies and mares, share top billing on the Santa Anita program. The San Felipe, which drew a field of 10, is the eighth race with a 4:07 post time.
Runflatout is facing much tougher opponents in the San Felipe, including grade I winners Comma to the Top and Jaycito, as well as a big increase in distance to 1 1/16 miles. But Jeffrey Bloom, West Point's vice president for West Coast racing, thinks Runflatout can make the jump.
"The way he settled (in his debut) and then the way he finished, the way he came home and the way he's shown in his workouts in company finishing up in those works, indicate to us that there's no reason to think he wouldn't be able to handle the two turns," Bloom said in a national teleconference March 8.
Runflatout, purchased for $165,000 at the Barretts Equine Limited March 2010 sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, has been a monster in the mornings for Sadler. In his most recent workouts, he went seven furlongs in 1:24 2/5 Feb. 28 and six furlongs in a bullet 1:10 2/5 March 7.
"It's definitely a quick move," Bloom said of the later drill. "But this horse is so efficient with his stride and he's got such a deceiving way of going that he doesn't seem he's going that fast. And I know John Sadler was very pleased with the work and again the way he finished up in the work."
There are a number of speedsters in this year's San Felipe, including Runflatout, which could set it up for a strong closer such as Jaycito, Bloom concedes. But a big effort would move Runflatout into the forefront of the Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) picture April 9.
"There's plenty of opportunity certainly out here on the West Coast," Bloom said. "And while it's a lot to ask of our horse stepping up from a maiden special weight going in against winners at two turns and against these types of horses, these graded stake winners, if he's good enough the answer will be there for us on Saturday."
Joel Rosario, who has been working Runflatout in the mornings recently, takes over the mount from Garrett Gomez, who rides another recent maiden winner, Albergatti. Runflatout breaks from post 2.
Sadler won last year's San Felipe with Sidney's Candy , who went on to take the Santa Anita Derby, the fourth San Felipe winner in 10 years to accomplish that double.
Albergatti, bred and owned by Stonestreet Stables and co-owned by Natrona Racing Stable, went gate to wire to break his maiden at seven furlongs in 1:20 3/5 as the heavy favorite for trainer Steve Asmussen Feb. 12. It was the second start for the son of Unbridled's Song . He draws the rail this time.
Zayat Stables' Jaycito makes his long-awaited return to action for new trainer Bob Baffert after racing for Mike Mitchell as a 2-year-old. Jaycito had the rare distinction of breaking his maiden in a grade I race, Oak Tree's 1 1/16-mile Norfolk Stakes (gr. I), last fall at Hollywood Park in his third start.
Jaycito raced greenly in his next start, the Grey Goose Breeders' Cup Juvenile (gr. I) Nov. 6 at Churchill Downs, steadying off heels early and swerving to the outer rail on the first turn. He did well to finish seventh that day and hasn't raced since. His morning activity has been spectacular, however. Martin Garcia, who rode the Victory Gallop colt to a runner-up finish in the Del Mar Futurity (gr. I) prior to the Norfolk, gets the call. They break from post 9 with 123 pounds. Jaycito races without blinkers for the first time.
"It will be interesting,” said Baffert. “We’ll learn a lot about Jaycito.”
Baffert, a four-time winner of the San Felipe, also entered the Lanni Family Trust's Awesome Patriot. The Awesome Again colt ran third in the Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) in November. He has not raced since winning a first-level allowance at one mile over two rivals on a wet fast track at Santa Anita Dec. 29.
Comma to the Top, winner of the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) in December, looks to bounce back from a fourth-place finish in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) in his 3-year-old debut at Golden Gate Fields Feb. 12. Peter Miller trains the Florida-bred son of Bwana Charlie who won six of 10 starts in his juvenile season for owners Gary Barber, Roger Birnbaum, and Kevin Tsujihara.
Comma to the Top, who is ridden by Corey Nakatani and also carries 123 pounds, is making his debut on dirt. He leads the San Felipe field in total earnings by a substantial margin with $563,600.
Santa Anita graded stakes this season produced three starters in the San Felipe: Premier Pegasus and Surrey Star, who ran third and fourth, respectively, in the San Vicente (gr. II) Feb. 20, and Quail Hill, third in the Robert B. Lewis (gr. II) Feb. 12.
Premier Pegasus, a Fusaichi Pegasus colt who won the Hollywood Prevue Nov. 20, will be making his two-turn debut for Myung Kwon Cho, who trains his homebred. Premier Pegasus won his first three starts prior to the San Vicente. Surrey Star, an Irish-bred colt by Dubawi imported from Great Britain by Class Racing Stable and trainer James Cassidy, is preparing for his third U.S. start. Quail Hill, a son of Candy Ride trained by David Hofmans, turned in a strong performance in his stakes debut at 68-1 in the nine-furlong Lewis.
Premier Pegasus, who will race without blinkers for the first time, burned five furlongs for jockey Alonso Quinonez March 5 in a bullet :57 3/5.
Rounding out the field are the California-bred Bench Points, undefeated in four starts for trainer Tim Yakteen; and Jakesam, second in both the California Derby and El Camino Real for Jerry Hollendorfer.
$250,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II, Race 8, 4:07 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Albergatti (KY), G K Gomez, 118, S M Asmussen
2. Runflatout (KY), J Rosario, 118, J W Sadler
3. Surrey Star (IRE), J Talamo, 118, J M Cassidy
4. Awesome Patriot (KY), R Bejarano, 118, B Baffert
5. Comma to the Top (FL), C S Nakatani, 123, P Miller
6. Premier Pegasus (KY), A Quinonez, 118, M K Cho
7. Bench Points (CA), D R Flores, 118, T Yakteen
8. Jakesam (KY), P A Valenzuela, 118, J Hollendorfer
9. Jaycito (KY), M Garcia, 123, B Baffert
10. Quail Hill (KY), M A Pedroza, 118, D E Hofmans
Blinkers Off: : Premier Pegasus, Jaycito