Flashback and Goldencents, acknowledged by most as the leading 3-year-old males in Southern California, meet for the first time in the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) March 9 at Santa Anita Park.
Six other sophomores are entered in the 1 1/16-mile event, the final local stakes prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) April 6. The San Felipe is race 7 on the Saturday program with a scheduled post time of 3:35 p.m. PST. The race is worth 50 points to the winner on the Kentucky Derby (gr. I) qualifying system, and 85 points overall.
Undefeated Flashback drew post 2 for trainer Bob Baffert, whose rival, Doug O'Neill, has Goldencents in the next barrier over in post 3.
Gary and Mary West own Flashback, who has but two lifetime starts but was an eye-catching 6 1/4-length winner of the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) over the track and San Felipe distance Feb. 2. Just three opponents were willing to take on the the flashy gray colt, sent off at 1-2 odds, on that day. The son of Tapit poured it on in a powerful stretch display over his stablemate Den's Legacy after dueling from the inside on the front end for a half-mile.
Baffert will be looking for Flashback, who earned a 92 Beyer speed figure, to get something more out of the San Felipe. The Lewis victory appeared to be little more than a workout for a colt of limitless potential. And it followed by two months a debut maiden win on Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park going seven furlongs Dec. 8 in which Flashback earned a 93 Beyer.
Bred in Kentucky by Dr. William G. Andrade and Michael E. Hernon out of the winning Mr. Greeley mare Rhumb Line, Flashback is a full brother to grade I winning filly Zazu. He was sold as a weanling for $260,000 by Ben Glass, agent, at the 2010 Keeneland November mixed sale.
Goldencents, a son of Into Mischief , has four lifetime starts for O'Neill, who trains the colt for W.C. Racing, Dave Kenney, and University of Louisville head basketball coach Rick Pitino's RAP Racing. O'Neill, of course, became a national figure last spring when guiding I'll Have Another to an undefeated 3-year-old campaign, including wins in the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands (gr. I), and Preakness Stakes (gr. I).
Goldencents brings back-to-back grade III wins into the San Felipe, though he hasn't raced since taking the one-mile Sham Stakes by 1 1/2 lengths over Den's Legacy at odds of 2-5 Jan. 5. He earned a San Felipe field-best 98 Beyer in the Sham, which followed the bay colt's victory in the $1 million Delta Jackpot (gr. III) in November.
In the Sham, Goldencents showed the ability to lay off the lead after being in a bit tight early, and rallied gamely for the victory.
Goldencents, with $782,000 in earnings after three wins in four starts, has already proved a remarkable bargain. Bred in Kentucky by Rosecrest Farm and Karyn Pirrello, he was a $5,500 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, then was purchased for $62,000 by Dennis O'Neill at the 2012 Ocala Breeders' Sale Co.'s 2-year-old sale from Southern Chase Farm, agent. He was the first winner for his sire, Into Mischief, when breaking his maiden by 7 1/4 lengths at Del Mar Sept. 2.
Both colts have working brilliantly over the Santa Anita main track, with Goldencents breezing at slightly longer distances. Flashback, along the inside, should carve the early fractions under Julien Leparoux, with Goldencents, ridden by Kevin Krigger, likely to race in close attendance. Flashback carries top weight of 123 pounds, three more than Goldencents, with the remainder of the field assigned 118 apiece.
Though Goldencents and Flashback are the only graded stakes winners in the field, several others look like up-and-coming prospects.
Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer entered Hear the Ghost, whose only two starts thus far have been at six furlongs. The son of Ghostzapper out of a Coronado Quest mare, racing for Hollendorfer and Ted Aroney's Halo Farms, would seem a likely candidate to handle more ground. He broke his maiden at first asking at Hollywood in December and ran a good closing second in the Jan. 21 San Pedro Stakes at Santa Anita.
Two California-breds, Tiz a Minister and Omega Star, ran first and second, respectively in the California Breeders' Championship Jan. 26. That was the first try around two turns for the lightly raced Omega Star, who led in the stretch but was caught as Tiz a Minister prevailed by 1 1/4 lengths.
Southern Equine Stables' Salutos Amigos comes off a 3 3/4-length maiden special weight score Feb. 9 for trainer Eric Guillot, while Kochees, a first-out maiden winner for B.J. Wright and trainer Michael Pender Jan. 4 on grass, dons blinkers following a fourth-place allowance effort at one mile Jan. 31.
Baffert has a second entrant, Carving, who won the Real Quiet Stakes at Hollywood in November and last raced in the El Camino Real Derby (gr. III) Feb. 16, finishing fourth. The son of Any Given Saturday , who drew the rail, has won three of six starts for Baffert's wife, Jill, and Olympic champion skier Bode Miller.
$300,000 San Felipe Stakes (gr. II, Race 7, 3:35 p.m.), 3YOs, 1 1/16 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, Weight, Trainer
1. Carving (KY), R Bejarano, 118, B Baffert
2. Flashback (KY), J R Leparoux, 123, B Baffert
3. Goldencents (KY), K Krigger, 120, D F O'Neill
4. Kochees (KY), J Valdivia Jr., 118, M Pender
5. Hear the Ghost (KY), C S Nakatani, 118, J Hollendorfer
6. Tiz a Minister (CA), G K Gomez, 118, P G Aguirre
7. Salutos Amigos (KY), M Garcia, 118, E J Guillot
8. Omega Star (CA), J Talamo, 118, J A Shirreffs
Blinkers On: Kochees