Although Saturday's San Rafael Stakes at Santa Anita has drawn several classy colts, there is a major question whether or not the race will produce any Kentucky Derby contenders. Of the top choices in the one-mile race, only Pelirrojo looks like he wants any part of 1 1/4 miles. The other big names, Came Home, Fonz's, and Werblin, all have either pedigree issues or logistics going against them.
A field of nine was entered for the San Rafael, with likely favorite, Came Home, drawing post 6. Chris McCarron once again will be aboard the son of Gone West, who was very impressive winning the 7-furlong San Vicente Stakes in his 3-year-old debut. Came Home's connections were encouraged by the way the colt rated off the hotly contested pace, and are just taking each race one step at a time.
Although Came Home's sire, Gone West, did sire a Belmont Stakes winner, he has mainly been a sire of milers and 1 1/8-mile horses. He needs a strong female family to carry his offpsring a distance, but that is not the case here, as Came Home has sprinters Clever Trick and Full Out close up in his female family. The one thing, Came Home does have going for him is class and raw talent, and if he can use that to win the San Rafael, while showing again the ability to rate, he deserves to keep going on the Derby trail.
Fonz's showed his speed and courage last fall by defeating Popular in the 7-furlong Hollywood Prevue Stakes before finishing 3 1/2 lengths behind Siphonic in the 1 1/16-mile Hollywood Futurity. He does have enough pedigree to suggest he may be able to get the Derby distance under perfect conditions, but he won't have perfect conditions at Churchill Downs. Even with a victory in the San Rafael and a big effort in the Santa Anita Derby, he'll have to go into the Kentucky Derby off only two starts, and no one has been able to accomplish that since 1983. The son of Out of Place has been working well for his debut, and will have Alex Solis aboard. He has good tactical speed and probably will be sitting just off the pace.
Werblin, who will break from the rail, got caught up in a speed duel with two other horses in the San Vicente, and did well to finish third in only his third career start. The son of Unbridled's Song has a pretty obscure female family, and we really have no idea what his distance limitations are. With his hell-bent-for-leather running style, he doesn't look like a horse who will be ready to go 1 1/4 miles in two months. And breaking from the rail in the San Rafael is not going to help him alter his running style. It wouldn't be a major surprise to see him wire his field on Saturday if he gets a clear lead early. Gary Stevens will ride for the first time.
Pelirrojo, winner of two of his three career starts, including a come-from-behind score over Raven Power and Azillion in a one-mile allowance, will need a strong pace to catch these horses. We would imagine trainer John Sadler will be pleased if the son of Flying Continental is closing at the end, and can be competitive with this field. Regular rider Garrett Gomez will be back in the saddle.
Of the others, Cottonwood Cowboy ventured up the wrong path when he tried to stretch out to two turns following a pair of sprint victories, and now drops back in distance, although the San Rafael still is at two turns. Cal-bred Calkins Road is coming off a solid maiden victory going a mile. Ocean Sound was one-for eight in England before coming to America and getting beat a fast-closing nose in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race on the grass. Jim Cassidy is the colt's new trainer. Easy Grades broke his maiden on the grass going a mile, then was beaten a nose in an allowance optional claimer at the same distance. He was sixth in his only start on the dirt. Rounding out the field is Major Storm, who is coming off four straight poor performances for D. Wayne Lukas, although he did have traffic problems in his last start on the grass.