Kobe's Back won the 2013 Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes.

Kobe's Back won the 2013 Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes.

Benoit Photo

Kobe's Back Gets Fresh Start in San Vicente

C R K Stable's promising colt kicks off 3-year-old campaign Feb. 16 for John Sadler.

Following a 2-year-old season that ended disappointingly, Kobe's Back  returns to action in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) Feb. 16 in his debut on dirt at Santa Anita Park.

An electrifying winner in his career debut after a terrible start in the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes, Kobe's Back ended the season with a 10th-place finish Dec. 14 after clipping heels in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I). In between those two starts he was a distant second to champion Shared Belief after another slow start in the Hollywood Prevue Stakes (gr. III).

Trainer John Sadler is hoping that the C R K Stable-owned son of Flatter  has a less eventful trip in his sophomore season opener, which will be his first start on anything but the Cushion Track at Betfair Hollywood Park.

"In his second race, he was second best, and in his third race, he clipped heels, so he's had a couple of excuses," Sadler said. "I'm anxious to get him started this week. He's doing really well."

Just six 3-year-olds are entered in the seven-furlong San Vicente with Kobe's Back, named for the Lakers' guard, the lone stakes winner in the field. The race is fifth on the Sunday program with a 2:30 p.m. PST scheduled post.

A $480,000 2-year-old in training sale purchase last March at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co., Kobe's Back has looked good in a half-dozen timed workouts over the Santa Anita main track since the CashCall Futurity, including a pair of bullet moves. His most recent drill was Feb. 8, when he covered six furlongs in 1:11 4/5.

Joel Rosario has the return call on the gray/roan colt who breaks from the outside post in the compact field.

Jerry Frankel's Cherubim was an impressive 3 1/4-length maiden winner in front-running style going six furlongs Dec. 28 at at Santa Anita. Simon Callaghan trains the Kentucky-bred son of Henny Hughes who bounced back from a difficult debut on the Cushion Track to score at 20-1 odds last time.

"He was on the inside and it was his first time out," Callaghan said, referring to Cherubim's eighth-place finish in his debut Nov. 24. "I'm not really sure why he didn't run well on the synthetic, but we always felt he was a really good horse and he really showed it last time."

Cherubim, who flashed an eye-catching half-mile move in :46 4/5 Feb. 2, will have Mike Smith on his back once again from post 4.

Steve Miyadi sends out California-bred Grazen's Hope, unbeaten in two starts at Golden Gate Fields for owner Nick Alexander. The gray/roan son of Grazen is coming out of a 1 3/4-length tally in a first-level allowance/optional claiming event. He will have Martin Garcia in the irons from the rail.

Papa Turf is the only San Vicente entrant other than Kobe's Back with stakes experience. The Yes It's True colt, trained by James Kasparoff, was second in the listed San Pedro Stakes last time while more than four lengths behind the well-regarded Indianapolis. Joe Talamo retains the mount.

Bob Baffert nominated Indianapolis for the San Vicente but will instead be represented by Roger Rocket, winner of his debut by a head from off the pace Jan. 18 at 5 1/2 furlongs. The Pulpit colt was a $375,000 buy last April at the Ocala Breeders' Sale spring sale of 2-year-olds in training when purchased by Donato Lanni, agent, from the Eddie Woods consignment. The bay colt races for Frank Fletcher Racing Operations and will be ridden again by Corey Nakatani.

Rounding out the field is maiden Rprettyboyfloyd, a ridgling son of Bluegrass Cat  who was second in both of his prior starts for trainer Denise Breuer in January at Santa Anita.

$200,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II, Race 5, 2:30 p.m.), 3YOs, 7 Furlongs
PP. Horse, Jockey, Trainer
1. Grazen's Hope (CA), M Garcia, S Miyadi
2. Rprettyboyfloyd (KY), B Blanc, D E Breuer
3. Papa Turf (KY), J Talamo, J M Kasparoff
4. Roger Rocket (KY), C S Nakatani, B Baffert
5. Cherubim (KY), M E Smith, S Callaghan
6. Kobe's Back (KY), J Rosario, J W Sadler
All assigned 118 pounds.