Soi Phet after his win in the 2017 E.B. Johnston Stakes at Los Alamitos Race Course

Soi Phet after his win in the 2017 E.B. Johnston Stakes at Los Alamitos Race Course

Benoit Photo

10-Year-Old Soi Phet Seeks Graded Glory in Californian

Six-time stakes winner could be in the best position to earn his first graded win.

Not many horses in training still have Hollywood Park show up on their lifetime past performances, let alone a stakes horse still capable of running at a high level.

Benowitz Family Trust, Mathilde Powell, and Paul Viskovich's Soi Phet fits that unlikely billing, however, and could have his best shot at graded stakes glory—at the age of 10—April 28 in the $200,000 Californian Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita Park.

The California-bred Tizbud  gelding has been an unquestioned success since his first race off the claim for trainer Leonard Powell. A $16,000 claim by Powell out of a conditional claiming race at Hollywood in May of 2013, Soi Phet won his next four starts at allowance levels, then finished third in the Awesome Again Stakes (G1) at Santa Anita. Since the claim, he's won six stakes (four in Cal-bred company), placed in six others, and has turned that $16,000 investment into $854,170 in earnings for his connections.

But since the 2013 Awesome Again, graded tries have not gone so well. In five subsequent attempts at the graded level, he's yet to hit the board. But there also won't be a dominating standout among the six entered in Saturday's Californian.

"I would have preferred to run him in a Cal-bred stakes, but there's really nothing available to him until (the July meeting at Los Alamitos Race Course)," Powell said. "I don't want to risk him for a tag again this year, and this probably didn't come up as strong as it should for a grade 2."

His reference to a claiming tag relates to Soi Phet's 2018 debut, when he was up for $62,500 in a 1 1/16-mile optional-claiming allowance at Santa Anita. Despite a less-than-comfortable trip, Soi Phet finished second to fellow Californian Prince of Arabia and went unclaimed.

"It was nerve-wracking (running him for a claiming tag), but every time we run a horse, it's nerve-wracking," said Powell, who has saddled the dark bay 40 times in his 56-race career. "He's 10 years old, so if somebody wanted to put up that much, it would have taken a lot of (courage)."

The start was encouraging for Powell, as it showed the trainer the most important aspect for an older horse coming back off a layoff (his last start was Sept. 9)—he still wants to race.

"You always hope they do," Powell said. "They can train well in the morning, but you never know how they'll do in the afternoons until you race them. In the mornings, he's been very willing and he's happy. That's the most important part."

Twice as old as the rest of his competitors, Soi Phet might be the sentimental favorite Saturday, but he likely won't be the favorite on the tote board.

That distinction will go to Jill Baffert's Dr. Dorr, the impressive last-out winner of the March 31 Santana Mile Stakes at Santa Anita.

Trained by Baffert's husband, Bob Baffert, the Lookin At Lucky  gelding opened up a clear lead in the Santana Mile and comfortably held off second-place finisher The Lieutenant, who will try again in the Californian, by four lengths.

"We're stretching him out a little farther, so we'll see how far his speed will take him," Bob Baffert said of the 1 1/8-mile Californian distance. "He's bred to go that far, and he's a well-bred horse, but you never know about the distance until they go out and do it."

The lone U.S. graded winner in the field is R3 Racing, Calara Farms, and ERJ Racing's Curlin Road, who took the Cougar II Handicap (G3) at Del Mar in July before a fourth-place run in the TVG Pacific Classic Stakes (G1). The Curlin  gelding came in last of seven in the Santa Anita Handicap Presented by San Manuel Indian Bingo and Casino (G1) in his 2018 debut March 10.

Providing some international intrigue is Full of Luck, a Chilean-bred son of Lookin At Lucky who won five group events on grass (including one group 1 race) in his native country before he relocated to California. Now trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Full of Luck made his U.S. debut in the March 31 San Francisco Mile Stakes (G3T) at Golden Gate Fields but finished 11th of 12 as the 2-1 favorite.

Entries: Californian S. (G2)

Santa Anita Park, Saturday, April 28, 2018, Race 5

  • Grade II
  • 1 1/8m
  • Dirt
  • $200,000
  • 3 yo's & up
  • 2:07 PM (local)
11Soi Phet (CA)Kent J. Desormeaux122Leonard Powell4/1
22Full of Luck (CHI)Flavien Prat124Jerry Hollendorfer5/1
33Curlin Road (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateTyler Baze122Doug F. O'Neill5/1
44Dr. Dorr (KY)Joseph Talamo122Bob Baffert8/5
55The Lieutenant (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateDrayden Van Dyke122Michael W. McCarthy7/2
66Prince of Arabia (KY)Keeneland Sales GraduateStewart Elliott122James M. Cassidy5/1