Lee and Susan Searing of C R K Stable already have one formidable West Coast contender for the Triple Crown trail in Candy Boy. After winning the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) (VIDEO) in handy style with Kobe's Back, they now have a second as well.
In town to ride Kobe's Back Feb. 16 at Santa Anita Park, Joel Rosario guided the gray son of Flatter to a last-to-first romp in the $200,000 event for 3-year-olds. Kobe's Back covered the seven furlongs in a good time of 1:21.84, sweeping past the leader Cherubim at the sixteenth pole and cruising home without being asked for a 5 1/4-length triumph.
John Sadler trains Kobe's Back, who debuted last June with an eye-catching last-to-first tally in the Willard Proctor Memorial Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park. Two subsequent starts over Hollywood's Cushion Track did not go as well, however.
The colt was a distant second to champion Shared Belief in the Hollywood Prevue (gr. III) in November, and he had a nightmare trip when well beaten in the CashCall Futurity (gr. I) Dec. 14. Kobe's Back clipped heels a half mile out and nearly fell before giving way late in a 10th-place finish.
Sadler gave Kobe's Back some time to get over that, but his fast-improving charge showed in recent worlds that he was ready for a fresh start, including a pair of bullet drills over the track.
For his return, both Kobe's Back and Cherubim, a recent maiden winner in impressive front-running style for trainer Simon Callaghan, were both sent off at 17-10 odds. Kobe's Back was made the slight favorite.
Slow to begin from his outside post in the field of six sophomores, Kobe's Back was content to bide his time racing off the rail as Papa Turf, Cherubim, and Grazen's Hope vied at a fast tempo for the lead. The opening splits were :22.23 and :45 flat as Papa Turf had a head in front after a half mile. Kobe's Back progressed four wide rounding the turn as Grazen's Hope weakened, and Cherubim took control from Papa Turf after tussling for command in the stretch.
Cherubim was 1 1/2 lengths clear at the eight pole for jockey Mike Smith, but Kobe's Back, second at that point, came home with authority and won going away for Rosario under a hand ride. Maiden RPrettyboyfloyd closed best of the rest under Rafael Bejarano to get the show spot, one length behind Cherubim. Papa Turf, Roger Rocket, and Grazen's Hope completed the order.
The Searings paid $480,000 for Kobe's Back at the Ocala Breeders' Sale Co. Selected Sale of Two-Year Olds in Training Sale last March when consigned by Niall Brennan Stables. Bred in Kentucky by Joanne R. Mummert out of the winning Well Decorated mare Well, he originally sold for $60,000 to Sitak Stable through consignor Susan Forrester at the 2012 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling sale.
Their other Triple Crown candidate, Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) winner Candy Boy, is a homebred by Candy Ride also trained by Sadler.
Sadler said he wanted a patient ride from Rosario in the San Vicente because he has a longer distance in mind for Kobe's Back. But he was undecided on which race that would be.
"We catch a little bit of an odd flow," he said. "We're a little bit too quick for the San Felipe (March 8), so we'll probably go with Kristo in that one and this horse we'll look at maybe the (gr. II) Rebel (at Oaklawn Park March 15 at 1 1/16 miles). We'll look around. There are a lot of 3-year-old races, but we wanted to get a good one at home in good weather first, then we're going to look at a race with (Kentucky Derby) points for him in the next one."
Kobe's Back earned $120,000 for his second win in four tries and has now banked $200,250. Under equal weights of 118 pounds, he paid $5.40, $2.80, and $2.40, keying a $13.60 all-chalk exacta.
"We bred (Candy Boy) and this horse (Kobe's Back) was just asking to be bought," owner Lee Searing said. "We buy a lot of 2-year-olds but this was a special horse."
Kobe's Back is a half brother to Well Spelled, winner of the 2012 Jesey Shore Stakes (gr. III) at Monmouth Park who has earned $357,260 to date.
Talking about the horse's name, he explained, "We go to all the Lakers' games. I have gone 17 years to watch Kobe play and in my opinion, he's the greatest basketball player I've ever watched. We tried to name a horse 'Kobe' but that was registered, but when we added something to it (it worked out.) I kept telling everyone Kobe is coming back (the player) so when it came time to name the horse I had been saying that a lot. I thought we had to do it.
"We'll let John decide where he runs next but we're sure not going to race him and Candy Boy against one another. We'll let John get him back to the barn and decide where to run them next."
Cherubim, a son of Henny Hughes owned by Jerry Frankel, returned $3 and $2.60. RPrettyboyfloyd, whose prior maiden losses came in runner-up finishes to well-regarded Bayern and Chelios, paid $3.