Saturday March 8 – Santa Anita
Scheduled post time 2:00pm PT
Kentucky Derby Fever makes its way back to Arcadia for the Grade 2 San Felipe, to be run at a mile and 1/16 on the main track, with 50 Kentucky Derby points going to the winner.
The announcement from Bob Baffert that the likely heavy favorite, Bayern, is out with a foot bruise dramatically changes the likely complexion of this race. It changes it early. It changes it in the middle. It changes it at the finish. And of course it changes the toteboard odds.
According to the TFUS Pace Projector, at the opening half, the longshot Sawyer’s Hill will be on a short lead, followed by Midnight Hawk, Kristo, Unstoppable Colby, and California Chrome. It is probably best to consider the other horses closers in here.
In addition, it should be noted that Bob Baffert has been making noises to the effect that he will be letting the speedy, headstrong Midnight Hawk do things his way from the gate this time, since Baffert didn’t care for how the rating experiment came a cropper in the Robert Lewis. This sort of change in strategy has the potential to be the fly in the Pace Projector’s ointment. Midnight Hawk is a talented colt, and if he (or the equally talented Kristo, for that matter) and his rider want the early lead, there may not be all that much that Sawyer’s Hill can, or should, do to keep them from getting it–the Pace Projector notwithstanding.
With that disclaimer out of the way, let’s get to the horses who interest us most in the San Felipe:
California Chrome: A California-bred, trained by Art Sherman, training at tiny Los Alamitos…it is all so very quaint. But this colt has turned into a serious runner. Draw a line through his November 1st race. His trip in that race was impossible, and it is very much to his credit that he managed to lose by only three lengths. His last two efforts have been terrific. Speed figures of 100 and 103. A push-button demolition of his opponents. A sparkling visual impression. Yes, California Chrome is stepping up in class for this race. His Race Ratings are a little bit light. But if he has another race in him like those last two, we don’t think it will make any difference. California Chrome was our selection before Bayern scratched, and California Chrome remains our selection.
Sawyer’s Hill: Still a maiden, this colt is going to be a huge price. Debuted with a speed figure of 88 in a sprint on Poly. Went to the sidelines. Returned with a dirt-sprint speed figure of 102. Horses that improve like this from their first start to their second are leaving the door wide open to further improvement in their third start. Goes long for the first time today. His breeding is not flashy (Pedigree Rating of only 67), but it is certainly more than adequate to the task of handling today’s distance. Sawyer’s Hill exits a potent maiden race, one that received a Race Rating of 102.
Kristo: Paired his top of 99 when running second to Midnight Hawk in the Sham. Expectations for this colt have always been lofty. Sadler gets a decent Trainer Rating of 76 off this sort of layoff. Popular at the betting windows.
Schoolofhardrocks: We think he is being asked to do quite a bit today. We don’t consider him a strong contender for the win off the layoff (though he has been training well). But this colt’s lone effort, in a Del Mar maiden race, was quite a sight. This is a horse to watch for in the near future, and we’ll watch even more closely if the race is on synthetic–a surface for which he is deliciously well bred.
Midnight Hawk: Improving speed figures: 98 101 102. Hard to ride in his last start. Figures to be sent today. Baffert and all that. Strong contender.
Win bet on California Chrome.
Exactas: Kristo and Midnight Hawk over and under California Chrome.
Trifectas and supers following the same logic, requiring California Chrome to finish first or second and making use of Sawyer’s Hill, Rprettyboyfloyd (if he goes), and Schoolofhardrocks in the low holes.