What a weekend at the Great Race Place!
There were four major graded stakes races on Saturday, plus one more on Sunday. Kentucky Derby and Oaks points were awarded. Top older horses clashed to see who is the baddest out West. We witnessed a star sprinter blitz his foes on the dirt surface, and a turf-miler make the grade despite a change of rider. Let's jump right into the recap.
The $300K San Felipe Stakes (G2) was won by LIFE IS GOOD, ridden by Mike Smith, trained by Bob Baffert, owned by WinStar Farm LLC and CHC Inc. — in a paid workout; easily defeats the San Felipe field.
We may need to reset and re-evaluate just who is the top player for this year's Kentucky Derby. LIFE IS GOOD breezed over perhaps the best in SoCal three-year-olds in training. He broke smoothly, and was sent to the lead for Mike Smith, and the fat lady sang: LIFE IS GOOD took the field gate to wire again, though this time even more impressively, pulling away from the field without even being asked. Unbeaten and untested, though he did drift toward the middle of the track indicating a slight bit of greenness. Jockey Mike Smith commented after the race that he was looking at the big screen as they were coming for home. But the margin and manner of victory was so convincing that it was obvious he's of a different class than the field he faced.
MEDINA SPIRIT, the other Baffert-colt, was eight lengths back in second, just able to hold off DREAM SHAKE who finished third.
Keep an eye DREAM SHAKE, for he was just making his second start of his career, a big jump in class from Maiden Special Weight competition to accomplished Graded winners. He was routing for the first time, and showed decent early speed. He was outkicked, yes, but with this added experience can expect a big improvement next time out. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth on the dirt was 1:42.18.
LIFE IS GOOD paid $3.00 to win, $2.20 to place, and $2.10 to show. He is by INTO MISCHIEF out of BEACH WALK by DISTORTED HUMOR. He earns his third straight victory, pushing his earnings to $274,200. He ties his highest speed figure with this effort and earns 50 qualifying points for his Road to the Kentucky Derby. There are talks that Baffert may simply train him up to the Kentucky Derby, but nothing is official. We will have to wait and see.
The $400K Frank E. Kilroe Mile Stakes (G1) was won by HIT THE ROAD, ridden by Florent Geroux, trained by Dan Blacker, owned by DK RACING LLC, Radley Equine, Inc, Taste of Victory Stables, Rick Gold, Tone E. Maslowski, and Dave Odmark — in driving finish!
HIT THE ROAD broke alertly and was tucked in at the rail to race in mid pack, as FLYING SCOTSMAN cleared the field to set fractions of 23.17 and 47.32. HIT THE ROAD moves forward into connection as they leave the backstretch and approach to turn. He finds himself boxed in and full of run. Then Florent Geroux makes a decisive move — he splits horses and dashes for home with SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT to beat. Then COUNT AGAIN comes flying to the far outside. It is a driving finish but HIT THE ROAD's late kick proved the strongest and gets the win. SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT settles for second, Count again runs third. The final time for the one mile on the turf was 1:34.48.
HIT THE ROAD paid $10.40 to win, $5.40 to place, and $4.20 to show. He wins his fourth race in a row, pushing his earnings to $494,751. He also gives trainer Dan Blacker his first Grade 1 win!
Florence Geroux picked up the mount over Umberto Rispoli, who elected to ride the SMOOTH LIKE STRAIT instead. It speaks to the talent of both jockey and horse to get the win on their first time on the job together, not to mention during a Grade 1 race.
The $400K Santa Anita Handicap (G1) was won by IDOL, ridden by Joel Rosario, trained by Richard Baltas, owned by Calvin Nguyen — in a perfect time finish! IDOL thrived off the added distance.
IDOL didn't break the fastest but settled toward the rear field, as KING GUILLERMO led the way through opening fractions of 22.82 and 47.12. They raced compact along the backside, about five lengths separating the field. By the three-eights pole, IDOL starts his move and has to race 5-wide entering the turn. Meanwhile MAXFIELD and EXPRESS TRAIN are let loose; both of them charge toward the lead as they straighten for the stretch. It is EXPRESS TRAIN who carries on, but to his far outside, IDOL is making giant strides to run him down! In deep stretch IDOL and Joel Rosario tag EXPRESS TRAIN at the wire. MAXFIELD ran on to secure third. The final time was 2:02.46 for the one mile and one-quarter.
IDOL paid $12.80 to win, $6.40 to place, and $3.40 to show. He is by CURLIN out of MARION RAVENWOOD by A.P. INDY. He improves his record to 3 wins, 2 seconds, and 1 third from 6 total starts. He's never been off the board and he earned his highest speed figure to date. He pushed his earnings to $416,464 and is in the running for the $1 million Wild West Bonus, should he capture the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) and Pacific Classic (G1) in the months to come.
The $200K San Carlos Stakes (G2) was won by BRICKYARD RIDE, ridden by Alexis Centano, trained by Craig Lewis, owned by Alfred Pais — in a dominant score! It was a one-horse race from start to finish.
BRICKYARD RIDE broke out on top and led the field through fractions of 21.63, 43.93. They were strung out as BRICKYARD RIDE put five lengths between him and the field racing along the backside. He showed no signs of stopping as they entered the turn. When they straightened for home, BRICKYARD RIDE was still going strong and won by a comfortable six lengths. TIGRE DI SLUGO got up for second over EXAULTED who ran third. The final time was 1:21.51 for the seven furlongs.
BRICKYARD RIDE paid $12.00 to win, $5.40 to place, and $4.20 to show. He is by CLUBHOUSE RIDE out of BRICKYARD HELEN by SOUTHERN IMAGE. He's a perfect 2-for-2 this year with total earnings pushed to $380,277. This was his first graded stakes victory, but we can expect more to come from this rapidly improving Cal-bred.
Last but not least, Sunday's stakes race:
The $100K Santa Ysabel Stakes (G3) was won by BEAUTIFUL GIFT, ridden by John Velazquez, trained by Bob Baffert, owned by Baoma Corporation — in a tight photo finish!
BEAUTIFUL GIFT broke evenly but was taken in hand to rate in third, just off the leader KALYPSO who set the pace of 23.95 for an opening quarter, 48.13 for the half mile. They bunched up racing along the backside, no more than three lengths front to back. BEAUTIFUL GOOD starts to make a move along the rail but has to check slightly as they approach the turn. John Velazquez decides to swing wide with his filly and through the length of the stretch, BEAUTIFUL GIFT rallies to tag MORAZ at the wire. KALYPSO finished third. The final time for the one mile and one-sixteenth was 1:44.83.
BEAUTIFUL GIFT paid $8.00 to win, $3.80 to place. She is by MEDAGLIA D'ORO out of SEA GIFT by A.P. INDY. She's now won two in a row, pushed her earnings to $99,600 and earned 50 qualifying points for her Road to the Kentucky Oaks.