Santa Anita Park
Race 8 – Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes – 11/16 mile
Welcome to Big Cap day at Santa Anita! We have a deep card full of competitive fields, including a group of 7 three-year-old Derby hopefuls in the San Felipe. Points for this race are awarded on a 50-20-10-5 basis, so a win here likely secures your place in the starting gate on the first Saturday in May.
#1 Fort McHenry – A half brother to renowned Derby and Preakness champion California Chrome, expectations were high for this 1.1-million-dollar purchase. From the very onset, things appeared to be off, as Pletcher initially debuted this one as an MTO entry at Saratoga where he ran last in a field of 5. He flashed a bit of promise in his next 2 races but faltered badly in his only tries against winners despite being the heavy favorite. Pedigree isn’t everything, as his dam Love the Chase has kicked out 3 full siblings to California Chrome, all of who turned out to be mediocre at best. Leaving the Pletcher barn is rarely a positive sign, and if O’Neill can get this one a win today, he should just get the Eclipse award right now. Toss.
#2 Honor A.P. – Lightly raced son of Honor Code is set to take on winners for the first time, and he picks an ambitious spot to do so. Off very slow in his debut, he made up a ton of ground late in an effort that suggested he would love two turns. Off cleanly as the 1-2 favorite next out, he showed early speed and absolutely cruised to a dominant victory. The layoff and class test are certainly question marks, but I get the feeling this one might stand the test. Win contender.
#3 Wrecking Crew – You may notice a theme for a few horses in this race, namely that I am treating the Breeder’s Cup Juvenile as a “negative” key race. Every horse to exit that race has come back to run incredibly poorly. Wrecking Crew was blasted last out by today’s rival Thousand Words, and this is a much tougher spot than the Los Alamitos Futurity. Would need an absolute pace meltdown and a few others to misfire for him to have a shot. Toss.
#4 Authentic – Authentic stamped himself a legit Derby contender when completely dismantling the competition in the Grade 3 Sham stakes last out, despite racing very green and ducking in and out multiple times in the stretch. Perhaps he lost focus due to being 10 lengths ahead of the field, as he was much more professional in his debut. There is certainly other pace pressure to contend with here, but Authentic was able to stalk and pounce in his debut, so Drayden has options. Of all of Baffert’s monsters, including Charlatan, Nadal, Thousand Words, Azul Coast, and Eight Rings, Authentic is the one I am most excited about. The Sham win was flattered by Azul Coast coming back to easily win the El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate, although that field quality was a bit suspect. Win contender.
#5 Thousand Words – Thousand Words boasts the most accomplished resume in the field, but he’s one I am playing against, especially at a short price. While he is unbeaten through 3 starts, he has never truly looked impressive in his wins. He was all-out to beat Anneau d’Or at the Los Alamitos Futurity, and that foe came back to flop massively in the Risen Star. He also had a perfect trip last out in the RB Lewis, stalking a pace and fighting his way through a hole that opened up inside while saving all the ground while struggling to hold the lead to the wire. I think he will be a useful G2 to G3 miler, but he appears distance compromised and a cut below a few of the others in here today. Even if he wins today at 8.5 furlongs, I will be against him in all future prep races going longer.
#6 Storm the Court – Remember that negative key race mentioned earlier? Storm the Court is another who fits the bill. Colt was a non-factor in the San Vicente, unable to pass a single horse despite the hot pace on the front set by Nadal and Ginobli. While it can be argued that the 7-furlong San Vicente was simply a prep for this race, it still would have been nice to see a better effort. Not sure he can win from off the pace, and not sure he’s quick enough to make the lead here either, so tough to envision a scenario he gets the win. Usable underneath.
#7 Swagsational – Turf Paradise invader started his career a dismal 0/7 before rattling off 3 consecutive wins. Can’t fault the connections for taking a shot with a horse who seems to be peaking, but he appears hopelessly overmatched against this field. Simply not running last would likely be an accomplishment for this one. Toss.
Picks: As the morning lines aren’t available as of this writing, it’s tough to fully recommend plays just yet. I do not see significant upset potential in this field, so my main play will be based around not using Thousand Words and Storm the Court and hoping that they take considerable action. #4 Authentic will be my top choice, but #2 Honor A.P. is almost a dead equal second choice and is likely to be three times the price. I will play an exacta box using those 2, and I will key them both in all horizontal bets. At 7/2 or better, Honor A.P. will be a win bet as well.