Bob Baffert eyes his seventh San Felipe victory Saturday, his second in a row and his third in the last four years when he sends out unbeaten favorite McKinzie in the major steppingstone to the Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby on April 7.
The Hall of Fame trainer won the San Felipe last year with the ill-fated Mastery; in 2015 with Dortmund; and prior to that with Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Preachinatthebar (2004), Point Given (2001) and Prime Timber (1999).
“He's trained really well,” Baffert said of the bay son of Street Sense owned by Karl Watson, Mike Pegram and Karl Weitman. “It's always a tough race, but he's doing well. We're happy with the way we're going in there.”
Should McKinzie win, it would add to Baffert's record of six San Felipe victories.
Meanwhile, private clocker Toby Turrell gave Jon White's 2-1 San Felipe morning line second choice Bolt d'Oro a solid endorsement after watching the colt gallop a mile and a quarter this morning.
“He looked so good,” Turrell said, “you dropped everything you were doing just to watch him. Phenomenal.”
The San Felipe awards 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner, 20 to the runner-up, 10 to the third-place finisher and five to the fourth.
The field for the San Felipe, race six on a blockbuster 11-race card that starts at 12 noon: Bolt d'Oro, Javier Castellano, 2-1; Lombo, Rafael Bejarano, 8-1; Ayacara, Kent Desormeaux, 8-1; McKinzie, Mike Smith, 8-5; Aquila, Martin Pedroza, 15-1; Calexman, Alonso Quinonez, 30-1; Peace, Drayden Van Dyke, 15-1; and Kanthaka, Flavien Prat, 4-1.
Santa Anita offers free gym bags to all THOROUGHBREDS members Saturdaywith paid admission while supplies last. Fans can also enjoy a beer and cider trackside festival; wine tasting in the Chandelier Room; a $500,000 guaranteed Late Pick four pool; and a rhythm and brews reggae festival.
First post time is 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m.
Aquila has the benefit of a two-turn maiden victory when he faces leading Triple Crown contenders McKinzie and Bolt d'Oro in Saturday's San Felipe Stakes, but Simon Callaghan realizes full well the $685,000 son of Union Rags will have to move forward to win.
“He looks like he's progressed and going in the right direction,” the trainer said of the chestnut colt owned by Kaleem Shah. “We're looking forward to stepping up against better company to see where we're going to fit.”
Martin Pedroza, who rode Aquila to his maiden victory, will be back aboard for the San Felipe. The indefatigable 52-year-old veteran resumed riding Thursday after serving a 15-day (seven racing days) suspension and promptly visited the Winner's Circle following the sixth race with the Peter Eurton-trained Wise Curlin ($14.80), his only mount of the day.
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