ARCADIA, CA – Mastery won the Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes by 6 3/4 lengths on Saturday before being pulled up after the finish line, leaving trainer Bob Baffert worried about the future of his top Kentucky Derby contender.
Ridden by Mike Smith, Mastery led all the way and ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.28 at Santa Anita.
Shortly after crossing the finish, Mastery was pulled up by Smith, who removed the colt’s saddle. He was vanned off for a trip back to the barn and an examination.
“I got off real quick and nothing seemed dislocated or anything,” Smith said. “After he moved for a little bit, he started walking fine on it, so I’m hoping that maybe he just tweaked it or rolled it. I’m hoping it’s not that serious, because he’s an incredible horse.
“I felt it about 10 jumps after the wire. All of a sudden, he just picked his back leg up,” Smith added. “Then a minute or so, he put it down, and he was fine. I’m hoping he just tweaked it and it’s nothing serious. He seemed to just go off in the left hind. I don’t know why. Nothing happened that made me think, ‘Oh, something just happened.’ He just all of the sudden went off and wouldn’t put weight on it.
Mastery was making his 3-year-old debut after winning all three of his starts last year. He earned 50 Kentucky Derby points, putting the colt near the top of the leaderboard that decides the 20-horse field for the May 6 race.
“The power…it’s endless with this guy,” Smith said. “He’s some kind of strong. He was hitting gears every time I asked him to. Gear down one, gear up two, gear down one… Everything seemed to come easy for him. That was a pretty impressive race. I’m just hoping everything is ok.”
After watching from his box, an initially exhilarated Baffert made his way through the stands.
“I hear one of the fans say, ‘I hope your horse is all right,'” he said. “I thought, ‘What?'”
After arriving in a strangely empty winner’s circle, Baffert watched the race replay, looking for any hint of trouble.
Standing next to Mastery’s owner, Everett Dobson of Oklahoma City, Baffert tried to process his emotions after the roller coaster experience.
“We’ve been so high on this horse,” he said. “To see what he did today was just incredible. It was going to put him best 3-year-old in the nation.”
He was interrupted by a call from assistant Jimmy Barnes, who reported Mastery walked off the van seemingly in good order.
“It’s his left hind, whatever it is,” Baffert said. “Hopefully, it’s nothing obvious or nothing serious.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill’s two colts, Iliad and Term of Art, finished second and third, respectively. Iliad was trained by Baffert in his first two starts before a split between him and owner Kaleem Shah. Gormley finished fourth, followed by Ann Arbor Eddie, Bluegrass Envy, and Vending Machine.
Off as the 4-5 favorite, Mastery returned $3.60, $2.40, and $2.10. Iliad brought back $3.40 and $2.60, while Term of Art paid $5.40 to show.
NOTE: Later in the afternoon, Baffert issued the following statement regarding Mastery’s injury: “When he got back to the barn, he seemed okay, but when he got off the wash rack, he showed some filling in his left front ankle. It’s a condylar fracture. He’ll be operated on this Monday and they’ll insert two screws. We won’t know until after the surgery whether or not this is career-ending.” It has been confirmed Mastery is off the Kentucky Derby trail.
G2 San Felipe Stakes Quotes
Trainer Bob Baffert, Mastery: “Mike just said that, when he was pulling him up on the turn, he felt something behind, like he took a funny step. So he pulled him up, and he was favoring his left hind. As soon as he took the saddle off, then he was perfect. He was walking good. We’ll take him back and see.
“We went from the highest of the highs to somber. Hopefully it’s nothing obvious or really serious. We’ll have to get back there and find out what’s going on.
“The way he moves – he’s just a beautiful moving horse. He was just doing it easy. It’s very rare to get one like that. You go from seeing the next coming, and then something like that happens. I’ve never dealt with anything like that. I thought maybe it was heat or something.”
Jockey Flavien Prat, Iliad: “Between the three eighths and the quarter pole, I thought I could catch him. This was his first time around two turns, and he ran really well. He should improve off of this race.”
Trainer Doug O’Neill, Iliad: “He just got a little tired. Flavien said that between the three eighths and the quarter pole, he thought he could win it. Obviously, Mastery is a very special horse, but I’m really happy with the way my horse ran first time around two turns. If he stays healthy, we’ll shoot for the Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1, $1 million on April 8).”
Jockey Victor Espinoza, Gormley: “You know, Gormley was good all the way around. He kind of surprised me at the three-eighths pole, where he kind of dropped the bridle and just kept moving along with the winner, and I thought he’d finish second. It seems like he’s okay, but these young horses, they’re still figuring it out. Race by race, they’re seeing what exactly they like, and some little thing may not be going their way and they won’t race at their best, but he’ll recover and do better in the next one.”
Santa Anita Park