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ARCADIA, CA – It’s showdown time Saturday at Santa Anita Park as top Kentucky Derby (G1) prospect Life Is Good faces a serious test against a solid field of six other sophomores in the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes (G2) at 1 1/16 miles.
The final major steppingstone to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 7, the San Felipe awards 85 all-important Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the top four finishers, with 50 to the winner and 20, 10, and 5 points to second, third, and fourth, respectively.
The white-haired wizard Bob Baffert unsurprisingly leads the charge with the undefeated Life Is Good, undefeated in 2 starts including a solid win in the Sham Stakes (G3) over this track that earned him a 101 Beyer Speed Figure. The runner-up that day, his stablemate Medina Spirit, won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) since then. Life Is Good drew the rail with Mike Smith up, while Medina Spirit drew post 3 and will have John Velazquez up for the first time.
The main challenger to the Baffert duo is The Great One, who dazzled in a maiden special weight score over this surface in his last start. The Doug O’Neill trainee was second 2 starts back in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) while still a maiden, losing by a nose to Baffert’s Spielberg who was second in last weekend’s Southwest Stakes (G3). He’ll break from post 5 with Abel Cedillo staying aboard.
Another intriguing entry is Roman Centurian, who was a close second last time out in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3). The son of Empire Maker broke his maiden impressively 2 starts back at Santa Anita and looks like he’ll get better as the distances get longer. He drew post 7 and keeps Juan Hernandez in the irons.
The full field from the rail out: Life Is Good, Dream Shake, Medina Spirit, None Above the Law, The Great One, Governor’s Party, and Roman Centurian.
#1 Life Is Good – We’ll see if Baffert’s most talented 3-year-old can take his next steps towards Kentucky in this spot. Many believe, despite his flashy 101 Beyer, that he showed signs of slowing down approaching the wire. He was so far ahead at one point, though, that it seemed like Smith just let him cruise home and didn’t keep the horse to task. For my money, this horse is still one of the top two in the crop until proven otherwise, but this field will challenge him.
#5 The Great One – It seems like this horse is blossoming at the perfect time, and when O’Neill gets one figured out, he usually gets them to run a few big ones in a row. That makes The Great One the most logical alternative to the Baffert duo.
#3 Medina Spirit – This horse has proven his toughness over the last 2 starts, so it’s hard to doubt him here, especially with John Velazquez picking up the ride.
#7 Roman Centurian – He seems like the type who can hit the board in a race of this caliber, but he wasn’t able to finish the deal last time out in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3), flattening out a bit in the stretch. He’ll need to improve off of that effort if he wants to do more than hit the board again here.
#2 Dream Shaker – After an absolutely dazzling maiden special weight romp on debut, he tries his hand at stakes company. This is an aggressive move by Peter Eurton, normally a patient trainer, but his talent left Eurton no choice. He’s stretching out in distance and facing winners for the first time, which makes him questionable here, but his high ceiling means he warrants a bet if his price floats up.
#4 None Above the Law – This California-bred has run consistently well against his own kind, but his only win was a maiden claiming event at Los Alamitos. This looks too tough for him.
#6 Govenor’s Party – It’s hard to imagine him making much of an impact in what is shaping up to be the deepest Kentucky Derby prep we’ve seen so far this year. He’s simply outclassed against this group.
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