It’s Bob Baffert vs. Doug O’Neill as top Derby prospects Flashback and Goldencents head a field of eight 3-year-olds in Saturday’s Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
The San Felipe, contested at 1 1/16 miles, is the final major steppingstone to the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 6.
The O’Neill-trained Goldencents comes off a sensational win in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes going one mile on Jan. 5 and his three victories also include a gate to wire score in the Grade 3 Delta Jackpot going 1 1/16 miles on Nov. 17. His only defeat in four starts was a second-place finish to eventual Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) winner Shanghai Bobby in the Grade 1 Champagne, a one-turn mile at Belmont Park on Oct. 6.
Purchased for just $62,000 at OBS a year ago, Goldencents overcame significant adversity in the Sham to emerge victorious. Regular rider Kevin Krigger further proved his big-race mettle in the Sham, maintaining his cool while calmly negotiating contested waters.
Owned in part by Rick Pitino, W.C. Racing, Kenney, and RAP Racing, O’Neill is hoping this already gold-plated colt can follow in the footsteps of I’ll Have Another, winner of last year’s Robert B. Lewis, Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. He is by far the leading money earner in the field with $782,000 in the bank from a record of 4-3-1-0.
Lightly-raced Flashback, an emphatic 6 ¼-length winner of the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 2, will be making only his third career start for Baffert but the grey son of Tapit has brilliant speed and a seemingly limitless future.
Owned by Gary and Mary West, Flashback fetched $260,000 at the Keeneland Nov. 2010 yearling sale. Off at even-money in his debut, this flashy colt was 1-2 in the four-horse Lewis.
Baffert has overseen a steady series of drills since the Lewis win, his most recent being a bullet five furlong move in :59 flat on March 3—best of 63 at the distance. Jockey Julien Leparoux, who rode last year’s Kentucky Derby favorite Union Rags, appears to have something very special again this year.