Kobe’s Back notched a stylish 5 ¼-length win in Sunday’s San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita.
Ridden by Joel Rosario, Kobe’s Back covered seven furlongs in 1:21.84. The victory earned him a spot among Southern California’s leading Kentucky Derby prospects.
“I wanted Joel to ride him patiently, because everybody has kind of counted us out of the route races, except us,” said winning trainer John Sadler. “I wanted him off the pace a little bit and see if he’d finish up good so we could get him going around two turns next time. We’ll look at maybe the Rebel (Grade II, 1 1/16 miles at Oaklawn Park March 15). There are a lot of 3-year-old races, but we wanted to get a good one at home in good weather first, then we’re going to look at a race with (Kentucky Derby) points for him in the next one.”
The actual favorite at 8-5, Kobe’s Back, a Kentucky-bred colt by the A.P. Indy stallion Flatter, paid $5.40, $2.80 and $2.40.
Owned by Lee and Susan Searing’s CRK Stable, “Kobe,” who broke from the outside post position six, picked up $120,000 for the win, increasing his earnings to $120,250. He now has two wins and a second from four starts.
“We go to all the Laker games,” said Lee Searing, when asked about the naming of his colt. “I have gone 17 years to watch Kobe play and in my opinion, he’s the greatest basketball player I’ve ever watched…I kept telling everyone Kobe (Bryant) is coming back (from an Achilles injury) so when it came time to name the horse…I thought we had to do it.”
Cherubim, highly regarded on the strength of 3 ¼-length maiden win going six furlongs on Dec. 28, showed good speed from post five and was three-deep outside of Papa Turf and Grazen’s Hope into and around the turn and although he kicked clear leaving the quarter pole, he was no match for the winner when it counted.
“I was just cruising early, nice and happy,” said Mike Smith. “We just got outrun. He was second-best today.”
Trained by Simon Callaghan, Cherubim finished a length in front of Rprettyboyfloyd and paid $3.00 and $2.60.