2018 San Felipe Stakes Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
There is some serious history behind the San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita. First run in 1935, it was restricted to three-year-olds since 1952 and has been that way ever since. Affirmed win it in 1978 en route to his Triple Crown. Sunday Silence, Fusaichi Pegasus and California Chrome all won this race and the Derby, and Real Quiet, Silver Charm and Cavonnier all won the Derby (and the Preakness in the first two cases) after falling short here. Preakness and Belmont winner Point Given, and Pioneerof the Nile, who sired American Pharoah, are also among the winners.
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This year the race features a showdown between what many view as the current top two contenders in what has so far been a very topsy turvy Derby prep trail. Other top horses have faltered this spring - most recently Good Magic in the Fountain of Youth last weekend. Can McKinzie or Bolt d'Oro finally deliver on their immense promise? The winner of this race on Saturday afternoon, with post time at 5:30 pm ET, gets 50 Derby points, so it is essentially a win-and-you're-in event. Here's how the class of this field sets up (horse, jockey, trainer, morning line odds):
McKinzie, Mike Smith, Bob Baffert (8/5): Baffert didn't have a Derby horse last year, and he obviously wasn't happy about it, because he could have a quarter of the field this year. This son of Derby winner Street Sense is unbeaten in three races but with an asterisk - he was beaten by stablemate Solomini in the Los Alamitos Futurity, but that colt was disqualified for interference. Baffert has won this race six times, and Smith has won it the last two years, so the connections are right. He keeps improving and is training beautifully, and he is my solid pick to win here.
Bolt d'Oro, Javier Castellano, Mick Ruiz (2/1): After two big wins at two, this horse entered the Breeders' Cup Juvenile as the overwhelming 3/5 favorite but finished only third. He's making his season debut now, a week after Good Magic, the winner of the Juvenile, flopped in his first race back. The talent is clear here, but his training hasn't been great lately - though his last work was very solid but perhaps too fast. Trainer Mick Ruiz, who also owns the horse, is an odd case. He sold a business in 2005 and then started a racing stable for a couple of years. Then he went back into business, sold that a decade later for a pile of cash, and has invested a lot of that back into racing. With an evenly-matched horse against a guy like Bob Baffert it's a laughable mismatch. I respect the horse immensely, and he likes this track, but I won't believe in him until I see what he looks like at three. Of note, Ruiz says he will scratch the horse and head to the Rebel next weekend instead if the track comes up sloppy. With rain in the forecast this is a factor - though it wouldn't be a move that earns the green trainer a lot of respect.
Kanthaka, Flavien Prat, Jerry Hollendorfer (4/1): The connections are strong here - Hollendorfer has a magic touch with top horses, and Prat is a guy on a serious rise. In his stakes debut in the small-but-stacked San Vicente, a race won by Derby winners Nyquist and Silver Charm, he won impressively as the 11/1 fifth choice out of six, beating two highly-regarded Baffert horses. He's a late-charging horse that will benefit from Lombo going early. If I was going to make just one exotic bet on this race then it would be this horse under McKenzie in an exacta.
Lombo, Rafael Bejarano, Mike Pender (8/1): The one thing you can be fairly sure of is that this horse will set the early pace. He is fast out of the gate, and his trainer has given him the green light. He won his stakes debut in the Robert B. Lewis last time out - a race that I'll Have Another won in 2012 en route to Derby and Preakness wins. I really don't like how this horse works in the morning, and I don't trust him to run away on the lead of this classy race, so I'll pass on him.
Ayacara, Kent Desormeaux, Keith Desormeaux (8/1): This horse was second in the Robert B. Lewis, and while he was closing the gap at the end he did so after a nearly perfect trip. The Desormeaux's know how to race three-year-olds, but he wasn't good enough behind a horse who isn't good enough here, so the math isn't in his favor.
Raphael Esparza is back on the saddle for another big Saturday in horse racing. This Saturday he will have picks for not one, not two, but three 'Road to the Kentucky Derby' prep races. Last Saturday at Gulfstream Park Esparza had a winning day in the ponies, and this Saturday he looks for more horse racing winners. Last year Esparza had a monster horse racing season, cashing for over $2,800, and he had winning days in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness, and Belmont Stakes. Esparza's $35 Saturday Horse Racing Picks will feature the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct, Tampa Bay Derby at Tampa Bay Downs, and the San Felipe Stakes at San Anita. Throw in the fact that Esparza has had more than 20 years of horse racing betting experience, and over the course of the next four months he will put extra money in your wallets.
Read more articles by Trevor Whenham
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