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The Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita Park was run on Saturday, March 2 and might have Preakness 2024 implications. The reason for that is simple. Trainer Bob Baffert’s Kentucky Derby ban was extended through 2024 so his horses are ineligible to earn Derby points. Runners from his barn can compete in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Two of his runners, Imagination and Wine Me Up, battled from start to finish and were separated by a head at the wire in the San Felipe. Let’s discuss!

Grade 2 San Felipe (8.5f): This became a competitive heat following the defection of 1-5 favorite Nysos. Baffert wanted more time between starts and has rerouted the early Preakness favorite to the SA Derby on April 6. Baffert still had two runners and the stablemates had quite the battle. Wine Me Up was on top early but was quickly joined by post time favorite Imagination. Those two traded places from the outset and battled all the way to the wire. Imagination got his head down on the line to win a close decision over Wine Me Up, and those two were more than six lengths clear of maiden Mc Vay. Scatify had early trouble from the inside post and lost all chance. He was a distant last of four. The final time was 1:44.55.

Imagination (1st): This $1.05 million son of Into Mischief fired exacta shots in all five starts. “We always thought he was a really quality horse,” Baffert said of Imagination, who is out of the Empire Maker mare Magical Feeling. “He’s bred to get better as he gets older. The races have helped him. I think he might not need blinkers. I didn’t like the way he didn’t settle down the backside.”

Wine Me Up (2nd): Won his debut and lost all five stakes starts since. He landed the place in a trio of graded events (American Pharaoh, Robert Lewis, San Felipe), and seems to be back on track after losing his way in the BC Juvenile and Los Al Futurity. His San Felipe was solid. He made the early running and fought with his stablemate all the way to the wire. Jockey Juan Hernandez was pleased with his effort.  “My horse showed a lot of heart, I have no excuses today, we just got beat by a better horse. It is what it is, He beat me, but I’m really happy with my horse he showed a lot of heart, he was trying to come back. A couple more jumps and I would have gotten that horse, but he beat me today. I’m really happy with a second today.

Mc Vay (3rd): He is still a maiden after four starts for John Shirreffs. He took on the big boys in the Robert Lewis and San Felipe, and came up short both times. This $1.25 million purchase will probably return to the maiden ranks next time.

Scatify (4th): Won his sprint bow and was a clear third after setting the pace in the Robert Lewis. Wine Me Up beat him to the punch in the San Felipe, and that put Scatify is an awkward position from the rail post. He was in a very tight spot around the first turn, and was forced to steady and never recovered. John Sadler’s $120k Justify colt has some ability but he might need a softer spot to get his confidence back.

Nysos (scratched): This $550k Nyquist colt is unbeaten and untested after three starts. He dusted stakes rivals in the Bob Hope (G3) and Robert Lewis (G3), and the early Preakness favorite looked like a cinch in the San Felipe, but Bob Baffert called an audible and decided to skip that race and give him more time between starts. The new plan is to run in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on April 6, and use that race as a springboard to the second jewel of the Triple Crown.

Jarrod Horak

Jarrod Horak posts stakes recaps from Del Mar and Santa Anita Park, along with full card recaps and free stakes picks from Southern and/or Northern California.