In the last four years, a victory in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) has resulted in a win or third place finish in the Triple Crown races. California Chrome steamrolled through the ’14 San Felipe on his way through a six-win race streak. The pretty gray Creative Cause captured the San Felipe and was third in the Preakness, while last year, Dortmund won a thrilling edition of the San Felipe. He suffered his first loss finishing third in the Kentucky Derby to stablemate American Pharoah.
This year, a competitive field of six colts will go to the post in the 1 1/16 mile contest. The winner will earn fifty points towards their trip to the 2016 Kentucky Derby.
The Main Contenders
The San Felipe is a highly anticipated match up of Los Al Futurity and R.B. Lewis winner Mor Spirit vs. San Vicente runner-up Exaggerator vs. the undefeated state-bred champ Smokey Image.
MOR SPIRIT has improved his speed figures in each start. In the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G2), the son of Eskendereya just galloped by San Felipe entrants Uncle Lino and I Will Score, who were all out. Gary Stevens allowed the colt to win by only 1 ½ lengths, but there was no doubt who was superior.
EXAGGERATOR enters the San Felipe fresh from his third defeat at the hooves of the 2YO Champ Nyquist. The two made their three year old debut in the seven furlong San Vicente. Nyquist got the better trip while Exaggerator had to go four wide, yet the undefeated champ cruised by 1 ½ lengths while under a hand ride while Exaggerator was all out to keep up.
Following in the hoof prints of California Chrome, the undefeated, untested SMOKEY IMAGE makes his graded stakes debut. The son of Southern Image has been boxed in, steadied, bobbled at the start and still won. Like the 2014 Kentucky Derby winner, Smokey Image likes to press the pace. Both California-breds are bright Chestnuts with white blazes and both wear blinkers. Smokey Image won the 1 1 11/16 mile California Cup Derby in 1:43.49 in hand, drawing off by 8 ½ lengths. A week later, Mor Spirit captured the Robert Lewis Stakes in 1:43.21 by 1 ½ lengths.
Can Step Up
In his two-turn debut, UNCLE LINO (Uncle Mo – Haysee, by Orientate) had a perfect trip stalking the pace in the R. B. Lewis Stakes, but was all out in the stretch dueling with I Will Score. He held second place over that one by ½ length. He couldn’t hold off Mor Spirit. Uncle Lino has one of the best pedigrees in the field. By a 2YO Champ and leading freshman sire, Uncle Lino is out of an unraced full sister to an Alabama (G1) winner and a half-sister to Preakness Stakes winner and new sire Shackleford.
The lightly raced I WILL SCORE answered the class question affirmatively. He made the pace in his first try routing and tired only slightly to finish third. It was a good effort. I Will Score has a sprinter/miler pedigree and 1 1/6 miles may be his limit. Mike Smith, the colt’s pilot in all three starts, jumps off in favor of Danzig Candy.
DANZING CANDY may vie with I Will Score on the front end. The son of track record holder Twirling Candy ran them off of their feet in his last two races by a combined nine lengths. Danzig Candy is making his stakes debut. His dam is a half sister to the popular stakes warrior Better Talk Now.
Mor Spirit’s stablemate, the last out maiden CUPID was scratched.
All except two of the last ten winners of the San Filipe won their previous start, which was a stakes race. Only two captured the R.B. Lewis in their last start.
Uncle Lino is speed from the rail. He’ll probably duel with I Will Score and Danzig Candy could join the pair. Mor Spirit will likely draft behind them. Smokey Image may be in the mix or he could settle back with Mor Spirit. Exaggerator may have another wide trip unless he sits behind the rest. All the colts have a shot at winning and I don’t see this as a strong betting race.
#3 MOR SPIRIT (2-1)
#6 SMOKY IMAGE (7-2)
#7 EXAGGERATOR (5-2)
#1 UNCLE LINO (8-1)