Hooked through blazing early fractions, even-money favorite Flashback won the battle on the lead with 2-to-1 second choice Goldencents, but lost the war when 5-to-1 third choice Hear the Ghost rallied from mid-pack to get up by half a length in the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes (Grade 2) run over 1 1/16-miles at Santa Anita.
In his first try around two turns, Hear the Ghost notched his first stakes win and earned 50 points in the first leg of the Championship Series on the road to the Kentucky Derby.
“That’s what we live for, huh?” Hall of Fame trainer Jerry Hollendorfer was heard asking his assistant Dan Ward after the race.
Piloted by Corey Nakatani for the first time, the Ghostzapper colt earned a 93 Beyer speed figure for his second career win that raised his career earnings to $222,400 for owners Halo Farms and Jerry Hollendorfer.
“I want to stay home and stay with my family on the West Coast and get on the Derby trail with a horse. This is it,” said Nakatani. “I don’t have a doubt that he will (go 1 1/4-miles). He cruises along and you don’t even have to move on him.”
The tactics used by Kevin Krigger aboard Goldencents and Julien Leparoux on Flashback were questionable, with the silly speed duel that saw the favorites go in fractions of 22.4, 45.4 and 1:09.4 compromising each of their chances.
However, Flashback did extremely well to hold the place and exits the race battle tested after a pair of daylight victories to begin his career for Bob Baffert. The big grey son of Tapit is pointed for a rematch with Hear the Ghost in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) over 1 1/8-miles on April 6.
Things aren’t so optimistic for Goldencents, who came into the race the most accomplished having won a pair of Grade 3 events and earned $782,000. A son of Into Mischief, there were questions regarding his ability to stretch his talents to longer distances and his fourth-place effort brought the realization that a repeat in the Kentucky Derby was likely not in the cards for Doug O’Neill.
Sent off at 12-to-1 after defeating state-breds in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes on January 26, Tiz a Minister earned the show after being 16 lengths behind the leaders going down the back side.
Marc Doche is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.