Mucciolo’s Sophomore Spotlight: San Felipe & Tampa Bay Derby Preview

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March 10th, 2017

San Felipe S. (G2):

A trio of the top West Coast-based sophomores will vie in the $400,000 San Felipe on Saturday at Santa Anita. ILIAD surely looked the part in rolling home a fine winner in a seasonal debut in the San Felipe (G2) on this oval and draws outside of his main two rivals. The Doug O’Neill trainee has pace and a turn of foot, and I do think he will be just fine at this distance and potentially longer as the one who I will give a slight edge to today. Son of Ghostzapper will make his route bow against this field and comes in with a bullet morning drill to indicate that he will be ready to roll while forcing the pace from the outset.

MASTERY had a fine juvenile season with a trio of easy tallies, capped by a convincing score in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in his seasonal finale. Bob Baffert trained son of Candy Ride has reportedly pleased connections with his preparations and obviously will be among the top three-year-old runners in the nation if he picks up where he left off in 2016. I do, however, fear the colt will be less than at his best today with bigger goals in mind later, making this the time to try and beat him at a short price.

GORMLEY was game bagging the Sham S. (G3) in his seasonal bow and the John Shirreffs trainee has back class as a Grade 1 victor, too. Bay son of Malibu Moon is two-for-three locally and has early foot, but his latest BRIS Speed number (102) was likely inflated by a sloppy oval. And while I respect the colt, Gormley is a bet against for me today. Accomplished three-year-old remains eligible to have a bright future.

Tampa Bay Derby (G2):

Ten three-year-olds will go 1 1/16 miles in what appears to be a well-matched Tampa Bay Derby field. The second, third and fourth-place finishers in the Sam F Davis S. (G3) return and each of the trio has a big chance in my opinion. TAPWRIT, second in the Davis, earned a healthy BRIS Late Pace figure making his seasonal bow at Tampa and has been a different animal since adding blinkers in his second lifetime performance. Todd Pletcher trainee shows a pair of maintenance half-mile morning drills for fitness and I like him currently, as well as a long-term prospect, for this potent barn.

STATE OF HONOR has elevated his game since moving from the All-Weather to the dirt two races prior. His best showing came last time, a third in the Davis adding blinkers and Lasix, and the Mark Casse-trained son of To Honor and Serve is getting good at the right time of the year. I expect him to change tactics today, either stalking or pressing the pace instead of setting sail for the lead, but still have some questions about the Ontario-bred’s effectiveness at two turns (lone win came sprinting). However, if he proves effective rating and pouncing with a big run today, the bay colt could be most interesting in his next Kentucky Derby prep race.

I previously mentioned that while I do think a lot of the talented WILD SHOT, it simply seems that he has some distance limitations at this stage of his development. The Rusty Arnold pupil has knocked heads with some very good ones dating back to the fall and is surely eligible to move forward the second time out in 2017, but I will stand by my previous statement and expect him to come up short in the stretch after a fourth in the Davis.

NO DOZING was flat in the Davis but had a fine campaign as a juvenile and deserves another chance in my view, as previously mentioned. Trained by Arnaud Delacour, the son of Union Rags is already proven capable at nine furlongs and may not have loved the oval in his first local try, but I give him a chance to take a step forward in his second appearance at Tampa Bay. Bay colt shows a pair of swift morning moves in anticipation and might be the value of the field with regular rider Daniel Centeno.

Multiple stakes hero SONIC MULE and Mark Hennig’s BEASLEY has both flashed ability to this point, though I will need to see a major vault forward from either to give them consideration going forward.