Santa Anita Derby rematch in the cards for San Felipe top two
Edited Press Release
If all goes well, it’s on to the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) and a rematch between Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit, the one-two finishers from Saturday’s San Felipe (G2).
Both three-year-olds came out of the race in good order and are in line for the April 9 Santa Anita Derby, won by I’ll Have Another in 2012 and California Chrome in 2014. Both of those runners went on to capture the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Danzing Candy was making his stakes debut in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe and led virtually throughout under Mike Smith, winning by two lengths over 8-5 favorite Mor Spirit with Gary Stevens aboard.
“I wasn’t surprised he was on the lead,” said Cliff Sise Jr., trainer of Danzing Candy, who earned 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points for his third win in a row.
“We weren’t about to change his style. The only way he wouldn’t have been in front would have been if somebody else was sent hard. We didn’t want to experiment in that race.”
Should Danzing Candy make the May 7 Kentucky Derby, it would mark the first starter for Sise in the Run for the Roses.
“We were looking at it last year with Prospect Park, who was second (to Dortmund) in the San Felipe, but coming up to the Santa Anita Derby he had a setback and we took him off the Derby trail.”
Stevens was encouraged and optimistic despite Mor Spirit’s loss.
“Mor Spirit was super-fresh and that’s one reason (trainer Bob Baffert) decided to run him instead of wait until the Santa Anita Derby,” said Stevens, the Eskendereya colt’s regular pilot.
“He pulled really hard going into the first turn. It took me a while to get him to settle, and after that, I really couldn’t move when I wanted to, because it was going to mess him up for his next race.
“So I had to kind of sit and wait and Kent (Desormeaux on eventual San Felipe third-placer Exaggerator) made his move and I just followed him through. He got a lot of dirt yesterday, traffic, came inside of horses, then moved out, galloped on pretty good the last sixteenth of a mile and galloped out great.
“He probably got more out of yesterday’s race than he has in all of his races combined up to that point, as far as education and fitness,” Stevens continued. “I felt a lot like I did when I got beat on Silver Charm by Free House in the (1997) Santa Anita Derby.
“Bob usually doesn’t come down (to the winner’s circle) unless it’s for a picture, but he came down and had a smile on his face and I said, ‘I think we’re in a real good spot right now,’ and he was pretty happy in defeat. I thought Mor Spirit would win yesterday, but then he was vulnerable, too. There were some fast horses in there going a mile and a sixteenth.
“We’re focusing on more distance; I like what I felt and everything about it.”
Danzing Candy photo courtesy of Benoit Photos