ARCADIA — Practical Move perhaps stamped himself as the horse to beat in this year’s Santa Anita Derby with an impressive victory in Saturday’s $400,000 Grade II San Felipe Stakes.
Not only did Practical Move win by 2 1/2 lengths in the race that serves as the major springboard to the Santa Anita Derby, but he did it by running the 1 1/16 miles in a very good 1:42.01 as the 4-1 fourth choice in the wagering.
Geaux Rocket Ride, dropped into a stakes race by Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella and stretched out to two turns after breaking his maiden in his debut, finished second in a race that had to please his connections. He figures to improve off Saturday’s effort.
But the spotlight was on Practical Move, a Practical Joke colt who scored his second consecutive victory under Ramon Vazquez after winning the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 17.
Practical Move picked up 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points with the victory.
“He is a very healthy horse,” trainer Tim Yakteen said. “He is a phenomenally gifted horse. I am amazed at how strong he is and how he has matured from a 2-year-old to a 3-year-old. Everything has fallen into place. There was only one challenge before this race. I felt we needed to get one more work in.”
Yakteen, who saddled four of the 11 horses in the race, said the plan is to race again before the Kentucky Derby on May 6.
“I want to leave the canvas black now and we’ll make the call later,” he said. “But I think he will have one more start before the (Kentucky) Derby.”
National Treasure, the morning-line favorite at 3-1, and Crypto Ride were scratched, leaving the field with nine horses.
Said Vazquez: “This horse keeps getting better and better every day. He can go inside or outside. He is comfortable wherever. He lets me do my job and he does the rest.”
And Vazquez could be destined to ride in his second Kentucky Derby.
“I have always dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby,” he said. “I had one previous chance in 2015 (aboard Mr. Z) for Mr. (D. Wayne) Lukas. I’m hoping for another chance.”
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Kazushi Kimura guided 10-1 longshot Gold Phoenix to a narrow victory over Du Jour in the the $500,000 Grade I turf race for older horses. A 5-year-old gelded son of Belardo, Gold Phoenix won for the fourth time in 11 starts for trainer Philip D’Amato and increased his career bankroll to $675,257.
Gold Phoenix prevailed by a neck in a five-horse driving finish. Du Jour finished three-quarters of a length ahead of third-place finisher Cabo Spirit. Final time was 1:34.45.
BUENA VISTA STAKES
Under another patient ride by Hector Berrios, the Jeff Mullins-trained Quattroelle got up in the final jumps to beat Macadamia by a half length in the $200,000 Grade II turf race for older fillies and mares. Sent postward as the second choice at 3-1, Quattroelle won for the fifth time in 15 starts. Final time for the mile was 1:35.74.