California racing fans were well aware that the San Felipe Stakes was ripe for an upset. The race favorite, Bob Baffert’s Mor Spirit, was already in a strong position to qualify for the Kentucky Derby and didn’t really ‘need’ a win. Second favorite Exaggerator was a question mark for many race enthusiasts who suggested that his range might become a factor at the 1 1/16 distance. Yet no one really considered Danzing Candy as the most likely candidate to the pull the upset. That designation went to Smokey Image who was stepping up in class for the first time and the ‘wise guy’ favorite in the race.
Horse racing is always full of surprises, however, and Danzing Candy treated the fans at Santa Anita Park to one on Saturday. Danzing Candy held off Mor Spirit and Exagerator down the stretch and won the Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes. More significantly, the victory came with 50 Kentucky Derby qualification points which elevating Danzing Candy to #4 in the points standings. In most years, 30 points is good enough to qualify for the race so Danzing Candy might very well have punched his ticket to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
Mor Spirit ran well but, as trainer Bob Baffert put it, ‘was beat by a pretty good horse’. He finished two lengths behind the winner and earned 20 Kentucky Derby qualification points which leaves him in sixth place with 44 points. The points he earned in winning the Los Alamos Futurity and Robert B. Lewis Stakes put him in a very strong position entering this race so the setback in no way diminishes his chances in the Kentucky Derby. In fact, both Baffert and jockey Gary Stevens were pleased with how Mor Spirit handled the distance. Baffert also said that he was keeping the horse ‘right here’ which strongly suggests entry in the Santa Anita Derby.
Exaggerator earned ten points for his third place finish. He’s currently #8 in the points standings (he won the Delta Downs Jackpot last November) but might have to do some more work to get into the Kentucky Derby. His 24 points could very well land him ‘on the bubble’. Trainer Keith Desormeaux wasn’t happy with his run and suggested that he might be in over his head beyond one mile. Still, Desormeux indicated that he’ll be entered in the Santa Anita Derby where a finish in the money will probably earn him Kentucky Derby qualification. Uncle Lino took fourth and five points.