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Nakatani impressed by Hear the Ghost; Krigger questions Leparoux's ride
Opinions and speculation were there for the taking Sunday morning on the Grade 2 San Felipe, in which favored Flashback suffered his first defeat and jockey Kevin Krigger, who rode fourth-place finisher Goldencents, was critical of the tactics used by Julien Leparoux, who rode Flashback.
Hear the Ghost came from fifth in a field of eight at the half-mile pole to win by a half-length under Corey Nakatani. Flashback, favored at even-money in the 1 1/16-mile contest, held on to be second, a half-length in front of Tiz a Minister, who roared from 18 lengths behind at the half-mile marker to finish third by a length under Garrett Gomez.
Nakatani was understandably delighted with his victory for Jerry Hollendorfer aboard Hear the Ghost, who was coming off two sprint races, a maiden win and a second in the San Pedro, each at six furlongs.
"To do what he did yesterday was impressive to me," Nakatani said Sunday morning. "You don't see too many horses do what he's done and not turn out to be a pretty good horse. He's got a lot of ability."
Grade 3 Sham victor Goldencents, who held the lead on Flashback into the stretch, weakened slightly late to wind up fourth, beaten a total of 2 1/4 lengths.
Krigger's post-race quotes questioned Leparoux's strategy.
"I was surprised, as good a rider as Julien is supposed to be, the move he made around the turn to make us have a dogfight race all the way around," Krigger said. "Turning into the backstretch, that's like committing suicide, you know?
"If we're going that fast easily, it's understandable, but to pressure a race like that...being on a favorite, that's not a favorite's ride at all."
Leparoux was back on the beat Sunday morning, as usual.
"You know what," the two-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey said. "I watched the replay. You make a decision on the first turn; I made mine...I thought the decision I made on the first turn was good. I wish I could have made him relax a little bit more on the backside.
"Other than that, nothing (would have changed). It (the loss) might be a good thing for the horse (Flashback) in the long run. Time will tell."
In other post-San Felipe news, Leandro Mora, assistant to Doug O'Neill, said Goldencents came out of the race in good shape, other than perhaps a bruised ego.
"He came out really good," Mora said. "He ate well, but I would say he knows, that in his mind, he was upset that he got beat. He was pinning his ears back a little bit and he never does that.
"He's just a kid. He's learning the basics right now, I think.
"That's up to the owners," Mora added when asked if the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby was next on April 6. "I guess they're going to have a meeting and talk about it, but they'll decide whether to run in the Santa Anita Derby or try somewhere else."
Trainer Paul Aguirre's made it plain what he thought about Tiz a Minister's monster race in his post-race comments.
"If it weren't Garrett Gomez (riding), I'd be waiting over here for the ambulance. But Garrett's got a way with those horses," Aguirre stated. "That's a victory to me, to be in the same category as Flashback and Goldencents."