The third of four Road to the Kentucky Derby series qualifiers at Santa Anita this year, the March 4 San Felipe (G2) awarded points on a 50-20-15-10-5 basis toward a berth in a 20-horse field at Churchill Downs on May 6.
1. Convincing win stamps Practical Move as serious contender
Practical Move had never finished first (breaking his maiden via disqualification) prior to the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) in mid-December, and while he impressed recording a 10-1 upset (105 Brisnet Speed rating) over a trio of well-fancied Bob Baffert-trained rivals that afternoon, bettors remained skeptical, overlooking Practical Move as the 4.20-1 fourth choice among nine rivals in his San Felipe comeback.
The up-close stalker made doubters look foolish, unleashing another sharp turn of foot into the stretch to draw clear with a sixteenth remaining, and Practical Move rolled home to a 2 1/2-length decision with Ramon Vazquez.
Owned by Pierre Jean & Leslie Amestoy Jr. and Roger Beasley, the Tim Yakteen-trained colt received commendable 102 Speed and 107 Late Pace ratings, and Practical Move recorded the second-fastest win from 16 Kentucky Derby qualifiers in 2023, only one point slower than champion Forte in the Fountain of Youth (G2) at Gulfstream Park.
Sire Practical Joke is known more for sprinters/middle-distance types earlier in his stud career, but Practical Move has thrived in a trio of two-turn starts, breaking his maiden and recording a pair of graded stakes wins. The bay three-year-old appears to be drawing from his stamina-laced female family — Practical Move is out of a mare by Belmont (G1) winner Afleet Alex and closely related to Hawthorne Gold Cup (G2) and Pimlico Special (G3) winner Commissioner — and Practical Move has finished full of run in both 1 1/16-mile stakes attempts.
2. Encouraging stakes debuts for Geaux Rocket Ride, Skinner
Geaux Rocket Ride, a romping wire-to-wire maiden winner at six furlongs the first time out on Jan. 29, was bet down to 2.70-1 favoritism in his second outing, and the Richard Mandella-trained son of Candy Ride handled the added ground and class hike, finishing a clear second. The early/presser moved forward from a Speed figure perspective, netting a 99 number, and Geaux Rocket Ride looks more than capable of further progression in the coming weeks.
Last-out maiden scorer Skinner trailed after a slow start and didn’t get into gear until the far turn, utilizing a fine closing kick for third. By Curlin, the John Shirreffs-trained colt’s Speed and Late Pace numbers are increasing, and Skinner may have more to offer after the solid showing.
3. National Treasure scratches
One of four former Baffert trainees entered by Yakteen, Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) third-placer National Treasure was scratched due to a foot issue. The remaining transfers — Hejazi (fourth), Fort Bragg (fifth), and Mr Fisk (sixth) — finished out of the money in the San Felipe.