Bob Baffert is a face synonymous with Kentucky Derby success and he looks to showcase his next potential star Mastery in Saturday’s $400,000 San Felipe (GII) at Santa Anita Park in Southern California – one of two Championship Series races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Presented by

Nearly 2,500 miles east in Oldsmar, Fla., improving Tapwrit headlines a wide-open field of 10 in the $350,000 Tampa Bay Derby (GII). Tapwrit hails from the powerful Todd Pletcher barn, who will attempt to win the race for a record-extending fifth time and fourth time in the last five years.

 The San Felipe is slated for Race 5 at Santa Anita with a post time of 5 p.m. (all times Eastern) and the Tampa Bay Derby is scheduled as Tampa Bay Downs’ 11th race at 5:27 p.m.  

 Both 1 1/16-mile races will award 50 points to the winner and 20 to the runner-up. The third and fourth-place finishers will earn 10 and 5 points, respectively. The top point earners in the 37-race Road to the Kentucky Derby series will have preference to compete in the 20-horse Grade I, $2 million Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum! Brands on Saturday, May 6.

 Unbeaten 2-year-old star Mastery will make his 3-year-old debut in the San Felipe for Baffert, the four-time Kentucky Derby-winning Hall of Fame trainer. Mastery created a huge impression as a 2-year-old with a 7 ¼-length triumph in the Los Alamitos Futurity (GI) in December. Absent from racing for 13 weeks, Mastery returns to face six rivals including 3 ½-length San Vicente (GII) winner Iliad for two-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer Doug O’Neill and Gormley, the determined victor of the Jan. 7 Sham (GIII) for fellow Kentucky Derby-winning trainer John Shirreffs

 In the Tampa Bay Derby, Tapwrit, a fast-closing second only 1 ½-lengths behind unbeaten McCraken in the Feb. 4 Sam F. Davis (GIII), is the 3-1 morning line favorite. McCraken would have been heavily favored in Saturday’s race, but his Kentucky Derby route was altered after a minor ankle injury sidelined the colt for a couple of days. Now back galloping, his trainer, Ian Wilkes, has rerouted the 3-year-old son of Ghostzapper to the April 8 Blue Grass (GII) at Keeneland.

 The field of 10 for Saturday’s Tampa Bay Derby has seven horses between 3-1 and 12-1 on the morning line including the Sam F. Davis’ third- and fourth-place finishers State of Honor (4-1) and Wild Shot (5-1); seemingly-improving Beasley (9-2), a two-time allowance runner-up at Gulfstream Park; and No Dozing (6-1), who returns for another try after finishing a disappointing sixth in the Sam F. Davis which was his first race since running second in last November’s Remsen (GII).

 On the Road to the Kentucky Oaks – the Derby’s companion race for 3-year-old fillies on Friday, May 5 – Claiborne Farm and Adele B. Dilschneider’s homebred Elate is the 5-2 morning line favorite in a field of 11 for Saturday’s Honeybee (GIII) at Oaklawn Park. Elate, conditioned by Hall of Fame trainer Bill Mott, is one of three shippers for the race. The others are Tapa Tapa Tapa, who beat Elate by three lengths in Florida’s Suncoast, and the Jerry Hollendorfer-trained It Tiz Well, a recent Southern California allowance winner who was second to early Oaks favorite and stablemate Unique Bella in Jan. 8 Santa Ynez (GIII). Chanel’s Legacy, winner of the Dixie Belle and Martha Washington for Lynn Chleborad, heads the local Arkansas contingent. 


1. Breeders’ Cup Juvenile winner and 2-year-old champion Classic Empire returned to training Tuesday after a minor back injury was discovered March 3. “(Classic Empire) looked great galloping and appears to be very happy right now,” assistant trainer Norm Casse said. “We would like to work him towards the end of the week.” Classic Empire is targeting the April 8 Blue Grass (GII) as his final prep before the Kentucky Derby.

 2. Los Alamitos Futurity winner and unbeaten Mastery is the 6-5 morning line favorite for Saturday’s San Felipe. Mastery has not gone off at odds more than 1-5 during his three-race career.

 3. Bob Baffert holds the record for the most victories by a trainer in the San Felipe with five but he’s never completed the San Felipe-Kentucky Derby double. However, two of his San Felipe runner-ups went on to win the Derby: Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998).

 4. Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert is seeking to land his fifth Kentucky Derby win in 2017, which would put him one win back of legendary horsemen Ben Jones for the most victories by a trainer in America’s greatest race. His best hope appears to lie with San Felipe morning line favorite Mastery but he also has Rebel Stakes probable starter American Anthem and late-developing Reach the World, who was second to Battle of Midway in a first-level allowance at Santa Anita on Thursday.

 5. Tampa Bay Derby 3-1 morning line favorite Tapwrit was purchased at auction for $1.2 million during the 2015 Fasig-Tipton August Saratoga Selected Yearlings Sale. The only Kentucky Derby winner purchased at auction for seven figures was 2000 champ Fusaichi Pegasus, who was obtained for $4 million at the 1998 Keeneland July Yearling Sale by Japanese businessman Fusao Sekiguchi.

 6. Legendary Calumet Farm holds the Kentucky Derby records for most wins by an owner (8) and breeder (9). Founded in 1924 by William Monroe Wright, it was passed throughout the Wright family before it declined in the 1980s after the death of Mrs. Gene Markey. Calumet Farm would survive a 1992 bankruptcy and now operates under multi-billionaire Brad Kelley, who has leased the farm from the Calumet Investment Trust since February, 2013. It’s been 49 years since Forward Pass gave Calumet their eighth Kentucky Derby win as an owner in 1968 – they did breed 1991 winner Strike the Gold – but Tampa Bay Derby entrant Wild Shot could give them a chance to add to the impressive ledger. If he does, it would come under Kelley’s black with gold chevrons instead of the famed devil’s red and blue silks of yesteryear. Calumet also starts Term of Art in the San Felipe.

 7. San Vicente winner Iliad will make his two-turn debut in the San Felipe. The last Kentucky Derby winner to race around two turns for the first time in mid-March was 1997 champ Silver Charm.

 8. San Vicente winner and 5-2 morning line third choice in this Saturday’s San Felipe, Iliad was formerly trained by Bob Baffert and is now conditioned by Doug O’Neill – both multiple Kentucky Derby winners. There has been six Derby winners in the last 25 years who had trainer changes before winning the Run for the Roses: Lil E. Tee (1992, from Michael Trivigno to Lynn Whiting); Thunder Gulch (1995, from John Kimmel to D. Wayne Lukas); War Emblem (2001, from Frank Springer to Bob Baffert); Big Brown (2008, from Pat Reynolds to Rick Dutrow Jr.); Mine That Bird (2009, from David Cotey to Richard Mandella to Chip Woolley); and Animal Kingdom (2011, from Wayne Catalano to Graham Motion).

 9. A very interesting note from Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman, who reported this week that trainer John Shirreffs has NEVER watched a replay of his victory in the 2005 Kentucky Derby with longshot Giacomo. From Privman: ‘“It was just too good,’” said Shirreffs, who said he only wants to remember the race from his perspective, not have it altered by watching a pan-camera angle. His memory includes not only what he saw while standing near the outer rail, about a sixteenth of a mile from the finish, but how he felt.” Amazing discipline. Shirreffs will start Gormley in Saturday’s San Felipe.

 10. Irish War Cry finished seventh of 10 and was beaten 21 ¾ lengths as the 6-5 favorite in last weekend’s Fountain of Youth at Gulfstream Park. Redemption after a drubbing isn’t unprecedented in Derby history. In the last 50 years, three horses won the roses after losing a two-turn 3-year-old prep by double-digit lengths as the favorite. The most recent was 1998 Derby winner Real Quiet, who finished eighth in that year’s Golden Gate Derby and was beaten 22 ½ lengths as the 6-5 choice. The other two are Forward Pass (1968) and Sea Hero (1993).


 Favorites won nine of the 18 “Road to the Kentucky Derby” races during the “Prep Season” (18-9-4-3), but are 0-for-3 since the “Championship Series” began. Mo Town was fifth at 1.50-1 in the Risen Star. El Areeb was third at 0.40-1 in the Gotham. Irish War Cry was seventh at 1.10-1 in the Fountain of Youth.


 After an impressive effort in last Saturday’s Fountain of Youth (GII), Gunnevera’s trainer Antonio Sano confirmed that the Road to the Kentucky Derby points leader will target the April 1 Florida Derby (GI) for his final Kentucky Derby prep. … Fountain of Youth third Three Rules appears more likely to target the Preakness Stakes (GI) instead of the Kentucky Derby, according to trainer Jose Pinchin. However, Three Rules remains under consideration to run in the April 1 Florida Derby (GI). … State of Honor, second-stringer to 2-year-old champ Classic Empire in the Mark Casse barn, was bred in Ontario, Canada by his owners Conrad Farm. Two horses bred in Canada have won the Derby: Northern Dancer (1964) and Sunny’s Halo (1983). … Wild Shot’s veteran trainer Rusty Arnold has started two horses in the Kentucky Derby: Wavering Monarch, who was 12th in 1982, and West by West, who finished 11th in 1992 – 25 years ago. … It’s been 24 years since trainer Mark Hennig, who will saddle Beasley in the Tampa Bay Derby, finished fourth in the 1993 Kentucky Derby with Personal Hope – his lone Derby starters. … Robert B. Lewis Stakes (GIII) winner Royal Mo will travel to Hot Springs, Ark for the March 18 Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn Park as stable mate Gormley stay put in California for Saturday’s San Felipe (GII). … Trainer Ron Moquett confirmed earlier this week that Petrov, second-place finisher in the Feb. 20 Southwest (GIII), will run next in the March 18 Rebel (GII) at Oaklawn Park. … After a dull fifth place finish in the Feb. 25 Risen Star (GII) as the 3-5 favorite, Mo Town will try to rebound in either the April 1 Florida Derby or April 8 Wood Memorial, according to trainer Tony Dutrow. … Following her 2 ¼-length victory in last Saturday’s Santa Ysabel (GIII), Unique Bella will be pointed to the April 8 Santa Anita Oaks (GI) which will be her final prep before the Longines Kentucky Oaks (GI). … Two-year-old champion filly Champagne Room has been sidelined for at least 90 days following surgery on Wednesday to remove an ankle chip. … Five jockeys, three trainers and three horses were announced as finalists this week on the National Museum of Racing’s 2017 Hall of Fame ballot including Kentucky Derby-winning jockey Victor Espinoza and Kentucky Derby-winning trainer John Shirreffs. Other finalists include jockeys Churchill Downs veteran Robby Albarado, Javier Castellano, Garrett Gomez and Craig Perret; trainers Mark Casse and David Whiteley; and racehorses Gio Ponti, Goldikova and Kona Gold. The latter two won Breeders’ Cup events at Churchill Downs. … Churchill Downs veteran morning line odds maker Mike Battaglia will be inducted into the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame’s Class of 2017. The ceremony will take place June 1 at the Crowne Plaza Hotel in Louisville, Ky. … The online nomination process for the Kentucky Oaks Survivors Parade presented by Kroger continues through March 17. To nominate or vote for one of the 143 breast and ovarian cancer survivors for the ninth annual parade, visit … Spring is almost here and the Churchill Downs backstretch will be open for horses to return on March 20. Training resumes shortly after in preparation for opening night of the Churchill Downs Spring Meet on April 29.

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