Unbeaten, untested and unsung. All apply to the the undefeated California-bred BENCH POINTS (Benchmark), who will show whether or not he's Triple Crown material when he seeks his fifth victory next Saturday in the San Felipe S. (G2) going 1 1/16 miles at Santa Anita. The race is an important steppingstone to the Santa Anita Derby (G1) on April 9.
Bench Points already has victories in two stakes races at Del Mar as a two-year-old, the Graduation and I'm Smokin, and was an impressive allowance winner at Santa Anita on February 11. But the San Felipe would be his first race around two turns and will determine whether he embarks further on the Triple Crown trail. He has no graded earnings to date. (Photo Courtesy of Benoit Photos)
The chestnut gelding is trained by Tim Yakteen, who earned his racing spurs from icons Charlie Whittingham and Bob Baffert before going on his own at the age of 40 in September of 2004.
"He's coming along well," Yakteen said. "He's been working great, and the San Felipe will tell us what direction we're going to be taking this year. That's going to be a very competitive race, but at this point we need to find out whether our horse can route, whether we're going to dream in 3D or whether we're just going to stay in color."
Bench Points worked six furlongs at Santa Anita Saturday in 1:11 3/4, in company with the Janet Armstrong-trained Skid (Malabar Gold), who was clocked in 1:12 2/5.
"It was a great drill," Yakteen said. "He sat off a couple lengths behind his company, cruised up to him and finished nice. It was everything we're looking for."
If he makes it to the Kentucky Derby (G1) on May 7, it would not be the first Run for the Roses experience for Yakteen. He spent years under the tutelage of Whittingham, who at 76 became the oldest trainer to win the Derby in 1989 with Sunday Silence, and later with three-time Derby winner Baffert.
"I was at the Derby with Charlie in 1996 when he had Corker, a colt out of Bottle Top and a half-brother to Strodes Creek, who was second in the 1994 Derby," Yakteen recalled. "Eddie D. rode Strodes Creek and we probably should have won the race, but Laffit (Pincay Jr. on Valiant Nature, who finished 13th of 14) blew the turn and Eddie had to move out of the way or he was going to drop Laffit."