A visually impressive winner of the Norfolk S. (G1) last October when overcoming a wide trip, Zayat Stables' JAYCITO (Victory Gallop) took a step backward in the November 6 Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) at Churchill Downs, finishing a distant seventh after losing considerable ground early and bolting. Moved from trainer Mike Mitchell to Bob Baffert over the winter, the big colt will make his belated seasonal debut for that outfit in Saturday's $250,000 San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita. The 1 1/16-mile event is the traditional final prep for next month's Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Jaycito, who broke his maiden in the Norfolk after running second in his debut and in the Del Mar Futurity (G1), will be greatly tested in the San Felipe. The field of 10 also includes COMMA TO THE TOP (Bwana Charlie), who, like Jaycito, seeks to solidify his dirt credentials. The gelding won six of 10 starts last season, ripping through a trio of two-turn stakes at the Hollywood Park fall meet. But after consecutive wins in the CashCall Futurity (G1) and Real Quiet S. on synthetic and the Generous S. (G3) on turf, Comma to the Top was a disappointing fourth as the 1-2 favorite in last month's El Camino Real Derby (G3). The San Felipe will mark his debut on dirt. (Photo Courtesy of Benoit Photos)
With the exception of El Camino Real Derby runner-up JAKESAM (Smoke Glacken), the remainder of the field has already tested Santa Anita's relatively new dirt track. Among the first to do so, on December 29, was the Baffert-trained AWESOME PATRIOT (Awesome Again), who gutted out a half-length allowance win over a mile. The dark bay had previously lost twice to PREMIER PEGASUS (Fusaichi Pegasus) in the Hollywood Prevue S. (G3) and Jack Goodman S., but that rival met his first career reversal when third to the Baffert-trained The Factor (War Front) in the February 20 San Vicente S. (G2).
Jumping from maiden sprint wins to the big leagues on Saturday are RUNFLATOUT (Flatter) and ALBERGATTI (Unbridled's Song). Runflatout won by 2 1/2 lengths and finished up six furlongs in 1:07 3/5 in his January 29 debut, while Albergatti shook off a loss in his debut to post a 1 1/2-length score going seven furlongs on February 12 for Steve Asmussen. Jockey Garrett Gomez guided both colts to victory, but has chosen to keep the mount on Albergatti.
Entering the San Felipe undefeated from four starts is the fleet BENCH POINTS (Benchmark), who landed an open first-level allowance/optional claimer by 1 1/4 lengths last month going six furlongs. The gelding had faced California-breds exclusively at two, winning both the Graduation S. and I'm Smokin S. during the Del Mar session.
The San Felipe field is rounded out by SURREY STAR (Ire) (Dubawi), fourth in the San Vicente in his seasonal bow, and Robert B. Lewis S. (G2) third-placer QUAIL HILL (Candy Ride [Arg]).