2023 San Felipe Stakes Recap

Tim Yakteen had three horses running from his stable for the first time in the San Felipe (G2), but it was a colt he’d already raced five times beforehand that took the honors.

Running for the first time since winning the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) Dec. 17, Practical Move was too strong for a good field of Californian sophomores in the Santa Anita contest.

Stalking the pace early, Practical Move was presented a rails run on the final turn when his new stablemate Hejazi rolled off the fence. Jockey Ramon Vazquez took up the invitation and sprinted clear in the stretch, winning comfortably on the line by 2 12 lengths.

The win earned Practical Move 50 points on the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby table. Combined with the 10 he earned in the Los Alamitos Futurity, it took him to 60 points, second on the overall table behind Forte, and all but secured a start in the Derby.

Geaux Rocket Ride put up a nice effort in his second career start to chase Practical Move home and earn his first 20 points on the Derby Road, while second favorite Skinner closed strongly from the rear of the field to take third and earn 15 points.

New Yakteen horses Hejazi (fourth) and Fort Bragg (fifth), two runners that were ineligible to earn Derby Road points because their previous trainer Bob Baffert is suspended from racing by Churchill Downs Inc., earned 10 and five points, respectively.

Practical Move is expected to return to the same track April 8 to have his final Derby prep in the Santa Anita Derby (G1).

By Alastair Bull

San Felipe Stakes History

Affirmed. Sunday Silence. Alysheba. Silver Charm. Real Quiet. California Chrome. These legendary Kentucky Derby winners combined to win 13 Triple Crown races, 16 Eclipse Awards, and $39,010,435. And—oh yes—they all won the San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita as well.

Held in March, the San Felipe primarily serves as the final local prep for the Santa Anita Derby (G1). But the 1 116-mile is also a Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race offering 50 qualification points to the winner, enough to virtually guarantee a spot in the Churchill Downs starting gate.

The San Felipe dates back to 1935, but didn’t settle into its current format and distance until 1952. Even still, the early years were productive as Jet Pilot (sixth in 1947) and Determine (victorious 1954) went on to claim victories in the Kentucky Derby.

Others quickly followed their lead. Tomy Lee (1959), Lucky Debonair (1965), Alysheba (1987), Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), and Giacomo (2005) won the Kentucky Derby after finishing second in the San Felipe, while Triple Crown champion Affirmed (1978), Horse of the Year Sunday Silence (1989), and the flashy Fusaichi Pegasus (2000) emulated Determine by sweeping the San Felipe/Derby double.

The San Felipe endured a dry spell during the late 2000s, partly attributable to Santa Anita racing over a synthetic track for three seasons, but the race bounced back boldly during the 2010s. Future Kentucky Derby and Preakness (G1) winner California Chrome dominated the 2014 San Felipe in the fast time of 1:40.59, just missing the stakes record of 1:40.11 set by Consolidator in 2005. Bodemeister (2012), Dortmund (2016), and Exaggerator (2016) also used the San Felipe as a springboard to in-the-money finishes under the Twin Spires, reiterating the San Felipe’s standing as a critical test on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.

By J. Keeler Johnson

San Felipe Previews:

Johnson: Study Guide: San Felipe/a>

Rogers and Kerstein: Inside the Kentucky Derby Podcast: A Stakes Race Superfecta Preview

Scully: Yakteen enters five in 11-horse San Felipe