The San Felipe Stakes is a Grade 2 race for three-year-olds run at 1 1⁄16 miles in March at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. The race is a prep for the Santa Anita Derby, and is also a Championship Series qualifying race for the Kentucky Derby. The top four finishers in the San Felipe receive points towards the Derby (50-20-10-4), and the winner earns enough points to run in the Kentucky Derby.
The most recent San Felipe winner is the Medaglia d’Oro colt Bolt d’Oro, who finished second in the 2018 edition but was awarded victory following a steward’s inquiry. McKinzie had won the race but was disqualified for interference in the stretch and dropped to second place. Bolt d’Oro went on to finish second in the Santa Anita Derby behind eventual 2018 Triple Crown hero Justify, and was also 12th behind that rival in the Kentucky Derby.
Mastery was on his way to being a Kentucky Derby favorite before suffering a condylar fracture of his left front ankle after crossing the finish line first in the 2017 San Felipe. Doctors saved his life, but his racing career was over. Bob Baffert, the trainer of Mastery, McKinzie and the past two Triple Crown winners, holds the record for the most San Felipe victories at six.
First run in 1935, the San Felipe has been contested at its current 1 1⁄16 mile distance since 1952. The fastest time was set in 2005 by Consolidator (1:40.11). In the last 20 years, some superior horses have won the San Felipe and gone on to some strong finishes in the Triple Crown races. Most winners of the San Felipe are the best horses in the field, as few longshots even greater than 7-1 have won the San Felipe in the past 30 years.
California Chrome (2014) is the most notable recent San Felipe champion, going on to take the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes. Dortmund is a recent San Felipe winner who finished third in the Kentucky Derby. Fusaichi Pegasus, 2000 hero of the San Felipe, won the Derby and was second in the Preakness. Free House, one of the best California-breds ever and winner of the 1997 San Felipe, finished third in the Kentucky Derby and Belmont Stakes while just missing by a head to Silver Charm in the Preakness. Point Given captured 2001 San Felipe before going on to triumph in the Preakness and Belmont Stakes after finishing fifth in the Derby. Pioneerof the Nile was second in the Kentucky Derby two races after his 2009 San Felipe victory. Leading sire Medaglia d’Oro, winner of the 2002 San Felipe, finished first or second in 15 of his 17 lifetime starts including runner-up efforts in two editions of the Breeders’ Cup Classic, the 2004 Dubai World Cup and the 2002 Belmont Stakes.
Going back further, Affirmed won the San Felipe on his way to sweeping the Triple Crown in 1978. A decade later, Sunday Silence used his San Felipe victory as a springboard to Triple Crown trail glory, winning the Kentucky Derby, Preakness before coming up short in the Belmont Stakes.