Determine. Affirmed. Sunday Silence. Fusaichi Pegasus. California Chrome. Authentic. What do these half-dozen names have in common? Well, they all won the Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve. And they all used victory in Santa Anita’s $400,000, Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes as a steppingstone to Derby glory.
Jet Pilot. Tomy Lee. Lucky Debonair. Alysheba. Silver Charm. Real Quiet. Giacomo. What are the common denominators among these seven horses? Again, they all won the Kentucky Derby. And they did so after competing in the San Felipe.
Contested over 1 1/16 miles, the San Felipe has churned out 13 Kentucky Derby winners since 1947, including four since 2000. That’s an impressive record of success, which explains in part why the San Felipe awards Road to the Kentucky Derby qualification points on a 50-20-15-10-5 basis to its top five finishers.
A competitive group of 11 horses has entered Saturday’s renewal of the San Felipe, representing the largest field in decades. And at first glance, there isn’t a standout favorite, so a great betting race should be in the offing. Anyone able to assemble winning exotic wagers (like the exacta and trifecta) ought to catch nice payoffs.
We’ll try to join those winning bettors by basing our wagering strategies around #2 National Treasure. Though not exactly a winning machine (he’s lost his last three starts), National Treasure has yet to finish out of the top three while competing against tougher competition than he’ll face on Saturday.
Case in point: check out the performances National Treasure posted as a 2-year-old in 2022. He had no trouble winning his debut against maiden special weight competition at Del Mar, leading all the way to prevail by 1 ½ lengths. Then he stepped up in class and distance for the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 American Pharoah Stakes, finishing second behind proven Grade 1 winner Cave Rock. Finally, National Treasure took on the best of the division in the 1 1/16-mile Grade 1 FanDuel Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Presented by TAA and ran third behind eventual champion 2-year-old male Forte and Cave Rock.
Even National Treasure’s third-place finish in Santa Anita’s Grade 3 Sham Stakes to kick off 2023 can be viewed in a positive light. National Treasure spent most of the race boxed in behind rivals and had to wait for racing room at a critical moment around the far turn. Once he got in the clear, National Treasure rallied slowly but surely to finish third, beaten only one length by Reincarnate and Newgate while pulling 23 lengths clear of two-time graded stakes winner Packs a Wahlop.
It turns out the Sham was a strong race. Reincarnate came right back to finish third with a troubled trip in the $1 million, Grade 2 Rebel Stakes, while Newgate won Santa Anita’s Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in his next start.
National Treasure has posted sharp workouts in preparation for the San Felipe and is slated to be ridden by Hall of Fame jockey John Velazquez. With a clean trip, National Treasure can pick up his first stakes victory and cement his credentials as a serious Kentucky Derby contender.
But since betting an exacta requires selecting the top two finishers, and a trifecta the top three finishers, we have to determine which horses to use underneath National Treasure. That’s easier said than done in this competitive field, but we’ll give it our best shot by focusing on a handful of recent maiden winners.
The first is #10 Skinner, who placed third in the Grade 1 Runhappy Del Mar Futurity and sixth in the American Pharoah at age 2. The stoutly-bred son of Curlin recently returned from a four-month break to trounce a one-mile maiden special weight at Santa Anita by 3 ¼ lengths, suggesting he’s improving with maturity.
Much the same can be said of #7 Hejazi, who finished 3 ½ lengths behind National Treasure when third in the American Pharoah. Three months after that effort, Hejazi tackled a maiden special weight sprint at Santa Anita and prevailed easily in a fast time. The son of Grade 1 Preakness Stakes winner Bernardini is bred to handle 1 1/16 miles and should improve while stretching back out in distance for the San Felipe.
We also have to respect #8 Geaux Rocket Ride as a wildcard. He’s only run once, wiring a maiden special weight sprint at Santa Anita by 5 ¾ lengths, and that fast victory was flattered when runner-up Sonoran returned to dominate his next start against similar competition. Geaux Rocket Ride has the pedigree to stretch out in distance and can’t be dismissed for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella.
Throw in Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity winner #3 Practical Move, and we should have every chance to cash exacta and trifecta tickets betting the San Felipe. Depending on your budget, we’ve outlined two wagering strategies to consider:
Wagering Strategy on a $10 Budget
$5 exacta: 2 with 7,10 ($10)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $5 exacta 2 with 7,10
Wagering Strategy on a $30 Budget
$9 exacta: 2 with 7,10 ($18)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $9 exacta 2 with 7,10
$2 trifecta: 2 with 7,10 with 3,7,8,10 ($12)
What to say at the betting window: Santa Anita, 6th race, $2 trifecta 2 with 7,10 with 3,7,8,10
Good luck, and enjoy the race!