An odds-on favorite in his 2017 debut, Mastery remained unbeaten and confirmed his status as the leading Kentucky Derby contender out west while returning with a smashing victory in the $400,690 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita, but any jubilation surrounding the 6 3/4-length win turned to sorrow when it was revealed the unbeaten 3-year-old will miss the Triple Crown due to an injury.
Mike Smith pulled up the star colt after the wire but said Mastery was walking fine before being loaded and vanned off the track. However, Daily Racing Form’s Jay Privman reported about an hour later that Mastery had sustained a condylar fracture in his left front ankle and would likely undergo surgery on Monday.
“He seemed to just go off…I don’t know why,” Smith said before learning of the extent of the injury. “Nothing happened that made me think, ‘Oh, something just happened.’ He just all of the sudden went off and wouldn’t put weight on it. I got off real quick and nothing seemed dislocated or anything. After he moved for a little bit he started walking fine on it so I’m hoping that maybe he just tweaked it or rolled it…he’s an incredible horse.”
Baffert believed he had a great chance to earn his fifth Kentucky Derby win via the talented son of Candy Ride.
“We’ve been so high on this horse, and you see what he did today was just incredible and puts him as the best 3-year-old in the nation. I’m walking down and I hear a fan say ‘I hope your horse is all right.’ I said ‘What?!’ and he said ‘I hear they’re unsaddling him.’“
Smith echoed those sentiments.
“This is a really talented horse. The power…it’s endless with this guy. He’s some kind of strong. He was hitting gears every time I asked him to. Gear down one, gear up two, gear down one…That was a pretty impressive race.”
Now 4-for-4, Mastery didn’t break sharply in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe but had little difficultly seizing the lead a few jumps out of the starting gate, establishing splits in :23.50, :46.79 and 1:10.48 while being pressured, with Gormley between horses and Iliad on the far outside.
Gormley came under a ride nearing the completion of the far turn and began to retreat as they straightened for home, but Iliad still loomed a threat as he accelerated wide for home. But the eventual runner-up never reached even terms with Mastery, who stayed close to the rail and responded when roused by Smith in upper stretch.
Mastery completed the mile in 1:35.62 with a two-length advantage and drew off brilliantly in the final sixteenth of a mile, stopping the teletimer in 1:42.28.
Iliad wound up 1 ¾ lengths clear of late-running longshot Term of Art, who finished 1 ¼ lengths ahead of fourth-placer Gormley.
Owned by Cheyenne Stable LLC, Mastery was making his first appearance since a 7 ¼-length romp in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) in mid-December. The Candy Ride colt broke his maiden at Santa Anita in mid-October and captured the Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar a month later.
The San Felipe offered points on a 50-20-10-5 scale as a Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying race.
Bred in Kentucky by Arthur Hancock’s Stone Farm, Mastery was purchased for $425,000 at the 2015 Keeneland September sale. He’s out of the Old Trieste mare Steady Course, a daughter of the Storm Cat mare and Grade 2 runner-up Steady Cat, dam of Grade 2 winner Jump Start. This is the female family of Miswaki, sire of the legendary mare Urban Sea.
“The way he moves – he’s just a beautiful moving horse,” Baffert said. “He was just doing it easy. It’s very rare to get one like that.”