December 18, 2018

Mastery returns against Gormley, Iliad in San Felipe

Mastery winning the Bob Hope Stakes (G3) at Del Mar November 19 © BENOIT PHOTO

Last seen posting a 7 ¼-length decision in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1), unbeaten Mastery will make his eagerly anticipated 3-year-old bow in Saturday’s $400,000 San Felipe (G2) at Santa Anita. The Bob Baffert-trained colt returns against well-regarded rivals Gormley and Iliad in the seven-horse field.

As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe offers points on a 50-20-10-5 scale to the top four finishers.

Mastery opened his racing career with a 4 ¼-length tally over maiden special weight foes at Santa Anita in late October and came back a month later to record a 1 ¼-length score in the Bob Hope (G3) at Del Mar, winning both sprints wire-to-wire. He stretched out to two turns in the Los Alamitos Futurity in mid-December, settling in second during the early stages before rolling home in eye-catching fashion.

Related: Baffert extends record to nine Mastery remains unbeaten in Los Alamitos Futurity romp

Regular rider Mike Smith has the call and the son of Candy Ride will break from post 4. With Gormley and Iliad drawn outside, Mastery is eligible to set sail for the lead at the start.

Gormley jumped straight from a debut maiden win to a three-length, wire-to-wire victory in the FrontRunner (G1) at Santa Anita but faltered after bobbling at the start of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1), checking in seventh as the 5-1 third choice. The Malibu Moon colt rebounded in the January 7 Sham (G3), gamely defeating well-regarded American Anthem while earning a field-best 102 BRIS Speed rating, and the John Shirreffs trainee merits serious respect from post 5 with Victor Espinoza.

Iliad has shown good speed in all three starts and really stepped forward most recently in the 7-furlong San Vicente (G2), drawing away impressively to a 3 ½-length decision. Conditioned by Doug O’Neill, the Ghostzapper ridgling is bred to relish the stretch out to two turns and Iliad promises to be forwardly-placed with Flavien Prat.

The remaining four contestants are all outsiders.

Ann Arbor Eddie is a multiple California-bred stakes winner but exits a disappointing second as the even-money El Camino Real Derby (G2) favorite, surrendering the lead in deep stretch as he wound up being disqualified from second to fourth for interference. Turf stakes winner Vending Machine faces a tough task following a poor showing in the January 21 California Derby at Golden Gate Fields and Term of Art has been clobbered in his last two, the Robert B. Lewis (G3) and Sham. Bluegrass Envy, winless from five starts, completes the line-up.