Can A Derby Contender Emerge From The San Vicente?

By Margaret Ransom

In years past, the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (G2) was considered an important stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1).

Even though 2016’s winner, Nyquist, went on to win the Derby and the Preakness (G1), the race has become Santa Anita’s forgotten 3-year-old feature and almost an afterthought for Derby consideration.

Perhaps the decline is due to a lack of quality runners recently, or that it is run at 7 furlongs (shorter than most other Derby preps), or the date on the calendar. It is still hard to overlook the slew of good horses who have won the San Vicente in years past.

In addition to Nyquist, other notable names on the winner’s list include Derby victors Hill Gail, Swaps, Lucky Debonair, Majestic Prince and Silver Charm. The highly regarded Nadal won the San Vicente last year before winning the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1), but an injury ended his undefeated career.

Nadal is about to start his first season at stud at Shadai Stallion Station in Japan. On Saturday, five 3-year-olds (Mr. Impossible was scratched) are set to start although no Derby points are on the line. Nonetheless, the race still serves as a solid prep for the San Felipe Stakes (G2) on March 6 and/or the Santa Anita Derby (G1) a month later – both Derby points qualifiers.

Hall of Famer Bob Baffert, naturally, has two of the five in the field – 8-5 favorite Concert Tour and 5-2 choice Freedom Fighter.

Baffert has won this race a record 10 times (1997, Silver Charm; 1999, Exploit; 2003, Kafwain; 2005, Fusaichi Rock Star; 2006, Too Much Bling; 2011, The Factor; 2012, Drill; 2013, Shakin It Up; 2015, Lord Nelson; and 2020 Nadal).

The late Hall of Famer Bill Shoemaker has the jockey record for most wins with eight: (1955, Swaps; 1956, Terrang; 1964, Will Rad; 1965, Lucky Debonair; 1966, Saber Mountain; 1967, Tumble Wind; 1976, Thermal Energy; and 1980, Raise A Man). Nyquist owns the stakes record for the distance on the dirt main track when he stopped the clock for the 7 furlongs in 1:20.71.

The Southern California weather calls for highs in the mid-70s under sunny skies, so a fast track is likely with a firm turf course to its inside.

The San Vicente is the day’s seventh race and post time is 3:30 p.m. PT.

San Vicente Stakes (G2) Field, Post Positions, Odds

The field by post-position, with jockeys, trainers in parentheses, odds, and pedigree:

1. Freedom Fighter (Drayden Van Dyke, Bob Baffert) 5-2

Violence—Canadian Ballet, by City Zip

2. The Chosen Vron (Mike Smith, Eric Kruljac) 5-2

Vronsky—Tiz Molly, by Tiz Wonderful

3. Mr. Impossible (SCRATCHED)

4. Uncle Boogie (Abel Cedillo, Andrew Lerner) 12-1

Ride On Curlin—Rated Xtreme, by Magna Graduate

5. Found My Ball (Mario Gutierrez, Doug O’Neill) 3-1

Square Eddie—Silar Rules, by Ten Most Wanted

6. Concert Tour (Joel Rosario, Bob Baffert) 8-5

Street Sense–Purse Strings, by Tapit