03/07/2013 1:20PM

Byron King: Goldencents offers more value than Flashback in San Felipe

Barbara D. Livingston
Goldencents, a winner of 3 of 4 career starts, should have far more attractive odds than Flashback in the Grade 2 San Felipe.

A quick look at Flashback makes it easy to understand why he is on virtually everyone’s short list of leading Kentucky Derby contenders. He has the pedigree, being by Tapit out of a Mr. Greeley mare; the looks, with his gray coat rippling with dapples; and a three-time Kentucky Derby-winning trainer in Bob Baffert.

Plus, the colt is 2 for 2, having won a maiden race going away and then the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 6 1/4 lengths.

But there is something this colt lacks going into Saturday’s much-anticipated matchup against Goldencents in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes: a blemish on his r é sum é . And with horseplayers seeing nothing but “blue sky,” he seems assured of getting hammered at the betting windows and starting as an odds-on favorite.

So, while I have no shortage of respect for the horse, my hope is his mutuel popularity will provide reasonable odds on Goldencents, his chief foe.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Although Goldencents has some flash in his own right, having won 3 of 4 starts, with his only loss in the Champagne to champion Shanghai Bobby, he has his detractors. He beat little in the Sham in his seasonal debut and had to work hard until late in the race to do it.

Additionally, he’s a modestly bred colt by Into Mischief and is ridden by Kevin Krigger, who, except when riding for Doug O’Neill, is seldom used in stakes and who ranks just ninth in wins at the Santa Anita meeting.

Even Goldencents’s trainer, O’Neill, who won the Derby and Preakness last year with I’ll Have Another, has been uncharacteristically chilly at Santa Anita this winter, winning at a 9 percent rate, about half his customary win rate over the past few years.

Add that all up and compare it with Flashback, and Goldencents could be double the price of Flashback.

Such a betting scenario would make Goldencents worth a wager. This is a more seasoned, speedier colt – one who advantageously drew post 3, outside Flashback, perhaps providing Krigger with the opportunity to hem in Flashback and Julien Leparoux on the fence.

As for the six other San Felipe entries, few look up to the standard of the top two, with the possible exception of Hear the Ghost, who is bred to route and is coming off a closing second-place finish when sprinting in the San Pedro Stakes. But it’s just guesswork whether he will like the 1 1/16 miles of the San Felipe.

Goldencents is the choice. Hopefully, Krigger can avoid a speed duel with stretch-out sprinter Salutos Amigos, keep Flashback trapped on the inside, and get first run.

Mr Palmer intriguing in stakes debut

Sticking in the 3-year-old division, there are other intriguing stakes Saturday. In addition to the Tampa Bay Derby, there is the Private Terms at Laurel Park, a rare 1 1/8-mile race in early March.

Poised for an auspicious stakes debut is Mr Palmer, a son of Pulpit who after showing little in his first three starts has developed rapidly in recent months. After a distant third in the fastest two-turn baby race of the Churchill Downs meet Nov. 3, a race won by Frac Daddy, he responded with a clear second in a well-rated maiden race at Aqueduct behind Long River on Dec. 15 and then won a maiden race at Aqueduct on Feb. 17.

In the latter race, he broke more sharply than in his previous start, was more aggressive, and went on to post a career-best 86 Beyer Speed Figure, a number that, if repeated, would give him a good shot at another score.

The rest of the field usually runs Beyers in the low 80s, and more often in the 70s.

San Pablo gets the nod in Razorback

Lastly, in one of the deepest dirt stakes of the weekend, I aim to back San Pablo in the Grade 3 Razorback at Oaklawn.

San Pablo is coming off a second as the favorite in the Essex, and with last year’s Oaklawn Handicap winner, Alternation, added to the mix this time, the price should be palatable on San Pablo.

San Pablo essentially beat himself in his last start, losing roughly two lengths at the break with a tardy beginning. And although he is known to break a little flat-footed, even for him that was a poor start.

With one start this year now behind him –and coming over the Oaklawn track – a move forward is anticipated. And if Alternation isn’t in top shape for his comeback race, San Pablo essentially has to beat the same quality of rivals he just faced in the Essex.