Updated on 09/17/2011 10:00AM

Our Bobby V. may need to rate a touch

Benoit & Associates
Hollywood Juvenile winner Crowned Dancer returns from a seven-month layoff in Saturday's Grade 2, $200,000 San Rafael at Santa Anita.

ARCADIA, Calif. - The field for Saturday's $200,000 San Rafael Stakes changed markedly just before entry time on Thursday morning at Santa Anita, but the race scenario remains the same, with likely favorite Our Bobby V. forced to prove he can sit off a determined front-runner and still win.

Our Bobby V.'s nemesis figured to be Omega Code, a quick sprinter who was coming off a victory in the six-furlong San Miguel Stakes here Jan. 12. But Omega Code came up with a foot bruise and bypassed the race. Informed of that development at about 9 a.m. Thursday, Bill Spawr, Our Bobby V.'s trainer, smiled and said of his horse, "Color him gone."

A few minutes later, though, trainer Bob Baffert found out about Omega Code's defection and decided to enter a horse with a similar style, Rojo Toro. So, Our Bobby V., who led early before finishing second last time out in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Catalina Stakes, is unlikely to make the front early in this one-mile race.

Spawr believes Our Bobby V. can handle the challenge.

"My horse has been on the lead because nobody wanted it," Spawr said. "He'll relax. You can grab a hold of him, and he won't run off."

A field of nine entered the San Rafael, a Grade 2 race that serves as a prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

This field, though, has few serious contenders for the spring classics. There are sprinters trying to stretch out in Rojo Toro and Sum Trick, horses moving from the turf to the dirt in Just Wonder and Peace Rules, and, in the well-traveled Ozzie Cat, a colt who most recently finished 27 lengths in arrears in the Fountain of Youth Stakes two weeks ago.

Our Bobby V. won twice sprinting after losing his debut, then stretched out around two turns for the first time in the Santa Catalina and beat everyone but Domestic Dispute. Spawr said his colt has worked well on off tracks, so he would welcome a muddy surface Saturday.

"We don't get mud here anymore, though," Spawr said. "They seal the track."

Peace Rules would be Our Bobby V.'s top challenger should trainer Bobby Frankel leave him in. Frankel is considering sending Peace Rules to the Louisiana Derby at Fair Grounds on March 9 instead. Peace Rules has won two consecutive stakes races on turf.

Rojo Toro won his only two starts, both last year in Kentucky. Both were sprints. Baffert intended to run Rojo Toro in the San Miguel last month, but had to back off when Rojo Toro had a minor illness.

"I had been thinking of running him in the San Rafael, but it looked like there was going to be too much speed," Baffert said. "When I heard Omega Code was out, I thought I might as well put him in. He's got Omega Code kind of speed."

Baffert has two other runners in the race. Spensive was third, behind Man Among Men and Empire Maker, in the Sham Stakes Feb. 7. Indian Express, an invader from Panama, won both his starts last year by a combined 21 1/2 lengths. Even though Indian Express's past performances denote he "led throughout" in both starts, Baffert said he does not possess the same kind of speed as Rojo Toro.

"He's kind of one-paced," Baffert said.

Sum Trick, another potential front-runner, was second to Kafwain in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes on Feb. 1. He will make his first start around two turns.

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