03/05/2015 1:35PM

Prospect Park gets acid test in San Felipe

Shigeki Kikkawa
Prospect Park earned a Beyer Speed Figure of 93 - and a shot at the Triple Crown trail - in this Jan. 30 allowance win.

ARCADIA, Calif. – It took several starts for Prospect Park to finally get the hang of what he was supposed to do, but once he figured it out, he came around quickly and now ranks as one of the most intriguing Kentucky Derby prospects in Southern California.

He has yet to race in a stakes, but all that changes Saturday, when Prospect Park goes in the Grade 2, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes, part of an outstanding card supporting the Santa Anita Handicap. The San Felipe is unquestionably the deepest Derby prep run at this Santa Anita meeting, with divisional leader Dortmund and Ocho Ocho Ocho – both unbeaten, both members of the Derby Watch top 20 – heading the field.

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Prospect Park comes off the best performance of his career, a first-level allowance win in which he powered home 5 1/4 lengths best while earning a Beyer Speed Figure of 93. He displayed an eye-catching turn of foot once he was extricated from traffic.

“I just hope he can do that again,” Cliff Sise Jr., the trainer of Prospect Park, said at Santa Anita. “He’ll get tested this time. This will be a good stepping-stone. He’s doing great. At feed time, he’s going nuts in his stall. Everything’s on go.”

The strength of Prospect Park’s allowance win was underscored when St. Joe Bay, who finished second, came back and ran a sharp fourth in the Risen Star Stakes at Fair Grounds, just missing third after being pressured into a fast pace.

The San Felipe, at 1 1/16 miles, offers 85 points overall (50-20-10-5) under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine the field for the May 2 Kentucky Derby. It will be run as the seventh race on the 11-race card.

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Prospect Park (Last 3 Beyers: 93-78-76)

◗ He has won his last two starts, both since Kent Desormeaux took over as his rider. He also had blinkers removed for those two races after wearing them in starts Nos. 2 and 3.

Dortmund (Last 3 Beyers: 104-91-97)

◗ He is 4 for 4 following a courageous victory last month in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes, in which he re-rallied to edge a very good colt in Firing Line.

◗ Immediately after the Lewis, trainer Bob Baffert said he thought he’d wait until the Santa Anita Derby to run again, but Dortmund has trained so well since then that Baffert decided to enter him.

Ocho Ocho Ocho (Last 3 Beyers: 90-83-80)

◗ This will be his first start since Nov. 22, when he won the Delta Jackpot to remain unbeaten in three starts.

◗ His trainer, Jim Cassidy, warned earlier in the week that he wanted to have a couple more works into Ocho Ocho Ocho. In addition, Cassidy’s win rate and return on investment with comebackers is well below his overall average.

Lord Nelson (Last 3 Beyers: 92-82-92)

◗ He’s 3 for 3 sprinting, 0 for 2 routing, but his trainer, Baffert, believes he had excuses in both of his route losses. This will be his best chance yet to prove he can route. He drew the rail, doesn’t have to ship, and doesn’t have to face American Pharoah over a speed-favoring surface.

Bolo (Last 3 Beyers: 88-83-66)

◗ This will be his first try on dirt after a pair of powerful victories on turf.

◗ He loses regular rider Mike Smith, who is on Ocho Ocho Ocho.

◗ He was scheduled to run in the Robert B. Lewis, but trainer Carla Gaines wasn’t happy with how he was doing that week, and he subsequently went more than three weeks between drills.