03/13/2017 1:23PM

Road to the Derby: San Felipe Stakes analysis

Mastery won the San Felipe Stakes under Mike Smith with ease, but he came out of the race with a fracture to a front leg.

Grade 2, $400,690 San Felipe Stakes; 1 1/16 miles; Santa Anita; March 11, 2017
(50 Derby qualifying points for a win, 20 for second, 10 for third, 5 for fourth)

Winner: Mastery, by Candy Ride
Trainer: Bob Baffert
Jockey: Mike Smith
Owner: Cheyenne Stable
Beyer Speed Figure: 105

As MASTERY came to the wire in this race, gliding effortlessly, it seemed the search for a clear-cut Kentucky Derby favorite had been realized. And then just seconds after passing the wire, Mastery was pulled up and subsequently found to have a condylar fracture of his left front cannon bone, an injury that obviously removes him from the Derby trail. His future beyond that was to be determined following surgery.

Mastery received the fastest Beyer Figure earned this year by any 3-year-old, which makes his injury all the more devastating. This has been a bumpy road to Louisville this year, with setbacks for the likes of Classic Empire and McCraken, but this wasn’t a pothole, it was driving into a ditch.

Mastery was sent along leaving the gate to take the lead while inside of GORMLEY, with ILIAD outside those two. Mastery rolled along on the lead to the far turn, with those two in close attendance, and with a little less than three furlongs to go they were separated by no more than a half-length. Mastery was ridden along approaching the quarter pole, then was struck with a left-handed whip in upper stretch, and he came away so strongly in the final sixteenth that Smith let him cruise to the wire. Sadly, it was a hollow victory.

:: ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays, and analysis

Iliad, who finished second, went into the first turn in the three path, outside Mastery and Gormley. He stayed in that spot down the backstretch and moved closer around the far turn while still in the three path, was asked for his best coming off the bend, rolled past Gormley but could not get to Mastery, changed leads back and forth awkwardly a furlong out, then lost ground through the final furlong. It wasn’t a bad effort at all, considering he was wide and attempted to go after Mastery – he probably wouldn’t have been beaten as badly if he had been ridden solely for second – but longer distances remain a question mark.

TERM OF ART, who was third, stumbled the first stride out of the gate and then dropped back to trail, lacking early speed, per usual. He started to make up some ground down the backstretch while advancing along the rail, was angled to the three path entering the lane, and continued on well enough to the wire. He’s kind of a plodder, but this was certainly his best race yet.

Gormley, who was fourth, bobbled slightly leaving the gate, was right on Mastery’s hip into the first turn, raced between rivals down the backstretch, came under an aggressive ride midway on the far turn to try and hold his position, yielded just past the quarter pole, and tired through the lane in a disappointing effort compared to the fight he showed when winning the Sham.

ANN ARBOR EDDIE, who was fifth, was just behind the leaders into the first turn while bumping with VENDING MACHINE, settled into a good spot in the clear not far off the leaders, was asked three furlongs out to go after the leaders, but saw them sail away from him and was badly outrun. He will make a very good living in California-bred races, and he’s already won a pair of stakes in that division.

BLUEGRASS ENVY, who was sixth, was caught four paths wide into the first turn, dropped back to last down the backstretch when Term of Art roared past him, lost contact with the field with three furlongs to go, and only passed the exhausted Vending Machine in the final furlong.

Vending Machine, who finished last of seven, drifted out into the first turn while behind Mastery and bumped with Ann Arbor Eddie, was fourth on the rail into the backstretch while not far behind Mastery, was in a good striking position nearing the far turn, but started to lose ground three furlongs out, and faded so badly he was eased in the late going.