Updated on 09/16/2011 7:00AM

San Felipe all about Siphonic

Michael J. Marten/Horsephotos
Every move he makes: Siphonic preps at Santa Anita under assistant trainer Michelle Jensen for Sunday's San Felipe.

ARCADIA, Calif. - All eyes will be on Siphonic in Sunday's $250,000 at Santa Anita. He is right in the middle of the seven-horse field, with three horses to his inside and three to his outside. His every move will be watched by fans at the track, who will want to see if Siphonic behaves better in the paddock than he did before the Jan. 19 Santa Catalina Stakes, and by bettors around the country, who want to see if Siphonic can turn in an emphatic performance in the first of his final two scheduled preps for the Kentucky Derby.

Interested, too, will be Jerry Bailey, who rode Repent to victory in last week's Louisiana Derby. Bailey was scheduled to ride Blue Burner in Saturday's Florida Derby, and is scheduled to fly here Sunday morning to ride Siphonic.

But most interested of all will be trainer David Hofmans, who went through the Derby grind last year with Blue Grass Stakes winner Millennium Wind, and wants to adhere to the schedule he mapped out for Siphonic months ago. After the San Felipe, he would prefer to stay here for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6, then head to Churchill Downs.

"He's right on target," Hofmans said. "I think he's going to run a good race in the San Felipe. It's three weeks until his next race. I want him to have a strong race, then we can back off a little until the next one. I want to keep him fresh. If we run in the Santa Anita Derby, that gives him a month until the Kentucky Derby. There's more money and bonuses in other places, but I'd prefer not to ship."

There's no reason to. Until proven otherwise, Siphonic is the West's best hope for the Kentucky Derby. Came Home, who is not scheduled to run again until the Santa Anita Derby, missed some training this week after being cast in his stall, and underwent a nuclear scan on Friday. Sunday Break passed the San Felipe because his trainer, Neil Drysdale, wants to give the colt more time between starts.

Six others, however, entered the Grade 2 San Felipe on Friday morning, most notably U S S Tinosa and Puerto Banus, the one-two finishers in last month's Sham Stakes. The others are Tracemark, Gobi Dan, Shah Jehan, and Bobby Frankel's newest acquisition, Medaglia d'Oro.

Siphonic carries topweight of 122 pounds, and will concede six pounds to all his rivals in the 1 1/16-mile race. The San Felipe is the seventh race on a nine-race card, and will be run more than one hour after Pool 2 of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager closes.

By post time Sunday, Siphonic will have had four consecutive days of schooling in the paddock. He became agitated while being saddled in the Santa Catalina, then stumbled at the start of the race, and finished second to Labamta Babe. He usually is quite calm, so his behavior last time was, Hofmans believes, an aberration.

U S S Tinosa is the biggest threat to Siphonic. He won the Sham by 4 1/2 lengths over Puerto Banus. The Sham was at 1 1/8 miles, so U S S Tinosa is shortening up for the San Felipe.

"It does worry me turning back a sixteenth of a mile, but I felt this was the best path for him," said Jerry Hollendorfer, who trains U S S Tinosa. "He does like the track [at Santa Anita], and by running there, I was able to keep Kent Desormeaux on the horse."

Puerto Banus, a half-brother to Spain, was making only his third start in the Sham, so he has a right to improve. "It's another steppingstone," said his trainer, Bob Baffert. "I anticipate he'll run a good race. We're keeping our hopes up. It's time to find out how good he is. I just want him to finish close to Siphonic and U S S Tinosa."

The others all are unaccomplished. Medaglia d'Oro and Tracemark only have maiden wins to their credit. Shah Jehan, a $4.4 million yearling buy, stopped badly after setting the pace in the Sham and finished last of six. Gobi Dan was second in a first-level allowance race for California-breds on Feb. 15.

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