Updated on 03/11/2012 9:27AM

Santa Anita: Bodemeister fast, but untested heading into San Felipe Stakes

Shigeki Kikkawa
Bodemeister is the only runner in the San Felipe to crack 100 for a Beyer Speed Figure.

ARCADIA, Calif. – A handicapping conundrum as old as the sport comes front and center Saturday at Santa Anita in the Grade 2, $300,000 San Felipe Stakes, when the raw, yet untested talent of Bodemeister takes on stakes-proven runners such as Creative Cause and Liaison in this key prep for both the April 7 Santa Anita Derby and the May 5 Kentucky Derby.

In just two starts, Bodemeister already has cracked 100 for a Beyer Speed Figure, something his nine rivals have yet to accomplish in their 44 combined starts. But Bodemeister, who only made his debut Jan. 16, is giving up a considerable amount of experience to his main rivals. Creative Cause began his career in July and has run in nothing but stakes races since that debut, including a victory in the Grade 1 Norfolk and a third in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. Liaison has been racing since September and has a win in the Grade 1 CashCall Futurity atop his résumé.

“Is he good enough? We’re going to find out,” Bob Baffert, trainer of Bodemeister, said on a gorgeous Thursday morning at Santa Anita. “He’s ready. You’re forced to run in stakes here, because there are no other spots. I tried to enter horses in an allowance race the other day. I was the only two in there. Once you break your maiden, you have to run in a stakes race.”

The San Felipe, at 1 1/16 miles, is by far the deepest Derby prep run this year on the West Coast, this despite losing two of its leading lights this week, Fed Biz and Out of Bounds.

:: LIVE VIDEO: Watch the San Felipe Stakes on DRF.com

Creative Cause is absolutely the horse to beat. Proven at this track, against this company, and around two turns, he comes off a sharp comeback in the seven-furlong San Vicente, in which he finished third, then galloped out powerfully, while motoring his final three furlongs in a little more than 35 seconds.

“He should be stalking,” said his trainer, Mike Harrington. “I would expect there to be quite a bit of pace in the race.”

Harrington also sends out Empire Way, who was second in the Robert Lewis last month.

“The main reason to run both in the same race is the timing,” Harrington said. “I had planned this race for Creative Cause from the beginning. Empire Way, I didn’t want to ship him out of town.”

Like Harrington, Baffert also has two runners. In addition to the flavor of the month in Bodemeister, he has the flavor of December in Liaison, who won the CashCall Futurity on Dec. 17, but was dull before losing his rider in the stretch of the Lewis. Baffert is taking the blinkers off Liaison, believing Liaison was, as Baffert put it, “rank” in the early going of the Lewis.

Creative Cause and Liaison both carry 123 pounds. The other eight all get in with 118 pounds.

Both American Act and Midnight Transfer are stretching out around two turns for the first time following a solid foundation in sprints that includes stakes racing.

American Act lost a heartbreaker in the San Vicente on Feb. 19, dropping a nose decision to Drill while beating Creative Cause. There is the possibility that he will scratch in favor of the Grade 3, $800,000 Sunland Derby on March 25, trainer Jack Carava said Thursday morning.

“I’m on the fence about coming back quick, but this morning he trained unbelievable,” Carava said. “Last night, I was 50-50. I’ll discuss it with the owner. The Sunland Derby is an option, considering the purse.”

Midnight Transfer won the 6 1/2-furlong San Pedro Stakes on Jan. 22 in his fifth and most-recent start. His trainer, Carla Gaines, calls him “Napoleon.”

“There goes my little munchkin,” Gaines said as Midnight Transfer galloped by on Thursday morning. “He doesn’t know he’s small. Mentally, he’s learned a lot in his races. He was a dork. It probably wasn’t a bad thing that it took him a few starts to break his maiden.”

Rousing Sermon, second in the CashCall Futurity, seeks to improve from the Lewis, in which he crossed the wire fourth before being promoted to third via disqualification.

San Felipe S. (G2), Post Time: 4:38 PT Saturday

Purse: $300,000; 1 1/16 mile





ML Odds



J. Shirreffs

M. Smith




B. Baffert

R. Bejarano



American Act

J. Carava

M. Pedroza



Midnight Transfer

C. Gaines

V. Espinoza



Groovin' Solo

M. Cho

A. Quinonez




B. Baffert

M. Garcia



Creative Cause

M. Harrington

J. Rosario



Rousing Sermon

J. Hollendorfer

J. Talamo



Tiz Point

R. Mandella

G. Gomez



Empire Way

M. Harrington

B. Blanc


Recent San Felipe winners

Year Horse Beyer
2011 Premier Pegasus 97
2010 Sidney's Candy 95
2009 Pioneerof the Nile 91
2008 Georgie Boy 97
2007 Cobalt Blue 96

Average winning Beyer: 101.15

Highest winning Beyer: Artax (1998), 108

Lowest winning Beyer: Pioneerof the Nile (2009), 91

San Felipe/Kentucky Derby winners: Determine (1954), Affirmed (1978), Sunday Silence (1989), Fusaichi Pegasus (2000)