02/16/2014 6:37PM

Santa Anita: Kobe’s Back impresses in San Vicente Stakes

Benoit & Associates
Kobe's Back, ridden by Joel Rosario, wins the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes by 5 1/4 lengths Sunday.

ARCADIA, Calif. – The hits just keep on coming for trainer John Sadler. Eight days after winning the Robert B. Lewis Stakes with Candy Boy, Sadler won another important 3-year-old stakes race at Santa Anita when Kobe’s Back rallied from last to beat five rivals in the Grade 2, $200,250 San Vicente Stakes on Sunday.

Kobe’s Back ($5.40), the favorite, benefited from a contested early pace between Cherubim, Papa Turf, and Grazen’s Hope, who dueled through fractions of 22.73 seconds for the opening quarter-mile and 45 seconds for a half-mile. Kobe’s Back relaxed patiently under jockey Joel Rosario, began to pick off the back markers midway around the far turn, then easily rolled past Cherubim to win going away by 5 1/4 lengths.

Cherubim held on for second, a length in front of Rprettyboyfloyd. Papa Turf was fourth, then came Roger Rocket and Grazen’s Hope.

Kobe’s Back completed seven furlongs on the fast main track in 1:21.84.

This was the first start for Kobe’s Back since a 10th-place finish in December in the CashCall Futurity, in which he clipped the heels of stablemate Candy Boy near the far turn. Rosario rode him for the first time that day and made his way across the country to retain the mount.

“I just wanted him to ride him patiently,” said Sadler, adding that Kobe’s Back likely will make his next start in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 15.

“It’s a little quick back for the San Felipe,” Sadler said of a race here March 8. “And we have Kristo for that.” Candy Boy is awaiting the Santa Anita Derby on April 5.

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

If Kobe’s Back does run in the Rebel, Rosario might have a conflict. He was set to ride Strong Mandate in the Southwest Stakes on Monday at Oaklawn, and it is likely that Strong Mandate would make his next start in the Rebel, too.

In the winner’s circle after the San Vicente, Sadler told Rosario to have his agent, Ron Anderson, call him after the Southwest. The message was clear: Are you going to ride Kobe’s Back or Strong Mandate in the Rebel?

The San Vicente did not offer any points toward the Kentucky Derby under the system used by Churchill Downs to determine eligibility to the race should more than the maximum of 20 runners enter. As of now, Kobe’s Back has zero points. The Rebel is worth 50 to the winner.

Kobe’s Back was stirred up in the paddock before the San Vicente, but Sadler said that was a case of a horse eager to go after not having competed for two months. He said he had schooled Kobe’s Back in the paddock for four days recently.

“He wanted to run,” Sadler said.

Kobe’s Back has won twice in four starts. He won his debut last summer at Hollywood Park in the Willard Proctor Memorial, then was second to Shared Belief in the Hollywood Prevue before his CashCall Futurity debacle.

Kobe’s Back, a colt by Flatter, is owned by the C R K Stable of Lee and Susan Searing, who also own Candy Boy. The Searings purchased Kobe’s Back for $480,000 at the Ocala Breeders’ Sales Co. auction of 2-year-olds in training last March.

• Rosario swept the day’s stakes races. Two races prior to the San Vicente, he guided Red Outlaw ($7.20) to a narrow victory in the $97,450 Baffle Stakes for 3-year-olds on the hillside turf course. Red Outlaw just held off Gangnam Guy to win by a head, then survived a stewards’ inquiry. Horse Laugh was third. Peter Miller trains Red Outlaw, who has won all three of his starts. He was timed in 1:12.05 for about 6 1/2 furlongs on firm turf.