03/05/2013 5:11PM

Santa Anita: Omega Star getting tough test in San Felipe

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Benoit & Associates
Omega Star will be ridden for the first time by Joe Talamo in the San Felipe.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Omega Star will make his graded stakes debut in Saturday’s $300,000 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, just in time to make an impression in the last major prep for the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6.

Trained by John Shirreffs for Marty Wygod and Herman Sarkowsky, Omega Star has had three starts, but never faced a field as tough as the one expected for the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes. Run over 1 1/16 miles, the San Felipe is expected to be led by recent graded stakes winners Flashback and Goldencents, top contenders for the Santa Anita Derby.

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

Omega Star was second against California-breds in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes over a mile on Jan. 26. He led in the stretch, but was caught late by the longshot Tiz a Minister, another candidate for the San Felipe.

The loss in the California Breeders’ Champion Stakes was Omega Star’s first race behind 6 1/2 furlongs and left Shirreffs eager to try a two-turn race again.

“I don’t think the last race is indicative of what he can do,” Shirreffs said. “He doesn’t have a big kick, but he’s got a big stride, and distance is not an issue.”

Omega Star will be ridden for the first time by Joe Talamo in the San Felipe. A three-length winner of a maiden race for California-breds over 6 1/2 furlongs on Dec. 31, Omega Star is likely to race from off the pace in what could be a quick race.

Shirreffs said he trained Omega Star through February with an angle toward stamina more than speed.

“Because of the way he is, we don’t look for anything exceptional,” Shirreffs said. “We don’t use him up too much. We take things with a bit of caution. We’re trying to set him up to close.”

Flashback, trained by Bob Baffert, won the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 2, and is expected to be favored in the San Felipe. Goldencents, trained by Doug O’Neill, won the Grade 3 Sham Stakes over a mile on Jan. 5.

The San Felipe is likely to have eight runners, including Hear the Ghost, who was second in the San Pedro Stakes for sprinters in January; Carving, who won the Real Quiet Stakes at Betfair Hollywood Park in November; and the maiden race winners Kochees and Salutos Amgos.

Carving is owned by Olympic gold medal skier Bode Miller and Baffert’s wife, Jill.

Monday at the Barretts March sale of selected 2-year-olds in training, Miller paid $100,000 for a Candy Ride colt who will be trained by Baffert.