By Dick Downey
Photo by Santa Anita
Like an apparition, Hear the Ghost came out of nowhere to win the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita.
Salutos Amigos set the tone for a wild and woolly San Felipe when he went to the front into the first turn. Flashback and Goldencents sprinted behind him, the first quarter-mile timed in :22.97.
Goldencents and Flashback easily put away Salutos Amigos and ran up the backstretch in fast fractions of :45.95 and 1:09.94 in the 1 1/16-mile race. While it was the game plan of Goldencents' connections to sit off of Flashback -- they broke from posts 3 and 2 respectively -- the opposite configuration unfolded as Flashback hammered Goldencents with pressure.
As that pair battled through the far turn, Hear the Ghost and Corey Nakatani were unleashing a rally that carried them to the front inside the furlong grounds. Flashback held on for second, beaten a half-length, while Goldencents caved in to another closer, Tiz a Minister. The latter one was beaten a length for it all and was 1 1/4 length ahead Goldencents at the finish. Hear the Ghost was timed in 1:42.34.
Those four were followed home by Salutos Amigos, Carving, Omega Star and Kochees.
While the two colts are probably quite different, Hear the Ghost, like Verrazano in the same day's Grade II Tampa Bay Derby, was trying two turns for the first time in only his third career start.
Purchased for $40,000 at the 2011 Keenland September yearling sale, Hear the Ghost is owned by his trainer, Jerry Hollendorfer and Halo Farms. He's out of the Coronado's Quest mare Rehear.
Sent off at 5-1 odds, the Kentucky-bred gelding by Ghostzapper paid $13.80, $4.60 and $3.60. From the purse of $300,750 he earned $180,000.
More importantly, Hear the Ghost picked up 50 valuable Kentucky Derby qualifying points, most probably enough to get him to Louisville on the first Saturday in May. Flashback gained 20, giving him 30 points overall. Third place finisher Tiz a Minister got 10 points. Fourth place was good for five points, bringing Goldencents’ total to 29.
After the race, Kevin Krigger, rider of Goldencents, accused Flashback's Julien Leparoux of running both colts into suicidal fractions -- and out of the winner's circle.
<a href="http://www.equibase.com/static/chart/pdf/SA030913USA7.pdf" id="link" target="_blank"><font color="#ff0000">Equibase chart</font></a>
Jerry Hollendorfer: “I got a lot of enjoyment out of buying this horse and racing him with my partner, Ted Aroney. We’ll find out. (The Santa Anita Derby is) where we have to go next. I think we will. I just told Corey to watch the pace and try to be tactical and not get caught down inside, and those things that we always talk about. I have a great deal of confidence in this guy. He’s won some very big races for me along the way, so he can ride anything of mine.
“I thought this horse would have a very good chance to run them down today. I thought that all day long. I thought they would put up a pretty good pace.”
Corey Nakatani: “I felt that they were going to go fast. So I thought, ‘let’s get away good and make someone commit to going to the pace we need for him’. He’s a tremendous horse. Jerry said, ‘I’m going to find you a good one’ and I’ve been working some horses for him in the morning, asking for some help. I want to stay home, with my family, and stay on the West Coast. I’d like to get on the Derby trail with a horse, and this is it. He’s given me a chance to win the Santa Anita Derby with this colt (sic), and the horse has done everything Jerry has asked him to do so far, so hopefully, he’ll be on that road.”
“I don’t have any doubt that he will (get 1 1/4 mile). He gets in that high cruising speed, and he just kind of cruises along, you don’t have to ask him, you don’t have to even move on him. He’s a little seasoned horse. He’s gotten better each time that I’ve been able to do something with him. In the mornings, Jerry has been pleased with every step he’s taken, that’s why I say that Jerry deserves all the credit and Dan (Ward, Hollendorfer’s assistant trainer.)
Bob Baffert, Flashback: “On the first turn, he said he was behind horses. I think if he had stayed inside, it probably would have been better. He took him off there not to get trapped, and then all of a sudden Goldencents came and engaged him, and it turned into a match race down the backside.
“I think he ran well despite all that. He had a nice, tough race and he got tired at the end, considering he went so fast, but I think we learned a lot about him today. I think we were just intimidated by the free speed today, and the rail, so you learn from racing. That’s what these preps are all about.”
Julien Leparoux, Flashback: "Coming to the first turn he was kind of tight in there. He just took off from there. He just wouldn't do what I wanted to do."
Paul Aguirre, trainer of Tiz a Minister: “If it weren’t Garrett Gomez, I’d be waiting over here for the ambulance. But Garrett’s got a way with those horses. That’s a victory to me, to be in the same category as these two horses. I know they’re Derby horses, but I’m really proud of him. I would think there’s a strong chance (of going to the Santa Anita Derby). The owner wants to stay here, so we probably will.”
Doug O'Neill, Goldencents: “We’re disappointed, but when you’re running in Derby
preps, you have to have a horse that can adapt to different situations. He maybe didn’t settle as well as we would have liked. We’ll make some adjustments to the way that we train him and prepare him for the next one and regroup. I thought Martin Garcia (on Salutos Amigos) would go, but I was shocked that Flashback was so close up. I thought he’d be a little farther back. I’m sure they’ve got to make adjustments, and we have to make adjustments. We’ll be all right.
Will he run in the Santa Anita Derby? "Yeah, I think now you have to. If he comes out of it good, and we’re still thinking about the Derby, we’ll have to look at a prep.”
Kevin Krigger: “Coming into the first turn, I got him to turn off, and I was surprised, as good of a rider as Julien is supposed to be, the move he made around the turn to make us have a dogfight race all the way around. Turning into the backstretch, that’s like committing suicide, you know? If we’re going that fast easily, it’s understandable, but to pressure a race like that, being on a favorite, that’s not a favorite’s ride at all. He had the ideal scenario going into the first turn, and I mean, my horse came up tired today. There’s not much else I can say.”