By Dick Downey
Sunday afteroon at Santa Anita, Kobe's Back, reserved early, came flying down the stretch to win the San Vicente Stakes going away.
Sitting well behind fractions of :22.73 and :45.00, Joel Rosario and Kobe's Back made a big move on the turn, reached contention at the top of the lane, and put away early leader Cherubim well ahead of the finish line. The winning margin was 5 1/4 lengths, and the race was timed in 1:21.84.
Although the race carries no Kentucky Derby points, it was worth $200,000 and can serve as a stepping stone. Kobe's Back has returned to the Triple Crown trail with the win after running a dismal 10th in the CashCall Futurity last December. Trainer John Sadler said he's thinking about the Rebel Stakes on March 15 for Kobe's Back's next start. Sadler said he'd probably send Kristo into the San Felipe Stakes on March 8.
Kobe's Back caused his own trouble in the CashCall, clipping heels with Candy Boy and steadily falling back. The San Vicente was his first start since the CashCall.
Cherubim stayed on for a second place after contesting the early pace with Papa Turf, followed across the wire by Rprettyboyfloyd, Papa Purf, Roger Rocket and Grazen's Hope.
Sadler trains Kobe's Back for C R K stable. Kobe's Back paid $5.40 to win, $2.80 to place and $2.40 to show.
Bred in Kentucky by Joanne R. Mummert, the son of Flatter is out of the Well Decorated mare Well. He fetched $480,000 at Ocala in March, 2013.
It was the second win in four starts for Kobe's Back, who debuted in the 5 1/2-furlong Willard L. Proctor Memorial Stakes on June 15 and won by 3 1/4 lengths. After time off, he was sent into the seven-furlong Hollywood Prevue Stakes on Nov. 1 As the 4-5 favorite, he finished second, beaten 7 3/4 lengths by Shared Belief. That effort led to the CashCall.
John Sadler: “I just wanted Joel to ride him patiently, because everybody has us kind of counted out of the route races, except us. I wanted him off the pace a little bit and see if he’d finish up good so we could get him going around two turns next time. We catch a little bit of an odd flow. We’re a little bit too quick for the San Felipe, so we’ll probably go with Kristo in that one, and this horse we’ll look at maybe the Rebel. We’ll look around. There are a lot of 3-year-old races, but we wanted to get a good one at home in good weather first, then we’re going to look at a race with points for him in the next one.”
Joel Rosario: “Last time, he clipped heels and that was a tough race over at Hollywood. He handled the seven furlongs well today. I’ll talk to my agent, he makes all the calls, all the decisions (on whom I ride) but I like him; today was very impressive and he looked good today.”
Co-owner Lee Searing: “I don’t think we have favorites. We bred (Candy Boy) and this horse (Kobe’s Back) was just asking to be bought. We buy a lot of two-year-olds, but this was a special horse. I’ve said all along that he’s had three bad starts, he won the first one, got hammered in the second and we never had a chance out in the 12 hole last out. So finally, all the work John has put in and the right rider. We asked Ron Anderson if Joel could come out here and ride, and it was real nice.
"We go to all the Lakers’ games. I have gone 17 years to watch Kobe play and in my opinion, he’s the greatest basketball player I’ve ever watched. We tried to name a horse ‘Kobe’ but that was registered, but when we added something to it, I kept telling everyone Kobe is coming back, so when it came time to name the horse I had been saying that a lot. I thought we had to do it.
"He can go two turns, even on the gallop out he just looks like it. Maybe now, with that sitting-back, stalking style, he’ll be ready to go two turns. We’ll let John decide where he runs next but we’re sure not going to race him and Candy Boy against one another. We’ll let John get him back to the barn and decide where to run them next.”
Simon Callaghan, Cherubim: “I mean they went fast up front, so maybe that set it up for a closer. It was fast. I’ll have to see what Mike says. He ran a good race still.”
Mike Smith, Cherubim: “He was just cruising early, nice and happy. We just got outrun. He was second-best today.”
Red Outlaw Takes Baffle
Red Outlaw, with Joel Rosario up, prevailed in a head and head battle the length of the stretch to take the $75,000 Baffle Stakes by a head over favored Gangnam Guy and Victor Espinoza.
He got the 6 1/2 furlongs down Santa Anita’s hillside turf course in 1:12.05.
The second choice at 5-2 in a field of seven 3-year-olds, Red Outlaw broke alertly from post six and sat a close second down the hill to longshot Noble Metal through fractions of :21.64 and :43.69. He was carried wide by the pacesetter crossing the dirt at the top of the lane and was immediately engaged to his outside by the favorite. After some light bumping, stewards reviewed the result and made no change.
Trained by Peter Miller, Red Outlaw paid $7.20, $4.00 and $3.40. A California-bred gelding by Tribal Rule, Red Outlaw is owned by Blinkers On Racing Stable, Aurelio, Bizovi and partners, Red Outlaw is unbeaten in three starts at three different tracks.
Peter Miller: “He was very game down the stretch. Joel just hand-rode him, never hit him, and maybe he figured that when he ducked out a little he didn’t want to use the stick at all. Every time that other horse came to us, he just gave Joel a little more.”
Joel Rosario: “I tried to correct him as best I could. The other horse was laying on us a bit too. I wasn’t too concerned with it.”