By Margaret Ransom
In years past, the San Vicente Stakes (G2) at Santa Anita was considered an important stop on the road to the Kentucky Derby (G1).
Even though 2016 winner Nyquist went on to win the Kentucky Derby, the race has become the track’s forgotten sophomore feature.
Maybe its decline as a being considered a legit Derby prep is because of the quality of recent runners, the 7-furlong distance, or because of its date on the calendar. Nonetheless, it’s hard to overlook the slew of good horses who have won the San Vicente.
In addition to Nyquist, other notable names on the list of San Vicente winners are Kentucky Derby winners Hill Gail, Swaps, Lucky Debonair, Majestic Prince and Silver Charm. The highly regarded Nadal won the San Vicente two years ago before winning both the Rebel Stakes (G2) and Arkansas Derby (G1) before injury ended his undefeated career. Last year, Concert Tour was victorious for owners Gary and Mary West before he went on to win the Rebel and finish third in the Arkansas Derby.
This year five sophomores are set to head to the gate for the winner’s share of the $200,000 purse and though no Derby points are on the line, the race still serves as a solid prep for the March 5 San Felipe Stakes (G2) and the Santa Anita Derby (G1) a month later.
Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has saddled the winner of this race a record 11 times (1997, Silver Charm; 1999, Exploit; 2003, Kafwain; 2005, Fusaichi Rock Star; 2006, Too Much Bling; 2011, The Factor; 2012, Drill; 2013, Shakin It Up; 2015, Lord Nelson; 2020, Nadal; and 2021, Concert Tour) and this year sends out three who will be bookended by two other rivals.
Baffert saddles 8-5 favorite Doppelganger as well as Pinehurst and McLaren Vale.
Bill Shoemaker still holds the record for winners for a jockey with eight (1955, Swaps; 1956, Terrang; 1964, Will Rad; 1965, Lucky Debonair; 1966, Saber Mountain; 1967, Tumble Wind; 1976, Thermal Energy; and 1980, Raise A Man).
Nyquist owns the stakes record for the distance on the dirt main track when he stopped the clock for the 7 furlongs in 1:20.71.
The Southern California weather is supposed to be beautiful and warm on Saturday with highs in the mid-70s under sunny skies, so a fast track is likely with a firm turf course to its inside.
Post time for the San Vicente is 5 p.m. ET.
Here’s the San Vicente field in post-position order (jockey, trainer, odds):
- Forbidden Kingdom (Juan Hernandez, Richard Mandella), 5-
- Pinehurst (Mike Smith, Bob Baffert), 5-2
- McLaren Vale (Abel Cedillo, Bob Baffert), 4-1
- Doppelganger (Flavien Prat, Bob Baffert), 8-5
- What in Blazes (Tyler Baze, John Sadler), 8-1
California native and lifelong horsewoman Margaret Ransom is a graduate of the University of Arizona’s Race Track Industry Program. She got her start in racing working in the publicity departments at Calder Race Course and Hialeah Park, as well as in the racing office at Gulfstream Park in South Florida. She then spent six years in Lexington, KY, at BRISnet.com, where she helped create and develop the company’s popular newsletters: Handicapper’s Edge and Bloodstock Journal.After returning to California, she served six years as the Southern California news correspondent for BloodHorse, assisted in the publicity department at Santa Anita Park and was a contributor to many other racing publications, including HorsePlayer Magazine and Trainer Magazine. She then spent seven years at HRTV and HRTV.com in various roles as researcher, programming assistant, producer and social media and marketing manager.
She has also walked hots and groomed runners, worked the elite sales in Kentucky for top-class consignors and volunteers for several racehorse retirement organizations, including CARMA.In 2016, Margaret was the recipient of the prestigious Stanley Bergstein Writing Award, sponsored by Team Valor, and was an Eclipse Award honorable mention for her story, “The Shocking Untold Story of Maria Borell,” which appeared on USRacing.com. The article and subsequent stories helped save 43 abandoned and neglected Thoroughbreds in Kentucky and also helped create a new animal welfare law in Kentucky known as the “Borell Law.”Margaret’s very first Breeders’ Cup was at Hollywood Park in 1984 and she has attended more than half of the Breeders’ Cups since. She counts Holy Bull and Arrogate as her favorite horses of all time.She lives in Robinson, Texas, with her longtime beau, Tony. She is the executive director of the 501(c)(3) non-profit horse rescue, The Bridge Sanctuary.