Cheyenne Stables LLC’s Mastery won Saturday’s $400,690 San Felipe Stakes (GII) in impressive wire-to-wire fashion, digging in for a gritty stretch drive after being challenged on the turn for home before drawing away to victory.
But the colt’s 6 ¾-length victory was marred when jockey Mike Smith pulled the bay son of Candy Ride up in the gallop-out after feeling something go wrong in his hind end soon after the wire.
Though the horse seemed fine back at the barn, Baffert later revealed that Mastery suffered a condylar fracture to his left front leg and would undergo surgery Monday.
“[Smith] said that when he was pulling him up on the turn he felt something in behind, like he took a funny step,” Baffert said. “So he pulled him up and he was favoring his left hind a little bit [and] then, as soon as he took the saddle off, he was perfect. So he was walking good when he walked in [to the ambulance]. I don’t know what. It’s left hind, whatever it is. [Assistant trainer] Jimmy [Barnes] said he didn’t see anything obvious there. He went onto the trailer fine, so I don’t know what.
“Being so high on this horse and seeing what he did today was just incredible, you know, best 3-year-old in the nation. Then, I’m walking down [to the winner’s circle] and I heard one of the fans say, ‘I hope your horse is alright.’ And I thought, ‘what?!’ And he said, ‘they’re unsaddling him.’ We went from the highest of highs to somber.”
After a clean break from the field, Mastery was sent straight for the lead where he controlled all the pace in splits of :23.50, :46.79 and 1:10.48 with Gormley and Iliad in hot pursuit. Though briefly challenged on the far turn, Mastery dug in and, soon after entering the stretch, kicked clear and drew away to win. After passing the eighth pole in 1:35.62, he stopped the clock for the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.28 over a fast main track.
Iliad was able to hold on to second, crossing the wire in front of a late-closing Term of Art. Gormley, Ann Arbor Eddie, Bluegrass Envy and Vending Maching completed the order of finish.
At odds of 4-5, Mastery returned $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Iliad paid $3.40 and $2.60 at odds of 3-1 and Term of Art was worth $5.40 as a 62-1 outsider. The exacta paid $5.10 and the trifecta $52.70.
“This is a really talented horse,” Smith said. “The power… it’s endless with this guy. He’s some kind of strong. He was hitting gears every time I asked him to. Gear down, one. Gear up, two. Gear down, one…
“He just seemed to go off in the left hind, I don’t know why. Nothing happened that made me think, ‘Oh, something just happened.’ He just all of a sudden went off and wouldn’t put weight on it. I got off real quick and nothing seemed dislocated or anything. After we moved for a little bit he started walking fine on it, so I’m hoping that maybe he just tweaked it or rolled it. I’m hoping it’s not that serious because he’s an incredible horse.
“I felt it about 10 jumps after the wire. All of a sudden he just picked up his back leg. At that point I couldn’t tell what it was. After a minute or so and he started walking he seemed fine.”
Mastery, who is out of the Old Trieste mare Steady Course was bred in Kentucky by Stone Farm and purchases for $425,000 as a Keeneland September yearling in 2015. He earned $240,000 for his San Felipe Score to bring his career bankroll to $511,200. Undefeated in four starts, he also won the Bob Hope Stakes (GIII) and the Los Alamitos Futurity.