By Margaret Ransom
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