King Guillermo became the latest 3-year-old to throw his hat into the ring of wildcards Saturday when romping to a 4 3/4-length win in the Grade 2 Tampa Bay Derby.
Going off at 49-1, King Guillermo came into the race off a third in the Pulpit Stakes on turf behind Sole Volante, who had franked the race’s form last month with a Sam F. Davis Stakes victory – albeit running on dirt. Stepping up in distance and returning to the dirt after his turf effort proved to show off King Guillermo true talent.
King Guillermo pushed Relentless Dancer throughout the early part of the 1 1/16-mile race, staying at the leader’s hip and eager to show more as soon as Samy Camacho would let him. In the far turn, colt and jockey got tired of the game and put the race to bed.
King Guillermo ran away from a group that included previous vanquisher Sole Volante in second to earn 50 points toward the Kentucky Derby and add another exciting group of connections to the Kentucky Derby party. Trained by Juan Avila, King Guillermo’s owner Victoria’s Ranch is owned by former Major League Baseball player Victor Martinez.
One of the top players of his own sport as a five-time American League All-Star with 246 home runs under his belt, Martinez brushed off the excitement of those accomplishments when saying what it meant for him to win a race like this with a horse named after his father.
“My dad died when I was 6, and I always wanted to have a horse named for my dad,” he said. “This is absolutely something else. I thank God for this opportunity and putting a great horse in my hands. My mom (Margot, part of the festive scene) taught me how to dream. She taught me dreams are for free. We believed in this horse and he made our dream come true.”
King Guillermo paid back the faith Camacho had in him with the jockey telling Martinez when they met for the first time earlier this week that he thought the colt could win if he raced to the way he’s been working. The confidence the jockey brought into the race and the bond created during that conversation are likely to be life changing for Camacho with Martinez saying he’ll stay on King Guillermo in the Kentucky Derby.
“Samy said ‘If this horse keeps going like he has been in his workouts, we’re winning the race,’ ” Martinez said. “It gave me such a great feeling. He had so much faith in the horse. It gave me a lot of confidence. He put him in the Kentucky Derby, he’ll ride him in the Kentucky Derby.”
One of two Kentucky Derby hopefuls for his sire Uncle Mo, whose colt Modernist won the Grade 2 Risen Star last month, King Guillermo may go straight to the Kentucky Derby.
There may be one more obstacle to climb however, with the bay not yet nominated for the Triple Crown though Martinez has indicated he will willingly pay the $6,000 late nomination fee due by March 30 to run in the classics.
Trainer of the Week: John Sadler and Hronis Racing had a rough start to Saturday morning when their 2019 Santa Anita Handicap winner had to scratch from the 2020 renewal. But by the time the horses crossed the line in this year’s event they’d made history with Combatant.
Sadler is the first trainer to win three straight editions of the race after Accelerate’s victory in 2018 and Gift Box’s in 2019 – all Hronis-owned horses. The victory comes only months after David Ingordo purchased the former Kentucky Derby runner for $220,000 at the Keeneland November breeding stock sale with Combatant already paying off that purchase price with $384,000 in earnings from two starts this year.
“My parents would bring me to spend time in the infield and we would have a picnic on the weekend,” Sadler said. “It’s just great, I can’t explain it, what it means to me. Three different horses and all really top horses. My clients, Kosta, Stephanie and Pete Hronis, they really back me. They lead through example and they encourage me all the time, so it’s fun to reward them.”
That wasn’t the only highlight of Sadler’s day. He took both older male graded stakes on the Santa Anita card Saturday with Flagstaff winning the Grade 2 San Carlos Stakes by 1 1/4 lengths over Roadster. Second in the Grade 2 Palos Verdes last out, the older half brother of Game Winner looks to take the place of Catalina Cruiser in the sprint division for Sadler this year.
Sire Of The Week: It’s a top week for a stallion if one of his runners wins a Triple Crown prep race but Into Mischief is proving that he’s not just any stallion. Rising from humble beginnings to last year’s champion sire, the Spendthrift Farm stalwart has already proven to have another top year on the horizon with 23 stakes horses and 11 stakes winners in 2020.
Those became even more impressive for the stallion Saturday when he had three stakes winners within a matter of hours. Three-year-old Doc Boy kicked off the action early on the Tampa card in the Columbia Stakes but things were about to heat up even more. The winner of the Grade 3 Swale Stakes last out, Mischevious Alex secured himself a spot in the Kentucky Derby with a win in the Grade 3 Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. But it was Authentic proving he is the real deal by staying undefeated in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes that sent tongues wagging.
Authentic sits atop the Kentucky Derby leaderboard with 60 points while Mischievous Alex is tied for third with 50 points going into the final round of preps next month.
Maiden Winner of the Week: It isn’t every day a $1.8 million dollar filly makes her debut – let alone makes it an impressive winning one like Gamine did Saturday at Santa Anita.
Trained by Bob Baffert, the Into Mischief filly was purchased for $220,000 as a yearling before her $1.8 million sale-topping journey through the ring at last year’s Fasig-Tipton Midlantic May 2-year-olds in training sale.
Baffert had her prepared to perfection as the filly took an early lead in her four-horse debut field over 6 1/2 furlongs. The race was over before it even began with Gamine turning her experience into a paid workout to win by 6 1/4 lengths with Drayden Van Dyke keeping a hold on her in the lane.
Owned by Michael Lund Peterson, Baffert called Gamine a “superstar in the making” on TVG after her victory. If her connections decide to attempt qualification for the Kentucky Oaks, there are still six 100-point races to come with the Santa Anita Oaks at her home track April 4.
Horse to Watch: While the attention was on Authentic in the stretch of the San Felipe, Honor A.P. caught the eye for all of those looking for an under-the-radar Triple Crown horse.
The son of Honor Code raced three paths off the lead in mid pack a few lengths behind Authentic and made a big move in the far turn to challenge. While Authentic ran away to win by 2 1/4 lengths, Honor A.P. looked as if another few furlongs will be right up his alley and galloped out well.
Honor A.P.’s sire Honor Code proved to get better with age and distance and that looks to be the case for Honor A.P. as the March-bred colt is able to stretch out in distance later this year.
Quote of the Week: “I’m happy for the groom; a lot of sweat and hard work goes into these things and we are fortunate to find a horse like this.” – Bob Baffert
It isn’t often you see connections give a groom shout out so Bob Baffert giving credit to Authentic’s groom after his win in the San Felipe wins this week’s Quote of the Week title.
Bits and Pieces: Doug O’Neill’s decision to send a string of horses to Dubai has paid off throughout the meet with the trainer again making history Saturday with Wildman Jack becoming the first U.S.-trained horse to win a turf race in Dubai. Fittingly sired by O’Neill-trained Goldencents for W C Racing, the 4-year-old gelding set a track record in the race when winning by 4 3/4 lengths. It was the third win at the meet for O’Neill, who also has a Meydan-based horse on the Kentucky Derby path with Fore Left.