Hall of Famer Bob Baffert appeared to have Sunday’s $200,000 San Vicente (G2) surrounded, only to see his 3-5 favorite Coliseum beaten turning into the stretch and his 2-1 Dessman nabbed on the wire by Sparky Ville. The 7-1 fourth choice in a five-horse field, the Jeff Bonde trainee rallied furiously on Santa Anita’s wet-fast track to earn his first black-type victory.
Kentucky Derby (G1) implications remain to be seen, with Sparky Ville not Triple Crown-nominated, and sporting the profile of a one-turn specialist. If Dessman ran a useful race that he can build upon, Coliseum did not advance his classic claims.
Coliseum, a disappointing sixth in the Sham (G3), was hoping to rebound by reverting to the seven-furlong trip of his hot debut win. But the mercurial son of Tapit, again off a beat slow, did not inspire confidence as he moved to force the pace set by Savagery. Although stablemate Dessman broke last, at least he traveled readily in the three-wide stalking path.
Savagery was a spent force after splits of :22.07 and :44.32, Coliseum could not pick up, and Dessman splashed clear in what ordinarily would be the winning move. Then Sparky Ville, who had been drafting just behind the leaders in fourth, peeled outside for running room and took off. Under Joel Rosario, the Candy Ride gelding forced his nose in front in a final time of 1:21.93.
Bonde was positively effervescent afterward.
“We are very happy with the way our horse had trained for this race, but it’s always scary when you get a look at those Baffert ‘Maseratis’ – it pretty much unfolded the way we had hoped.
“I could tell my horse had won, but I was so excited in the stretch I thought I was gonna pass out.
“I was absolutely dancing into the Winner’s Circle,” Bonde said. “It was so exciting and Joel has been like one of my kids ever since he came from Bay Meadows. We tease each other a lot. We greet each other by grunting and everybody looks at us like, ‘what’s that all about’ but we’ve been doing it for years. So it’s wonderful to win with him. The owners (Del Secco DCS Racing) are great people that really deserve something like this.”
“Going into the far turn,” Rosario said, “I was in tight, but I had to wait because I thought those horses were moving a little early. When we left the quarter pole, I asked him and he really picked it up. I thought those horses would come back to me and we would win easy, but (Dessman) kept fighting and it was close. I knew he had run well with Gary (Stevens) and I’m happy with the way he ran today. He was comfortable sitting in behind those horses and I like the way he picked it up when I asked him to go.”
Flavien Prat, aboard Dessman, blamed himself for the tough beat.
“I moved too soon,” Prat said. “He fought back when he saw that horse…He ran great.”
Coliseum trudged home another 6 1/2 lengths adrift in third. Synthesis never reached contention in fourth, while Savagery trailed.
Sparky Ville improved his record to 8-3-1-2, $257,770. The chestnut had placed to two of his high-profile contemporaries last year, finishing best of the rest behind Instagrand in the Best Pal (G2) and third to Mucho Gusto in the Bob Hope (G3). Successful in the non-black-type Sunny Slope, he was sixth in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and Eddie Logan last out in a turf and two-turn experiment.
Bonde suggested that Sparky Ville was likely to stay in his wheelhouse.
“This horse seems like he’s more adept at seven furlongs to a mile so I’m not sure he wants a mile and a quarter…
“The people that own this horse, they’ve got this colt, a seven furlong-miler type – maybe time will tell differently – but the other colt (Triple Crown nominee King of Speed), they are focusing on him going the two turns.”
Bred by Aaron and Marie Jones LLC in Kentucky, Sparky Ville was a $170,000 RNA at Keeneland September. He was produced by the unraced Storm Cat mare Lorelei K, a half-sister to Grade 1 vixen Harmony Lodge, multiple Grade 2-winning millionaire and sire Graeme Hall, and Grade 3 scorer Win McCool. This is the immediate family of last year’s Arkansas Derby (G1) hero Magnum Moon.
The supporting stakes, the $100,000 Sweet Life for three-year-old fillies, was rained off the turf. The Grade 3 event was accordingly downgraded on the surface switch, pending review by the American Graded Stakes Committee.
Yet the 6 1/2-furlong dash turned out pretty formful as KMN Racing’s homebred Apache Princess justified 6-5 favoritism. Trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his Hall of Fame brother Kent, who dropped the whip, the Unusual Heat filly rallied up the rail to a 3 1/4-length decision in 1:16.82.
“I had already asked her and encouraged her for the best,” Kent Desormeaux said. “I encouraged her three times and I was underhanded and when I tried to raise it (the whip), it just went towards the earth. That’s embarrassing, but (it’s) the second time I’ve done that with her and she’s won the race for me. She proves that she doesn’t need it, she just needs encouragement with my mouth. If I kiss at her, shake the reins at her, throw crosses and she continues.”
British import Thriving prevailed in a photo-finish for the runner-up spot over Splashy Kisses. Next came Nomizar and Full Eclipse, and Ginger Nut was the lone scratch.
Apache Princess was extending her winning streak to three, after clearing her maiden and entry-level allowance conditions down the hill. The California-bred has bankrolled $171,960 from her 6-3-2-0 line, her wins all coming in open company.