Two of Santa Anita’s graded stakes on Saturday showcased three-year-olds. Bob Baffert won his 11th San Vicente (G2), as 2-5 favorite Concert Tour advanced on the Kentucky Derby (G1) trail, and the filly Moonlight d’Oro scored her first points toward the Kentucky Oaks (G1) in the Las Virgenes (G3).
Although offering no points in the Derby’s current qualification system, the seven-furlong San Vicente has a long history as a tune-up for Southern California’s classic hopes. Baffert used it for his first Derby winner, Hall of Famer Silver Charm (1997), and Concert Tour hopes to revive the precedent after wearing down gutsy stablemate Freedom Fighter to go 2-for-2.
A Gary and Mary West homebred, Concert Tour was stepping up from a sparkling debut win going six furlongs. The Street Sense colt had wired his Jan. 15 maiden, but this time, jockey Joel Rosario held him just off the pace.
Freedom Fighter, who had not raced since his winning premiere at Del Mar last summer, got a flyer out of the gate and dictated an opening quarter in :23.41. The Chosen Vron took the inviting opening on the rail to press the leader passing the half in :45.98, but could not hold that position turning for home.
Concert Tour then ranged up on the outside, only to find Freedom Fighter spoiling for a fight. As his 5-1 stablemate clung on grimly through six furlongs in 1:10.56, Concert Tour had to keep pulling out extra to prevail. The favorite ultimately got up by a half-length in 1:24.06.
The Chosen Vron soldiered on for a creditable third, six lengths to the good of Found My Ball, and Uncle Boogie trailed. Mr. Impossible, second to Concert Tour last time, was scratched in favor of Sunday’s 5TH race, where he’ll hook another Baffert hotpot in Bezos.
Baffert offered his insights in the postrace comments:
“Rosario was trying to teach this horse how to rate a little bit, and I thought they were going to get into a speed duel. I think it was a good race for both of them (Concert Tour and Freedom Fighter). I learned a lot about (Concert Tour), how he wants to run and maybe he doesn’t need blinkers. He’s pretty sharp. That’s why we have these races. Now they go to where I can stretch them out. This horse has two races under his belt, but those were two really good horses.
“He’ll be nominated everywhere. We will see how he comes out of it. He’s pretty keyed up well. He showed his heart and determination. I knew the other horse (Freedom Fighter) was going to give him a run for his money and he did. He’s going to improve off of that also.”
With the $120,000 winner’s check from the $200,000 stakes, Concert Tour has now bankrolled $156,600. The Kentucky-bred is out of the Tapit mare Purse Strings, who is a close relative of champion Stardom Bound. Purse Strings’ dam, My Red Porsche, is a Mt. Livermore half-sister to Grade 2-placed stakes scorer My White Corvette, dam of Stardom Bound (by Tapit).
From the family of 2017 Kentucky Oaks champion Abel Tasman, Moonlight d’Oro has risen to prominence on the 2021 Oaks trail after her stakes debut in the $200,000 Las Virgenes.
The Richard Mandella trainee was exiting a three-length maiden score at Los Alamitos, her first try around two turns. The runner-up, Frosteria, came back to finish second in the Santa Ynez (G2), and Moonlight d’Oro validated the form by beating Santa Ynez winner Kalypso here.
Kalypso edged Moonlight d’Oro for favoritism late, going off at even-money to the winner’s 13-10. That was a mirror image of how the race actually unfolded.
Speeding to the early lead, Kalypso carved out splits of :23.25, :47.47, and 1:12.72. Honor America stalked in second, with Moraz a ground-saving third.
Moonlight d’Oro settled last of the compact quintet early, began to circle the field on the far turn, and surged past the pacesetter in the stretch. Drawing 1 1/2 lengths clear with Flavien Prat, she completed the mile in 1:38.01 and earned 10 Oaks points.
Kalypso held second, adding four points for an overall tally of 18. Moraz didn’t pick up as much as might have been expected, crossing the wire a further 1 3/4 lengths back in third, and received two points. Brilliant Cut came in fourth, good for one point, and now has three to her credit. Honor America was eased home.
“I was trying to see if I should stay inside or go around,” Prat recapped, “and I decided to go around. She was there for me when I asked her to go. (Joel) Rosario was at the front (on Kalypso), and nobody was really bothering him, but when I came around the turn, I made that great move and tried to get some momentum out of it. She was traveling nicely behind horses, and I was very happy with how she ran.”
“It turned out good,” Mandella said. “I was worried she got a little washy going to the gate, and she was a lamb over at Los Alamitos where she should have gotten upset. Sometimes you take them over to something like that and then the next time they’re looking for the excitement.”
Campaigned by MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm – the principals behind Kentucky Derby-winning Horse of the Year Authentic – Moonlight d’Oro sports a mark of 4-2-1-1, $163,040. The bay placed in her first two starts sprinting, but is perfect since stretching out.
Moonlight d’Oro kicked off a brilliant half-hour for sire Medaglia d’Oro, who was also responsible for Saturday’s Withers (G3) hero Risk Taking. Out of the Bernardini mare Venetian Sonata, Moonlight d’Oro is a half-sister to Grade 2-placed Olive Branch. Venetian Sonata is herself a full sibling to Grade 2 winners Wilburn (full brother) and Beethoven (half-brother). Another full sister, La Appassionata, is a Grade 3-placed stakes scorer. They were all produced by Grade 3 vixen Moonlight Sonata, a Carson City half to 1999 Futurity (G1) victor Bevo.
Bred by Stonehaven Steadings in Kentucky, Moonlight d’Oro commanded $620,000 as a Keeneland September yearling.