Practical Move Heads Eager Field in GI Runhappy SA Derby

April 5, 2023

Practical Move taking the San Felipe March 4. (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

• Winner To Get 100 Ky Derby Qualifying Points  
• Early Post Of 12 Noon Set For 12-Race Card That Includes Five Other Stakes

Santa Anita Press Box

ARCADIA, Calif.— Trainer Tim Yakteen’s Practical Move, fresh off impressive scores in a pair of graded stakes, heads a field of nine sophomores going a mile and one eighth in this Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby—a race that has produced 20 Kentucky Derby winners.

With a total of 200 Kentucky Derby qualifying points at stake, 100 will be awarded to the winner, with 40, 30, 20 and 10 points going to the remaining top five finishers.

Yakteen, a former assistant to both Bob Baffert and Charlie Whittingham, eyes his first victory in what will be the 86th renewal of the Santa Anita Derby. Owned by Leslie Amestoy, Pierre Jean Amestoy, Jr. and Roger Beasley, Practical Move was attentive to the pace in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on March 4 while full of run at the rail in the run to the far turn. 

With pacesetter Hejazi in front of him and Geaux Rocket Ride just to his outside, Practical Move unleashed a tremendous turn of foot, leaving his rivals in his wake en route to an emphatic 2 ½ length score and in a performance that certainly suggests he’ll relish added distance, he daylighted the field galloping out into the Club House turn. 

Practical Move’s San Felipe score followed an impressive followed 3 ¼ length romp at the same distance in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity Dec. 17. A Kentucky-bred colt by the Into Mischief stallion Practical Joke out of the Afleet Alex mare Ack Naughty, Practical Move raced as a maiden at Los Alamitos, earning an 88 Beyer Speed Figure, and followed that with a 100 Beyer in the San Felipe.

With Ramon Vazquez back aboard for the third consecutive time on Saturday, Practical Move, who is already assured of a starting position in the Run for the Roses with 60 qualifying points, will again face Geaux Rocket Ride as well the San Felipe third place finisher Skinner, with all three horses rating solid chances.

Second or third in all four of his maiden starts prior to the Los Alamitos Futurity, Practical Move is now 6-3-1-2 with earnings of $434,200.

Although he’s late to the Triple Crown party, Richard Mandella’s Geaux Rocket Ride, in just his second career start and first time around two turns, ran lights-out in the San Felipe, sitting a measured second to Hejazi to the far turn and battling gamely at the rail through the lane to finish second, 1 ¼ lengths in front of an on-coming Skinner. 

A galloping first-out maiden six-furlong winner here Jan. 29, Geaux Rocket Ride was the 5-2 favorite in the San Felipe, a race in which he earned a 96 Beyer. Owned by Pin Oak Stud, LLC, Geaux Rocket Ride, who picked up 20 KY Derby qualifying points in the San Felipe, is by Candy Ride out of the Uncle Mo mare Beyond Grace.

Like Geaux Rocket Ride, C R K Stable’s Skinner would appear to have considerable upside. Far back at the half mile pole in the San Felipe, Skinner made an eye-catching move while wide-out around the far turn but with Practical Move powering home, he wasn’t able to make up the necessary ground, finishing third by 3 ¾ lengths but looking like a horse who could excel at longer distances.

Trained by John Shirreffs, Skinner, a Kentucky-bred colt by Curlin out of the Malibu Moon mare Winding Way, has improved dramatically here this winter and appears set for his best in what will be sixth career start and fifth pairing with Victor Espinoza. 

National Treasure gallops April 5 for trainer Tim Yakteen (Ernie Belmonte/Past The Wire)

Unraced since a disappointing third, beaten one length as the 3-5 favorite going one mile in the Grade III Sham Stakes Jan. 8, National Treasure has been transferred from Baffert to Yakteen in an effort to receive qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby.

Third, beaten 3 ¾ lengths by Eclipse Award Juvenile Colt champ Forte I in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Nov. 4 at Keeneland, National Treasure was second to highly regarded stablemate Cave Rock two starts back in the Grade I American Pharoah here Oct. 8 and is obviously a colt with immense class, but with a lack of recency, he no doubt faces a tall order on Saturday.

Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, LLC, et al, National Treasure is 4-1-1-2 with earnings of $300,000.   

Although he’ll likely be a double-digit longshot at post time, Japan’s Mandarin Hero is nonetheless a compelling story given the fact Japanese-based horses have done extremely well competing around the globe the past three years—winning a pair of Breeders’ Cup races at Del Mar in 2021 and most recently, the Dubai World Cup and UAE Derby on March 25 with Usheba Tesoro and Derma Sotogake. 

Raced exclusively at Japan’s Ooi Racecourse, Mandarin Hero was unbeaten in four starts at age two and in his lone start this year, finished second, beaten a neck going a mile and one eighth on Feb. 23. The first Japanese-based horse to ever run in the Santa Anita Derby, Mandarin Hero, a colt by Shanhai Bobby, is owned by Hiroaki Arai and trained by Terunobu Fujita. 

Mandarin Hero will be ridden by Kazushi Kimura, a 23-year-old Japanese native who has been Canada’s leading rider for the past two years at Woodbine Racecourse and who was North America’s Eclipse Champion Apprentice in 2019. Kimura, who will be leaving to return to ride full time in Toronto following this weekend, has three stakes wins at the current Classic Meet.  

First post time for a 12-race card that will also include five other stakes on Saturday is at 12 noon with admission gates opening at 10 a.m.

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