Magical Mastery victory marred by serious injury
Near-fore fracture rules out Kentucky Derby favourite after Santa Anita strike
Report: USA, Saturday
Santa Anita: San Felipe Stakes (Grade 2) 1m½f | dirt | 3yo
In a dramatic sequence of events at Santa Anita, the Bob Baffert-trained Mastery (Mike Smith) extended his unbeaten sequence to four with the sort of display that guaranteed Kentucky Derby favouritism – and was then immediately ruled out of the race with a potentially career-threatening injury.
The son of Candy Ride dismissed challenges from main rivals Iliad and Gormley before strolling home by six and three-quarter lengths in the San Felipe, only for jockey Mike Smith to pull him up after the wire and dismount.
Although Smith felt the horse was 'off' on his near-hind, it later emerged that Mastery had sustained a condylar fracture to his near foreleg and will undergo surgery on Monday. In a best-case scenario, he will need a few months off but the injury could easily mean the end of the three-year-old's burgeoning career.
"Nothing happened that made me think, ‘Oh, something just happened,’" said the jockey. "He just all of the sudden went off and wouldn’t put weight on it. I felt it about ten jumps after the wire. All of a sudden he just picked up his back leg. At that point I couldn’t tell what it was."
Baffert was alerted by a fan that something had gone amiss after the race. "We’ve been so high on this horse, and you see what he did today was just incredible and puts him as the best three-year-old in the nation," he said.
"I'm walking down and I hear a fan say, ‘I hope your horse is all right.’ I said ‘What?’ and he said ‘I hear they’re unsaddling him.' We went from the highest of the highs to sombre.
"The way he moves – he’s just a beautiful moving horse. He was just doing it easy. It’s very rare to get one like that. You go from seeing the next coming, and then something like that happens. I’ve never dealt with anything like that. I thought maybe it was heat or something but we won't know until after the surgery whether or not this will be career ending."
Looking back at the race, in which 4-5 favourite Mastery made all, Smith added: "This is a really talented horse. The power . . . it’s endless with this guy. He’s some kind of strong. He was hitting gears every time I asked him to. Gear down one, gear up two, gear down one. Everything seemed to come easy for him. That was a pretty impressive race."
Also on Saturday
Santa Anita: Santa Anita Hcap (Grade 1) 1m2f | dirt | 4yo+
Arrogate's form received another boost when Shaman Ghost (Jimmy Jerkens/Javier Castellano) wore down market rival Midnight Storm inside the final furlong to claim Santa Anita's signature race.
Although never shaking clear, suspect stayer Midnight Storm was comfortable on the lead and went into the stretch with an advantage of a couple of lengths before Shaman Ghost, nearly five lengths second to Arrogate in the Pegasus World Cup on his previous outing, swept past close home to score by three-quarters of a length.
"I knew there wasn’t a lot of speed in the race so I just wanted to focus on the horse on the lead, Midnight Storm, and keep track of him," said Castellano. He’s a classy horse. With not a lot of speed in the race, I had to ask him a little, put him really close to the pace and he responded."
Santa Anita: Frank E. Kilroe Mile (Grade 1) 1m | turf | 4yo+
In a thrilling finish, 9.6-1 shot Bal A Bali (Richard Mandella/Javier Castellano) – a Rio Triple Crown winner in his native Brazil three years ago – overcame a nine-month layoff to edge out 2016 winner What A View by a head. Grade 1 winner Dortmund finished sixth, never looking comfortable after being switched from dirt to turf on his first start for new trainer Art Sherman.
Santa Anita: Triple Bend Stakes (Grade 1) 7f | dirt | 4yo+
After sneaking up the rail as they exited the far turn, 16-1 chance Denman's Call (Doug O'Neill/Tyler Baze) was vigorously ridden inside the final furlong to upset odds-on favourite Masochistic.
Tampa Bay Downs: Tampa Bay Derby (Grade 2) 1m½f | dirt | 3yo
The improving Tapwrit (Todd Pletcher/Jose Ortiz) advertised both his own Kentucky Derby credentials and those of his recent conqueror McCraken when he drew clear to score by four and a half lengths in Tampa Bay's top race. The son of Tapit was comprehensively defeated by leading Derby contender McCraken on his previous start at the same venue.