A little more than an hour before Sunday’s $200,000 San Vicente Stakes for 3-year-old horses at Santa Anita, the Kentucky Derby Future Pool 2 was closed to bettors. You could have put down a wager on Coliseum and gotten 15-1 odds.
Those who decided to wait to see how the highly regarded son of Tapit did in the San Vicente might have been the smart ones. Sent off at odds of 3-5, Coliseum flopped for the second consecutive race as the odds-on favorite.
Sparky Ville, a son of Candy Ride who’s not nominated to the Derby, rallied for a nose victory over the Bob Baffert-trained Dessman on a track surface listed as sloppy. Coliseum was 6 1/2 lengths behind in third place in the seven-furlong race.
Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who replaced Joe Talamo in riding Coliseum for the first time, tried to explain to Baffert what he thought happened.
“He was just doing this,” Smith said waiving his hands up and down.
Said Baffert: “He broke better. He was struggling in the mud. He never looked comfortable.”
Coliseum always works fast in the morning, but Baffert has been trying to get him to relax in the afternoon. Coliseum won his debut Nov. 17 by 6 3/4 lengths at Del Mar, creating a buzz. Then he finished sixth in the Sham Stakes at one mile Jan. 5 after breaking poorly. Now it’s back to the drawing board, but Baffert isn’t giving up on Coliseum’s potential.
“We’re still getting there,” he said. “They’re like little kids. You have to learn their routes.”
As for Sparky Ville, the combination of trainer Jeff Bonde and jockey Joel Rosario celebrated the way the race turned out. Savagery went to the lead in the five-horse field. Coliseum rushed up after the start to be second. Going into the far turn, the two Baffert horses took off as a tandem. Rosario bided his time along the rail in fourth position, then moved Sparky Ville to the outside and ran down Dessman and jockey Flavien Prat in the stretch.
“I was trying to be patient,” Rosario said.
Said Bonde: “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.”
Rosario is also the rider of the Derby Future Book horse with the lowest individual odds, Game Winner. He won’t need to worry about choosing between Sparky Ville and Game Winner, since seven furlongs or less might be Sparky Ville’s best distances.
In the $100,000 Sweet Life Stakes that was changed from turf to dirt, Apache Princess rallied for a 3 1/4-length victory under Kent Desormeaux, who accidentally dropped his whip in the stretch. Thriving finished second and Splashy Kisses was third in the race for 3-year-old fillies.