It made perfect sense that Tim Yakteen would be in the winners’ circle after the $400,000 San Felipe Stakes, a major preparation race leading up to the Kentucky Derby, at Santa Anita Park.
After all, he had five starters in the race because he inherited four horses from fellow trainer Bob Baffert, so those horses would qualify for Derby qualifying points. What few thought, however, is that the winner would be the only competitor to have trained Yakteen since the 3-year-old started racing last year.
Practical Move virtually secured itself a spot in Kentucky after earning 50 qualifying points with his 2½ length win. He now has 60 points after also winning the Los Alamitos Futurity in December.
Yakteen wouldn’t say if it’s more satisfying to win with a horse he’s had for eight months instead of a week.
“Winning is winning; nothing is more satisfying,” he said.
The San Felipe started with Hejazi taking the lead ahead of race favorite Geaux Rocket Ride. They ran down the backstretch that way with Practical Move’s content in fourth place. Practical Move started its move around the far bend and reached the top of the stretch with a lead of 1½ lengths.
Practical Move paid $10.40, $5.20, and $3.20. Geaux Rocket Ride came in second, followed by Skinner, Hejazi, Fort Bragg, Mr Fisk, Chase The Chaos, Genius Jimmy and Bluegrass Go Go. Yakteen also trained Hejazi, Fort Bragg and Mr. Fisk. His fifth horse, the morning line’s favorite National Treasure, was scratched due to a bruise on his left front hoof. Yakteen said he will return to the Derby course “hopefully this month”.
“This horse gets better and better every day,” winning jockey Ramon Vazquez said of Practical Move. “He can go in or out. He feels comfortable everywhere. He lets me do my job and he does the rest. … I always dreamed of winning the Kentucky Derby. I had a previous opportunity in 2015 (with Mr. Z) for Mr. Z. (Wayne) Luke. I hope for another chance here.”
Owners Jean Pierre and Leslie Amestoy, who mainly race quarterhorses, bought the colt last April for $230,000. He was sent to Yakteen and made his debut in the Del Mar.
“We played against Baffert all summer,” said Jean Pierre Amestoy. “It was three to one and two to one, but this horse finally beat them on a disqualification (from Fort Bragg.) And we beat him at Los Alamitos and we beat him again here. Were good. I love my horse. I like my chances.”
Although Practical Move has enough points to make it to the 20-horse Kentucky Derby field, Amestoy intends to run it again.
“The plan is we’ll probably start it again,” Yakteen said. “I think we have one more stop.”
Yakteen wouldn’t commit to where as he has to weigh up the idea of not performing Practical Move against some of his other Derbies hopefuls and hurting their chances.
“Let’s just leave the canvas blank and I’ll color it in later,” Yakteen said.
There were two other major preparation races in the Kentucky Derby on Saturday. Forte, winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile, appeared dominant in winning the Fountain of Youth Stakes at Gulfstream Park in Florida by 4½ lengths. Raise Cain also looked strong as he won the Gotham Stakes at New York’s Aqueduct by 7½ lengths.
All three preparations on Saturday were run at 1-1/16 miles. In the next round of preparatory races, including the Santa Anita Derby, the winner and runner-up receive 100 and 50 points respectively. Most of those races are run at 1-1/8 miles.
The Kentucky Derby is the first time a horse has run 1¼ miles.