Triple Crown: San Felipe Stakes picks and analysis

This year’s Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes will give 50 Derby points to the winner, as well as points to the next four finishers, but with a small field of five, including three who are ineligible to run at Churchill, the situation is an unusual one. 

Bob Baffert trains three runners here, including the highly regarded Nysos, but his entries cannot gain Derby points from this Santa Anita prep. In fact, only Scatify and Mc Vay, trained by John Sadler and John Shirreffs, respectively, can gain points towards Derby participation. These Derby-eligible runners will have their hands full with the Baffert trio, but still have a great opportunity to gain momentum into the spring.

[Editor’s note: Nysos has been scratched from the San Felipe.]

Nysos is an undefeated three-year-old colt by Nyquist-Zetta Z, by Bernardini and is 1/5  in this small field. When looking at his wins in the Grade 3 Bob Hope Stakes and Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis, it is easy to see why he is viewed as potentially the top three-year-old in the country.

Wins by a whopping ten and a half, eight and three-quarters, and seven and a quarter lengths in his three starts demonstrate how dominant he has been in short order. While time will tell if he is better suited going classic or middle distances;,there has to date been no competition for this bay colt, sold most recently for $550,000 as a two year old. With his most recent try coming at eight furlongs, an extra sixteenth of distance here could deter Flavian Prat from using Nysos too early, but his familiarity with Santa Anita and quick maturity clearly put him above the others here if he runs to form. 

The two other Baffert trainees, Imagination and Wine Me Up, both have outside chances of challenging their stablemate, especially Wine Me Up, who finished a distant second to Nysos last time in the Robert B. Lewis. Imagination has three places in four tries, most recently losing a stretch battle to another Baffert trainee at Santa Anita on February 11. This colt by Into Mischief-Magical Feeling, by Empire Maker likely has the edge if only by being the only one who hasn’t faced Nysos in a race while being competitive in every loss. 

If any of these runners pulls off an upset, Imagination should be the top choice as an unfamiliar shooter among this field. 

John Sadler’s Scatify finished a distant third by 8 ¼ lengths to Nysos last time out, edged out by Wine Me Up by a length for place. Before that, he won his debut at Los Alamitos going six furlongs in a stalking trip. Returning jockey Hector Berrios had him on the early lead in the. Lewis, a strategy which may change here to preserve his energy. With Justify on top, distance shouldn’t be an issue, but a gate to wire win is unlikely with Nysos and Imagination sitting on his tail for two turns.

Most likely the longest shot on the board, Mc Vay enters with morning line odds of 20/1 for John Shirreffs, but still gains Derby points simply for finishing here. Yet to win a race in three tries, this colt has fallen victim to a different Baffert trainee in all his races, losing to both Wine Me Up and Nysos. Finishing fourth behind Nysos, Wine Me Up, and Scatify in the Lewis, it would take a herculean effort to be a factor even in a small field. Nabbing five or more Derby points by taking a shot here is still worth it and suggests Shirreffs remains high on his horse.

From a Kentucky Derby perspective, this prep race isn’t likely to be the most impactful; barring a massive upset, the two eligible runners aren’t likely to pick up 50 points. Still, as these horses prepare for the Preakness and Belmont among other prestigious races, Nysos’s performance here could speak volumes of Baffert’s plans for him and his two others going forward. Perhaps Sadler or Shirreffs will see enough from their contenders to aim them towards the Santa Anita Derby next month with their eyes on a spot in the starting gate at Churchill in May. 

The San Felipe Stakes will now be run on Sunday, March 3rd as the sixth race on Santa Anita’s card with a post time of 6:00 PM EST.


1. #3 Nysos (1-5)

2. #5 Imagination (6-1) 

3. #2 Wine Me Up (8-1) 

4. #1 Scatify (6-1)