The unbeaten Mastery lived up to his name, cruising seven lengths clear in the Grade 2 $400,690 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on Saturday. Mastery’s awe-inspiring performance confirmed his claims for Kentucky Derby glory – until spectators saw Mike Smith jumping off him and spotted that he was lame.
His trainer Bob Baffert (pictured) had always had very high hopes for this talented son of Candy Ride. It was his fourth victory and an extremely easy one against proven performers. Gormley, the second favorite, took the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes as a juvenile and won his most recent start in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes on January 7. The Doug O’Neill trained Iliad also came into the race on the back of a win in the seven furlong Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes on February 12.
Mastery started as the 4/5 San Felipe favorite and, although he did not break as sharply as some of his rivals, soon took the lead and was never headed. Iliad and Gormley were his closest pursuers throughout the race and were pushed alongside him approaching the final turn. For a moment it looked likely to be a closely fought battle but Gormley faded tamely and, as soon as Smith gave Mastery one tap with his whip, he powered away from Iliad who had no answer.
It was the runner-up Iliad who looked physically challenged in the closing stages, he was changing his lead leg and swishing his tail like an unhappy or uncomfortable horse in the stretch while Mastery appeared to glide effortlessly. The 63/1 shot Term Of Art, another Doug O’Neill trainee, finished third ahead of the disappointing Gormley.
Baffert was walking to meet his winner when he was alarmed to be asked by a concerned spectator if his horse was ok, unaware that he had been dismounted. Initially it appeared that there was a problem with Mastery’s left hind leg, Smith said that he was reluctant to put weight on it and that is certainly how it looked at the time.
Smith unsaddled Mastery on the track and the colt reportedly walked almost sound into the veterinarian’s van. Hopes that the problem was not serious were sadly short-lived. Less than two hours later a condylar fracture was diagnosed on Mastery’s left front leg in the ankle area, surgery would be required. There was no confirmation of any injury to the hind leg that was the immediate cause of concern.
There were 50 Kentucky Derby qualifying points awarded to the San Felipe Stakes winner which Mastery will be unable to contest. If he had not sustained the injury he seemed set to become the Kentucky Derby favorite.
Baffert and Mastery’s owners, Cheyenne Stables, suspect that it is a season-ending injury but will be hoping that it does not end this talented colt’s career on the racetrack.