On paper, Prince Of Thieves looked like a sure thing in the $252,400 San Felipe Stakes on Sunday at Santa Anita.
Then the starting gates opened.
The 2-5 favorite, considered by many to be California's top Kentucky Derby candidate, broke a step slowly, then was squeezed back and forced to steady, losing all position. He dropped back to last, then wound up a nonthreatening fourth in the field of seven.
Odyle, who had tried stakes with some success before breaking his maiden in his sixth start, was the beneficiary of the favorite's bad luck and a contested pace.
Ridden by Corey Nakatani for owners John Toffan, Trudy McCaffery and Ron Brimacombe and trainer Paco Gonzalez, who turned 51 Sunday, Odyle rallied from last after a half-mile to beat Smithfield by a half-length in 1:42 2/5 for the 1 1/16 miles.
Racing with Lasix for the first time, the colt has two consecutive victories and will return in the $1-million Santa Anita Derby on April 6.
Trainer Wayne Lukas didn't lose any confidence in Prince Of Thieves, who finished a little more than seven lengths behind Odyle.
"Everything that could happen in a race that could go wrong went wrong," he said. "It was just one of those nightmare trips."
Horse Racing Notes
Wayne Lukas' Grindstone took the $370,000 Louisiana Derby at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans and the much-heralded Dr. Caton broke his maiden in his third start at Santa Anita. Ridden by Jerry Bailey, Grindstone, the 2-1 second choice, sat just off the pace early, then took charge in the stretch to win by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:42 3/5 for the 1 1/16 miles. Zarb's Magic, the 3-2 favorite, was second. . . . Charlie Whittingham, Smithfield's trainer, and Cavonnier's trainer Bob Baffert said their horses will run next in the Santa Anita Derby. . . . Jockey Pat Valenzuela, who was able to win only six races at the Gulfstream Park meeting that ended Saturday, said he will ride for a couple of weeks at Hialeah. Valenzuela said he has no plans to return to California in the near future. . . . Northern Spur, who will make his second start of the year in the $250,000 San Luis Rey Stakes on Sunday, worked a mile in 1:40 1/5. . . . The first 2-year-old race of the year locally will be run Wednesday. Eight fillies will go two furlongs in the day's sixth race. It is the first time in more than 20 years that 2-year-olds will run at Santa Anita's winter-spring meeting.