Trainer Tim Yakteen saddled four 3-year-olds in the $402,000 San Felipe Stakes March 4 at Santa Anita Park , three of them new transfers from the Bob Baffert barn, and won with Practical Move, the horse Yakteen has trained for the colt’s entire career.
“We’ve been running against Baffert all summer,” said Pierre Jean Amestoy Jr., who co-owns the horse with his wife, Leslie, and Roger Beasley.
Practical Move has won and lost to Baffert trainees throughout his career. The colt finished his 2-year-old season last year by winning the Dec. 17 Los Alamitos Futurity over Baffert trainees Carmel Road and Fort Bragg. He also finished third in the Nov. 20 Bob Hope Stakes at Del Mar to Baffert trainees Havnameltdown and Newgate.
Fort Bragg is one of four horses formerly trained by Baffert and now in Yakteen’s barn that were entered in the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe. Yakteen also entered Hejazi, Mr Fisk, and National Treasure. The latter was the 3-1 morning-line favorite but had to be scratched because of a bruise on his right front foot.
Bettors subsequently made Richard Mandella-trained Geaux Rocket Ride, who won his career debut by 5 3/4 lengths in his previous start, a narrow 2.70-1 favorite over John Shirreffs-trained Skinner. Hejazi was the third choice, with Practical Move fourth in the wagering at 4.20-1.
Jockey Mike Smithh got Hejazi away from the gate in second and they quickly went to the lead, with Geaux Rocket Ride a length back in second. Practical Move raced in third inside, with jockey Ramon Vazquez playing a waiting game to see how best to get through.
“Ramon knows the horse,” Amestoy said. “He told us after the race, ‘I was just waiting. I had all the horse I needed. If they were going to go out, I was going to go in. If they we going to go in, I was going to go around. But when they went out, that opened it up for me.’ ”
Practical Move moved inside of a drifting-out Hejazi nearing the quarter pole, took command, and drew off to score by 2 1/2 lengths.
“This horse keeps getting better and better every day,” Vazquez said. “He can go inside or outside. He is comfortable wherever. He lets me do my job, and he does the rest.”
Geaux Rocket Ride came back on to get second, 1 1/4 lengths clear of show finisher Skinner. Skinner, last for the first half-mile, closed wide to hit the board, a half-length ahead of fourth-place Hejazi. Practical Move completed the 1 1/16 miles in 1:42.01.
“He’s been a really healthy horse — everything fell into place,” Yakteen said. “The only challenge we had along the way was not being able to get his last work in. He has developed really well from a 2-year-old to a 3-year-old. He’s a gifted, gifted individual.”
The Amestoys are primarily Quarter-Horse owners, and Leslie is a former Thoroughbred trainer. They selected Kentucky-bred Practical Move themselves, buying him for $230,000 at the 2022 Ocala Breeders’ Sales Company’s Spring Sale of 2-Year-Olds in Training. Trainer Chad Brown and Head of Plains Partners bred Practical Move, a son of Practical Joke out of Ack Naughty, by Afleet Alex.
When it came time to find a Thoroughbred trainer, the Amestoys asked advice from their friend Mike Abraham.
“I was talking to Mike about finding a trainer who’s a good trainer but doesn’t have 150 horses,” Amestoy said.
Abraham knew Jaime Gomez, a major Quarter-Horse trainer based at Los Alamitos Race Course, and Gomez recommended Yakteen.
The Amestoys have raced a horse in the All-American Futurity three times and have won other prestigious Quarter-Horse races, such as the Rainbow Futurity. They are looking forward to possibly having a horse in the May 6 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve.
“For us, this is the biggest deal right now,” Amestoy said.
The San Felipe victory is worth 50 qualifying points to the Kentucky Derby, and Practical Move had already earned 10 points in the Los Alamitos Futurity. His 60 total points puts him behind only Forte, the Fountain of Youth Stakes winner, who now has 90 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.
Yakteen said he would probably run Practical Move one more time before the Derby.
“I don’t think this will be our final stop,” Yakteen said. “I think we’ll have one more stop. Let’s just leave the canvas blank, and I’ll color it in a little bit later.”
As for National Treasure, Yakteen said that the foot bruise is minor and was not likely to take that colt off the Triple Crown trail.
“We had a bruised foot this morning, that inside quarter,” Yakteen said. “We’ve had a lot of rain [in California]. Unfortunately, he came up with a bruise. We’ll be absolutely fine. He was much better this afternoon after being able to [soak in a tub] his foot.”