Sparky Ville winning the San Vicente Stakes (gr. II) – © Benoit Photo

Over a wet-fast, sealed racetrack at Santa Anita that was slower and significantly less speed-favoring than usual, Sparky Ville became a graded stakes winner by out-dueling two heavily-bet Bob Baffert trainees in the $200,000 San Vicente Stakes (gr. II).

Sparky Ville’s chances were aided when the 7-10 favorite Coliseum and his stablemate Dessman broke slowly at the start of the seven-furlong sprint and subsequently rushed up with early moves to press the pace through fast fractions of :22.07 and :44.32. Sparky Ville wasn’t far off the pace either, settling fourth along the inside, but his alert start allowed him to achieve that position in a much more relaxed manner.

Rounding the turn, Dessman pounced to the lead while Sparky Ville was shuffled back behind rivals, a difference in trip that might have proven critical over a speed-favoring surface. But over this fairer track, Sparky Ville was resilient in the homestretch, shifting out and rallying under a strong ride from Joel Rosario to catch Dessman and win by a nose in 1:21.93 seconds. Coliseum weakened through the lane and wound up 6 ½ lengths behind in third place, while Synthesis and Savagery completed the order of finish.

“Going into the far turn, I was in tight, but I had to wait because I thought those horses were moving a little early,” Joel Rosario told Santa Anita publicity after the race. “When we left the quarter pole, I asked him and he really picked it up. I thought those horses would come back to me and we would win easy, but [Dessman] kept fighting and it was close. I knew he had run well with Gary [Stevens, recently retired Hall of Fame jockey] and I’m happy with the way he ran today. He was comfortable sitting in behind those horses and I like the way he picked it up when I asked him to go.”

Likewise, Dessman was impressive in defeat, considering his slow start, his sweeping bid on the turn, and his gallant fight down the homestretch to lose by just a nose. “I moved too soon,” said jockey Flavien Prat. “He fought back when he saw that horse… He ran great.”

Although the San Vicente is not an official Road to the Kentucky Derby prep race, it could potentially serve as a springboard to major Kentucky Derby preps down the road, though it remains to be seen whether Sparky Ville will pursue that route. Speaking along those lines, winning trainer Jeff Bonde told Santa Anita “This horse seems like he’s more adept at seven furlongs to a mile so I’m not sure he wants a mile and a quarter.”

Owned by Del Secco DCS Racing, Sparky Ville is a son of Candy Ride bred in Kentucky by Aaron & Marie Jones LLC. An experienced runner with eight runs under his belt, including six against stakes company, the San Vicente marked Sparky Ville’s third victory and boosted his career earnings to $257,770.