There were four obstacles that might have prevented Mi Preferido from winning the $79,650 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita Wednesday:
--The 3-year-old colt was making his first start in six months, after suffering sore shins following his victory in the Hollywood Juvenile Championship in July.
--He broke through the gate before Wednesday's start, after the horse next to him, Katoon, broke through, rolled to the ground and unseated jockey Ray Sibille.
--He was challenged for the lead all the way, with No Commitment forcing good early fractions.
--He was facing Success Express, who won the $1-million Breeders' Cup Juvenile in his next-to-last start.
But Mi Preferido overcame all of this, running away from four opponents in the stretch to score a 4 1/2-length victory and extend his unbeaten string to three races.
No Commitment finished second, five lengths ahead of Success Express, with the other two starters--Temper T. and Roberto's Dancer--being outdistanced.
Katoon, who would have gone off at 19-1, continued around the track after he broke through the gate and wasn't captured until he reached the finish line. Sibille was not injured and Katoon was scratched by the stewards.
The incident delayed the start five minutes, and Laz Barrera, Mi Preferido's trainer, said that this probably helped his colt. "While they were catching the other horse, that gave my horse time to recover," Barrera said. "It's bad when you have to put them back in the gate real quick."
Barrera hasn't impacted Churchill Downs since he won his first Kentucky Derby with Bold Forbes in 1976 and returned for an encore with Affirmed in 1978, en route to a sweep of the Triple Crown. Barrera says that Mi Preferido is the most promising young horse he's had since Affirmed.
Running seven furlongs in 1:22 3/5, Mi Preferido went off the second choice to Success Express in a crowd of 18,857 and paid $5 for a $2 win ticket. The winner earned $45,900 for his owners, Barrera and Amin Saiden, an old friend of the trainer from his native Cuba. Saiden bred Mi Preferido through a mating between Island Whirl and Exacting Lady.
Alex Solis has ridden Mi Preferido in all three of his wins. "He's a lot stronger now than when he was a baby," Solis said. "I'm just crossing my fingers and hoping he stays sound."
Early scratches from the San Vicente were All Thee Power and Lively One. Charlie Whittingham, who trains Lively One, says the Halo colt is his best 3- year-old right now. Whittingham didn't want to revert Lively One, whose last three races were 1 1/16 miles, to Wednesday's seven-furlong distance, so he'll run him next in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Catalina on Feb. 10. . . . The Daily Racing Form reports that LeRoy Jolley, the Hall of Fame trainer, and Peter Brant, one of racing's most successful owners, have split up, and Brant's horses in New York and California are going to Wayne Lukas. Brant and Jolley were together for six years and some of their best horses included Track Barron, Mogambo, Spit Curl, Class Play and Gulch. Brant gave no reason for the change, other than the opportunity to work with Lukas, who has been the nation's leading money-winning trainer for the last five years. . . . Ruhlmann, winner of the El Camino Real Derby at Bay Meadows Sunday, will probably run next in the Florida Derby at Gulfstream Park March 5.