Being in the winner's circle after the San Felipe Stakes was not a new experience for owners John Toffan and Trudy McCaffery and trainer Paco Gonzalez.
The trio had been there last year after Odyle rallied to beat Smithfield and Cavonnier in the final local prep for the Santa Anita Derby.
This time, Toffan, McCaffery and Gonzalez, who saw Free House upset favored Silver Charm and seven others Sunday at Santa Anita, just hope to get an opportunity to compete in the Derby in three weeks, and, maybe, the one four weeks later in Kentucky.
Nine days after he won the San Felipe, Odyle was sidelined because of an injury to his left ankle and he didn't return to the races until Aug. 26 at Del Mar.
This year, the owners and trainers could very well have an entry in the Santa Anita Derby because they also have Bagshot, whose late-running style would complement that of Free House.
At times his own worst enemy, Free House made no mistakes in the San Felipe, tracking the pace set by King Crimson most of the way, then holding off the 11-10 choice under David Flores to win by three-quarters of a length in 1:42 2/5 for the 1 1/16 miles.
It was the third win in eight starts for the gray son of Smokester, who paid $23.40 Sunday. But it was his first win since the Norfolk Stakes last Oct. 6.
"With Free House, you just let him go, break him well and get him out of there with good position," said Gonzalez. "He rated just a little bit on the backside really nice. He's still green. When he makes the lead, he wants to stop.
"When he learns to run and realizes all of his abilities, he's going to be a very tough horse to beat. He's already a nice horse. A mile and an eighth [the distance of the Santa Anita Derby] is going to be nice."
Trainer Bob Baffert, who beat Free House with Silver Charm in the seven-furlong San Vicente in their first meeting, is looking forward to the rubber match.
Seemingly going nowhere with a little more than a quarter of a mile to run in his first race around two turns, Silver Charm picked it up and wound up beating King Crimson by a length for the place.
Baffert, who won the Santa Anita Derby last year with Cavonnier after running third in the San Felipe with that gelding, was happy with the effort.
"He got so much out of this today, it sets him up perfect for the Derby," said Baffert. "He passed the two-turn test. He's so lazy that racing is the best thing for him. He'll be a fitter horse next time."
Holzmeister, the 7-2 second choice, was fifth in his California debut, his first start since a 17-length win in the Hawthorne Juvenile last Nov. 17.
"It looked like he might have needed the race today," said trainer Richard Mandella.
Crypto Star has made all five of his starts at the Fair Grounds in New Orleans, but the 3-year-old son of Cryptoclearance will be making a trip soon.
Going to Kentucky for the Blue Grass Stakes on April 12 is probably next for Crypto Star after his win in the $400,000 Louisiana Derby on Sunday.
In winning for the third time in five starts, the 4-1 second choice rallied from far back under Pat Day to beat 10-1 shot Stop Watch by a head in 1:42 3/5 for 1 1/16 miles.
Horse Racing Notes
The San Felipe was the first time David Flores had ridden Free House since the colt's maiden victory at Fairplex Park last Sept. 13. . . . Jockeys Matt Garcia and Alex Solis won twice Sunday. . . . Making his first start for trainer Henry Moreno, 20-1 shot Windy's Halo rallied to beat Gastown and win the $91,200 Crystal Water Handicap. Ridden by Julio Garcia, he covered the mile on turf in 1:35 4/5. Favored Cat's Cradle finished fourth.