Kobe's Back scores a layup


Kobe's Back lived up to his name with a stylish rebound in Sunday's Grade 2, $200,250 San Vicente Stakes at Santa Anita. By leaving his debacle in the December 14 CashCall Futurity well behind him, the powerfully-built gray joined stablemate Candy Boy on the Kentucky Derby trail for C R K Stable.

A $480,000 two-year-old in training purchase at OBS last March, Kobe's Back has raced only in stakes company in his brief career. The John Sadler trainee debuted in the June 15 Willard Proctor Memorial at Hollywood, where he broke badly, trailed the field, yet still blew his rivals away down the stretch to win handily by 3 ¼ lengths.

Kobe's Back was not seen again for five months. When returning in the November 10 Hollywood Prevue, he ran into a buzzsaw named Shared Belief and settled for second, beaten 7 ¾ lengths. Kobe's Back tried Shared Belief again in the CashCall, only to be hampered when clipping heels on the backstretch.

Ironically, it was his companion Candy Boy who was involved in the incident. Candy Boy went on to finish best of the rest behind Shared Belief, while Kobe's Back never recovered, and Joel Rosario wrapped up on him as he trudged home 10th. A stewards' inquiry ensued, but the original order of finish stood, and Candy Boy kept his second-place performance.

On Sunday, things went according to plan for Kobe's Back. With Rosario back aboard, the 8-5 favorite was content to lope along at the rear. Although Papa Turf blasted to the lead out of the gate, Cherubim, the slight second choice at 8-5, flew up to match strides through splits of :22 ⅗ and :45 seconds. Grazen's Hope attempted to make it a three-way scrum, but couldn't go their pace and dropped back.

As Cherubim began to master Papa Turf on the far turn, Kobe's Back was already unwinding. He entered the stretch with ever-gaining momentum, and set his sights squarely on Cherubim, who winged six furlongs in 1:09 1/5. Inhaling the longtime leader, Kobe's Back kicked away by 5 ¼ lengths and completed seven furlongs on the fast track in 1:21 ⅘.

Kobe's Back rewarded his many loyalists with a win payout of $5.40, and advanced his record to 4-2-1-0, $200,250.

Cherubim held the runner-up spot by one length. Late-running Rprettyboyfloyd, who had scratched out of a maiden race Saturday in favor of tackling the San Vicente, got up for third. Papa Turf, previously runner-up to the Bob Baffert-trained Indianapolis in the San Pedro, checked in fourth, followed by Roger Rocket and Grazen's Hope.

The San Vicente didn't offer points toward the Kentucky Derby, but Sadler indicated that Kobe's Back would go points-hunting next time.

Bred by Joanne R. Mummert in Kentucky, Kobe's Back first sold for $60,000 as a Fasig-Tipton Kentucky October yearling, before bringing a windfall at OBS. The Flatter colt is out of the winning Well Decorated mare Well, making him a half-brother to Grade 3-winning sprinter Well Spelled. This female line is also responsible for Grade 2 hero Notation and Grade 3 victor My Creed, and further back, Group 2-winning sprinter Indian King.