We’re going coast to coast with the Wood Memorial in New York and the Santa Anita Derby in California this weekend. Excitement is in the air as trainers and owners look take to take their winner to Churchill Downs on the first Saturday in May.
The Santa Anita Derby is a Grade I derby for 3-year-old thoroughbreds. Grade I is the highest grade of horseracing. The race takes place on Saturday, April 9, and is ran on 1 and 1/8th mile of dirt with a purse of $1 million.
Saturday’s contenders have run a variety of stakes races at Santa Anita Park that lead up to derby day. The San Rafael Stakes, San Miguel Stakes, San Felipe Stakes, and Sham Stakes, to name a few.
The Santa Anita Derby stands out with the third highest number of winners – at a total of 14 – who have made it to the Kentucky Derby with six horses that have won. In 1978, Affirmed took home the Triple Crown with three consecutive Santa Anita victories, including an eight-length score in the Santa Anita Derby.
Every horse running in this weekend’s Grade I California prep has First Saturday in May aspirations, but all need to add some money to qualify for the 20-horse field.
So who will go the distance?
Premier Pegasus, who was the early heavy favorite (8/5), has been scratched from this year’s Santa Anita Derby with a hairline fracture in his front left cannon bone that will sideline him four months.
After winning the Grade II San Felipe in March by nearly eight lengths, the three-year-old son of Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus became the top West Coast contender for the Run for the Roses on the first Saturday in May.
Handicappers and fans had already speculated that something might be wrong with the colt after turning in some questionable training times. Regardless, he took the spotlight and earned the respect he deserved with his resounding score in the San Felipe.
With 10 horses remaining, the race now becomes a wide-open affair.
With PrePeg out of the running, Jaycito, making his second start for trainer Bob Baffert, is likely to go off favored after finishing second to PrePrg in last month’s 1 1/16-mile San Felipe Stakes, and at 4/1 odds is staring from the far outside. Martin Garcia, who rode Bob Baffert trainee Lookin’ at Lucky to a win at the 135th running of the Preakness Stakes at Pimlico in 2010, will guide him.
Jockey David Flores will ride Bench Points (12/1), who was third in the San Felipe, and Comma to the Top (6/1) piloted by the feisty and aggressive Corey Nakatani, was fourth. Both are back for the Santa Anita Derby, drawing post 10 and 9 respectively.
Steve Asmussen’s Silver Medallion (9/2), who has won stakes races on turf and synthetic in his last two, including a win at the El Camino Real Derby, drew well, landing post 4 and will have the experienced Garrett Gomez in the stirrups.
Anthony’s Cross, the winner of the Robert Lewis Stakes, is in post 9, and will likely go off as a 6/1 favorite at post time. Youngster Joel Rosario will be in the irons aboard the colt he rode to a close win in the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita earlier this season.
Starting from post 2, Indian Winter is a 15/1 dark horse who took 2nd in the 2011 Turf Paradise Derby, while Mr. Commons ridden by the very capable Mike Smith, is 12/1 after an impressive 1 mile dirt win in the SA Allow back in February.
Quail Hill (50/1), Offlee Wild Boys (50/1), as well as the “other” Baffert entry, Midnight Interlude (20/1), who is coming off an eight and a quarter length maiden breaking victory, all deserve looks as potential upsets.
Everything is on the line for these colts, as anything short of a win will likely end their Derby dreams. That’s what makes this year’s Santa Anita Derby race all the more interesting.
My pick is Silver Medallion This horse is peaking at the right time and with Gomez-who rode Blame to a win in the 2010 Breeder’s Cup Classic over unbeaten Zenyatta– in the irons. I say that this colt has a good chance of winning this year’s Santa Anita Derby.