Brian’s Derby preps: The Santa Anita Derby

The Santa Anita Derby – Grade I – $500,000 – 1 1/8 Miles, by Brian Nadeau

Finally the long anticipated meeting between West Coast leaders The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof The Nile, but there are a few others signed on that have thoughts on spoiling the party and making a case for a Derby berth. Let’s take a look how it might shake out.

Chocolate Candy: Undisputed leader of Northern California travels south in an attempt to prove that he belongs with the big boys. He certainly wasn’t disgraced the last time he was here, judging by that close third to Pioneerof The Nile in the Grade I CashCall. Owns some tactical speed and some stretch punch to boot and he does draw well in here. Should also have some pace to set up and he might get first run on Pioneerof The Nile. The logical alternative to the two heavy favorites has some things to like.

Z Day: Presumably he’s entered to keep Pioneerof The Nile honest and set it up late for that one, so look for him to flash some early foot before backing out of it.

Unbridled Roman: He’s run twice in stakes and both outings have left a lot to be desired. And not only does he face much of the same cast that drilled him in the Sham, but he also gets Pioneerof The Nile as well. He’s in mighty deep on Saturday.

Pioneerof The Nile: So which side of the fence are you on? The backers will tell you he’s been workmanlike in his last two, which resulted in victories in a pair of stakes that were far from the major goal. The detractors are here to say that he had to work awfully hard at 3-10 to run away from some moderate allowance foes last time in the San Felipe, not to mention that he’s never run fast and the bottom of his pedigree doesn’t exactly scream 9 furlongs. Plus, he’s never faced anyone like The Pamplemousse and on paper he’s going to be spotting that guy more than a few lengths turning for home. Thinking he’s in for a rude awakening on Saturday.

Mr. Hot Stuff: Colonel John’s little brother has very quietly put things together in his last two. Sure, he was nowhere near The Pamplemousse last time, but he did pass six horses and he’ll get a lot quicker splits in here to aid that late rally. We all know that these 3-year-olds are apt to improve by leaps and bounds overnight, and the feeling here is that we haven’t seen close to the best this guy has to offer. And who’s hotter than Harty these days? And don’t forget, folks, the top two have the Derby earnings in the bank, so the screws don’t have to be fully tightened. This guy’s on the outside looking in, and judging by his works since the Sham, he’s on go for Saturday. So if the favorite gets pressured early and ‘Pioneer fails the acid test late, who’s going to be there to pick up the all pieces at an overlaid price? You guessed it–the choice for the upset.

Feisty Suances: State-bred allowance winner gave ‘Pioneer a big scare in the lane last time before relenting late. That was a nice effort but now he faces that rival again, not to mention a few others that look even bigger and meaner.

Take The Points: Look for this nice colt to scratch and run in next weekend’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.

Cape Truth: Talk about being thrown to the wolves. This guy has all but a maiden win to his credit in two lifetime starts. Not exactly the resume you want to bring into a Grade I that figures to send more than one on to the Kentucky Derby.

Gallant Son: Nice turn of foot in his win in the Pasadena here on the lawn. And we know that turf form usually stacks up well on the synthetics, so maybe he’s not without hope. Still, he’s tried better foes on more than one occasion and come up wanting, so not expecting that to change in here.

The Pamplemousse: The deserving favorite has been nothing short of breathtaking in his two local graded stakes scores. He’s basically just run the competition off their feet and coasted home. Well, with Z Day signed on, that doesn’t figure to happen in here. But that might just force this guy to relax and get a one-over trip, much like Quality Road got last week in the Florida Derby–and we know how that worked out. On this day and on this surface this colt is a formidable and deserving favorite that will take a ton of beating at a short price. Four weeks from now in Louisville it’s a whole different story.

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