Santa Anita: The GI, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles
#1 Flashback: Highly touted Baffert runner won the battle but lost the war when he dueled through suicidal fractions with fellow rival Goldencents and succumbed late in the local prep, the GII San Felipe in March. and will need to settle a bit better to negotiate the nine furlongs today. You could argue he showed more in defeat than he did in his two previous wins, including the GII Lewis here in February, as he battled hard every step of the way and was only beaten a half-length to the closing Hear the Ghost, who won’t be running Saturday. On paper, the race goes through this son of Tapit, but the rail is no easy draw and could present his new rider Gomez with a few issues that might cloud the picture at very low odds; still, figures mighty tough to deny.
#2 Hear The Ghost: SCRATCHED
#3 Power Broker: The second of three from Baffert hasn’t been seen since an extremely wide but disappointing fifth in the BC Juvenile here in November and sure picks a mighty ambitious spot to make his 3yo debut. On the plus side, he is a GI winner over the track, having taken the FrontRunner (to break his maiden, no less) in September, so you know the talent is there, but that win was also accomplished over one of the most intense inside speed biases of recent memory. Expecting this son of Pulpit to show a lot more speed today, and with a clean break, you can envision him setting the pace from the inside, but with the big horse next door, not to mention a few other toughies with some early zip, wiring this crew seems a bit out of reach; limiting his use to underneath in the exotics.
#4 Tiz a Minister: Cal-bred stretch runner closed from a furlong back to finish third in the San Felipe in a sharp graded stakes debut and should love the extra half-furlong he gets to play with today. The issue here is pace, or lack thereof, as they went ballistic early last time and don’t figure to be throwing down a 45 4/5 half-mile in this longer affair. If you’re a fan, the price will be right, and you could do worse than backing a horse you know will be picking them up in the final furlong, but thinking a win seems a little overzealous; using underneath, if at all.
#5 Goldencents: Accomplished O’Neill charge came unglued late in the San Felipe when he felt the brunt of his duel with Flashback in the stretch and shortened stride noticeably in the final furlong to finish fourth. That result was a far departure from his seasonal debut in the local GIII Sham in January, when he settled nicely before powering off for the win, which backed up his GIII Delta Jackpot score to end his 2yo campaign. Son of Into Mischief goes back to the drawing board today, and with this middle draw he should be able to sit a much more patient trip, especially in light of those longer, slower works he’s shown in the morning since the San Felipe. The price should be right on a colt that was one of the Derby favorites just a month ago, and he drew much better than his buddy on the rail, so let’s see if he can’t get back in everyone’s good graces; call to post the mild surprise.
#6 Super Ninety Nine: The last of the Baffert trio has some questions to answer after throwing in a clunker with no apparent excuse at 6-5 in Oaklawn Park’s GII Rebel in March, and he wheels back on three weeks rest over a track he’s two-for-three on. If the Rebel was a big step up, you could somewhat forgive the result, but it came a month removed from an 11 ¼-length tour de force over the same track (albeit in the slop) in the GIII Southwest, so you have to wonder what gives today? The fact that he’s back on relatively short rest is a good sign, and it’s tough to fault Baffert, but at a trip that might have been out of his scope to begin with, he’s got his work cut out for him; playing against.
#7 Summer Exclusive: So do you do want the good news or bad news first on this Miller trainee? Well, the good news is that he ran fast early and often in his MSW win and won like a good thing last month. The bad news is that that start came at 6 ½ furlongs in his career debut, and now he steps up and meets winners and graded stakes foes for the first time all while testing two turns, too. So yeah, there are some serious hurdles here, and to see the blinkers come off after such a sharp win is a bit odd, too. On paper he’s somewhat reminiscent of GI winner Paynter, who ran in this race last year off an MSW debut win, but while we all know how good that guy turned out, we also know it took awhile after he was fourth in this race; tabbing for down the road.
#8 Storm Fighter: Intriguing newcomer stretched out last time and blew the doors off an MSW field in his two-turn debut to suggest he’s one to watch this spring/summer for Headley. Of course, he beat state-breds that day and takes about the biggest class rise you can imagine, so this is clearly asking a lot. Stevens fans get their man at a big price, and he’s owned this race over the years (a record nine wins), but this has the look of “too much too soon”; minor award appears to be his ceiling today.
#9 Dirty Swagg: The longest shot of the field was beaten 27 ½ lengths in the Sham and hasn’t started since, so he’s got a major form reversal staring him in the face if he wants to factor in this tough GI. Son of Street Hero showed some talent last fall running third in Hollywood Park’s Real Quiet on the synthetic, but his two dirt conventional dirt runs have been abysmal; figures to bring up the rear.
#3 Power Broker