Brian’s Derby Preps: The Santa Anita Derby

Brian Nadeau is back this year to offer insight and analysis on this year’s road to the Kentucky Derby. A handicapper at Horseplayer Now and Capital OTB, he’ll analyze every official Derby points race and the three Triple Crown races, back at Brooklyn Backstretch for the sixth year.

Santa Anita: The $1 million Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles (Kentucky Derby qualifying points: 100-40-20-10)

#1 Term of Art (12-1): Stretch-runner picked up the pieces left over from the wake of Mastery’s demolition of the local prep, the GII San Felipe last month, though there’s no doubt that that third-place run was by far a career breakthrough for a relative also-ran up to then. Well-bred son of Tiznow drew perfectly here for O’Neill and seems to be going the right way, and the pace should be honest with so many entered, especially since a lot of them start off dismal runs and are no guarantee to get the distance; expecting another biggie.

#2 Reach the World (5-1): The first of three from Baffert just missed to next door rival Battle of Midway in a local optional-claimer last month, and while there’s upside here and that was his first start against winners, don’t confuse the race for being fast or overly impressive. Tapit colt certainly has a lot of potential and is still learning after three starts, but 5-1 would be a big underlay, even though this is an extremely weak renewal of California’s premier Kentucky Derby prep; underneath only.

#3 Battle of Midway (5-1): Tactical son of Smart Strike was all-out to beat ‘World last time and already came up well short when he faced today’s favorite Iliad in the local GII San Vicente in February, so while he seems improved and that was his two-turn debut last time, there are some big roadblocks today. It’s a good sign to see Hollendorfer throw him right back into the fire after that last win, and like his buddy to the left, there’s plenty of talent and room for improvement, though it’s a bit presumptuous to think it’s coming out today; not seeing it.

#4 Comma Sister (50-1): Ginormous longshot had to get to the turf to break his maiden last time and now comes back on the dirt for Papaprodromou, who is having a nice year but is bringing a water pistol to a gun fight today. Tale of the Cat colt definitely returned as a better horse off the break, and the blinkers helped, too, but up to this point his two dirt runs say he’s more likely to be last than first; no chance.

#5 So Conflated (15-1): The second from O’Neill has yet to cross the wire first in a dirt race and is another who is way out of his element against this deep and competitive, if unspectacular, field. Versatile son of Eskendereya has already had a busy campaign, running at Golden Gate and Aqueduct in his last two, and while winning the California Derby on the Tapeta at the former is nice for your resume, the distant sixth in the GIII Gotham at the latter is more likely an indication of how he’s performing today; easy toss.

#6 American Anthem (5-1): The second from Baffert presents handicappers with a real dilemma, as he was deemed one of the ones when he dueled with fellow rival Gormley for every inch of the local GIII Sham in January only to come up a head short in the slop, then bombed in Oaklawn Park’s GII Rebel last time, when he didn’t raise a hoof finishing 10th. And before you just draw a line through that, don’t forget Baffert is about 70% in OP 3yo stakes the past several years, so to see this son of Bodemeister run so poorly is a real worry, and even though he’s worked well since and seems to like the local surface, rebounding off that dismal run at a false price isn’t our type of play; next.

#7 Kimbear (12-1): Dominant MSW winner will stretch out to two turns on the main track for the first time and figures to be on or just off what looks like a potentially contested, albeit somewhat moderate, pace, and if Talamo wants to send, the lead is probably there for the taking. Stepping up off just a maiden win into a GI Derby prep, is a big ask, but Kruljac makes the move with a son of Temple City who is bred for this and doesn’t meet the toughest field we’ve ever seen, so while most will dismiss him, it might be a good idea to give him a second glance; thinking there’s a little something here.

Gormley and Victor Espinoza. Zoe Metz photo

#8 Gormley (9-2): Local GI FrontRunner winner gamely defeated ‘Anthem in the Sham, then came unglued when put in a tough spot in the San Felipe, as he was chasing/dueling between throughout and threw in the towel off the far turn to check home a very disappointing fourth. It’s good to see Shirreffs forge on with this son of Malibu Moon, and he’s obviously got some class, but you get the impression he was exposed a bit last time, and his win in the FrontRunner was a bit of false advertising, as he’s done nothing but blink when facing the big boys; completely tossing.



Iliad and Flavien Prat. Benoit photo.

#9 Iliad (7-2): The horse to beat and third for O’Neill looked Mastery in the eye off the far turn in the San Felipe, then was disposed of like a 35k claimer, which only speaks to the immense talent of that undefeated runner, as this dude had all the best of it that day while spying a sharp pace 3-deep and waiting to pounce. Well, it didn’t work out, but the big horse is on the sidelines and anyone who saw this son of Ghostzapper’s romp in the San Vicente knows he’s a potential star and by far the most gifted horse in the field, and the San Felipe was his first start at two turns, too, so he can build off that run, though it’s tough to argue with anyone who says his best trip will be a one-turn mile; on top, albeit with little confidence.


#10 Milton Freewater (30-1): Cal-bred bomber picks one heck of a spot to try graded stakes foes for the first time, especially since he couldn’t win an open optional-allowance last time off the layoff, and looks third-best of the four O’Neills. Tactical son of Creative Cause should be close on the stretch-out and has built a decent ledger in the state-bred ranks, but that’s not scaring anyone in here; needs his own kind to have a say.

#11 Irish Freedom (20-1): Baffert’s third is in an odd spot, as he didn’t fire when a well-beaten fifth to ‘Midway last time, in what was his first start since his debut win at Del Mar in August, and seems way too far behind the rest of these on seasoning. Pioneerof the Nile colt did impress in that August win and will probably be heard from at some point this year, but this is way too much too soon, even for this barn; tabbing for down the road.

#12 Midnight Pleasure (30-1): Son of Midnight Lute was third behind ‘Freewater in the local optional-claimer last time, in what was his first start since a distant fourth to Gormley in the FrontRunner, so it’s tough to think he’s a player here, especially with this wide draw. The placement is a confident one by Ruis, and this colt was a decent third to then-hotshot Klimt in the GI Del Mar Futurity last summer, but in the “what have you done for me lately?” world of racing, that’s not cutting it in here; midpack finish at best.

Royal Mo and Victor Espinoza. Zoe Metz photo.

#13 Royal Mo (10-1): Wire-to-wire winner of the local GIII Robert Lewis in February was ninth in the Rebel, one slot ahead of ‘Anthem, so where he stacks up is anyone’s guess, especially since he walked on the lead and only beat four rivals in his big win. The second from Shirreffs is a lot like his stablemate, in that it’s put up or shut up time, and while it’s tough to toss any son of Uncle Mo in a Derby prep, this poor draw and that uninspiring run last time says that approach might be the most prudent one; playing against.





#9 Iliad

#1 Term of Art

#7 Kimbear

#2 Reach the World

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