Brian Nadeau’s Road to the Triple Crown: The Santa Anita Derby

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

by Brian Nadeau

You can also check out Brian’s analysis of the Wood Memorial and the Blue Grass.

#1 Instilled Regard (5-1): Fair Grounds’ GIII Lecomte winner was exposed a bit in their GII Risen Star when last seen in mid-February, when he was a flat fourth as a stiff favorite, in a race where the top two—Bravazo and Snapper Sinclair—were two huge longshots who didn’t distinguish themselves next out there in the GII Louisiana Derby, so this colt’s form comes into even further question. Son of Arch drew well and would seemingly benefit if the two heavy favorites get in a tussle early, and Hollendorfer sure does spot him aggressively, but off his latest, it’s tough to think he can do better than be a trifecta kicker; minor award appears his ceiling.

#2 Orbit Rain (50-1): One of two maidens entered is Bolt d’Oro’s stablemate, but that’s where the similarities end, as this son of Orb is way out of his element and likely was only entered by Ruis with a short field expected; no chance.

Bolt d’Oro on the track at Santa Anita. Alex Evers photo

#3 Bolt d’Oro (6-5): The clear horse to beat was put up to first (somewhat shockingly) in the local GII San Felipe last month, when he threw it down with fellow heavyweight McKinzie, while finishing well clear of third-place runner Kanthaka (who is the pick to win today’s GII Blue Grass at Keeneland, so check out the preview on the site, as well as the results), so you know he didn’t lose any luster off a salty 2-year-old campaign. And while pundits may worry about regression off such a tough seasonal debut, Ruis certainly didn’t have him cranked that day, and he figures to build off that return, not bounce, which is a scary proposition indeed. Son of Medaglia d’Oro also has a huge edge over his main rival Justify in that he’s battle-tested to the core and won’t blink when he gets looked in the eye, which is why many think, this handicapper included, that there’s a blanket or roses waiting for him in the winner’s circle at Churchill Downs; heads to Louisville as clearly the one to deny.

#4 Jimmy Chila (30-1): The second maiden entered has run third in three of four career starts, so he does appear to have some talent, but this son of Jimmy Creed is in way over his head for O’Neill and Reddam, who never shy from a big dance; easy toss.

#5 Pepe Tono (20-1): Price player finished some 7 3/4 lengths behind Justify in a local optional-claimer here in the mud last month and will need a drastic form reversal to bridge that gap, not to mention the seismic one Bolt d’Oro represents, too. Bodemeister colt did improve with the addition of blinkers that day and will be close early, and Garcia has enjoyed a stellar year with limited starters, but this colt won’t be adding his name to the ledger; figures a pace casualty.

Justify and Mike Smith at Santa Anita. Benoit photo

#6 Justify (4-5): The horse who would be king embarks on a Herculean two-race task today, as he starts down a path to try and become the first horse since Apollo since 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without racing as a 2-year-old. Many a handicapper and the betting public think he’s the one to do it, too, as he’s been one of the heavy favorites in Vegas and the Churchill Downs’ Derby Future Wager, even though he has as many Derby qualifying points as you, me, and Dupree, which would be absolutely zero. Speedy son of Scat Daddy has come a long way in a short period of time for Baffert, as he was an unraced maiden the morning of February 18, and while he sure has looked awesome winning with ease over a bunch of overmatched runners and figures to be in front early here, his fan base has yet to take a deep breath and ask what the big horse in stall three would have done in those spots; looks a legit 2-5 against these, to run second.

#7 Core Beliefs (20-1): The best of the longshots looked like a new horse stretching out to two turns and taking the blinkers off when he blasted local maidens in fast time last month, and if nothing else, he could be a legitimate pace nuisance to Justify, which won’t help either of their chances. It should be no surprise that a son of Quality Road woke up going long, and Eurton knows what to do with a good horse, so this is a name to remember, though today this is probably a case of “too much, too soon”; figures for a small share.


#3 Bolt d’Oro

#6 Justify

#1 Instilled Regard

#7 Core Beliefs

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