The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby is historically a very strong prep race for the Kentucky Derby. It is contested at the distance of 9 furlongs for a whopping purse of $1,000,000. The last winner in the Run for the Roses that exited the Santa Anita Derby was 50-1 shot Giacomo in 2005. Before him we saw Sunday Silence in 1989 and Winning Colors in 1988. Point Given, winner of 2001 edition of the race, took the Preakness Stakes and Belmont Stakes. The 1986 winner, Snow Chief, won the Preakness.
Premier Pegasus will be the favorite for this race after he smashed a strong field in the San Felipe Stakes last out. He won that race by 7 3/4 lengths and covered the 8.5 furlongs distance in a swift 1:41 1/5. Owner and trainer Myung Kwon Cho removed the blinkers for the first time in that race and it worked perfectly as the son of Fusaichi Pegasus closed from 7th for the win after previously winning only after making the lead.
I really like his chances here and I think its going to take a big time performance to beat him. Premier Pegasus is ranked at #3 in our Kentucky Derby Contenders list and for good reason. He has improved strongly from 2 to 3 and will only get better with more distance. He will never be a victim of pace as jockey Alonso Quinonez has enough tactical speed at his disposal to place him wherever he likes. This colt closed at 9-1 in the last Kentucky Derby Future Wager. His performance here will dictate whether or not those who bet him made a good decision to back him so strongly. I have a feeling they wont regret it.
The biggest threat to the favorite is likely to be El Camino Real Derby winner Silver Medallion. The son of Badge Of Silver hasn’t raced since taking the aforementioned race over Jakesam. The third place finisher in that spot, Positive Response, came back to win the Battaglia Memorial easily and was sent off the favorite in the Spiral Stakes. Garrett Gomez will get the mount from Russell Baze for trainer Steve Asmussen. This will be his first time racing on dirt, but I don’t expect that to hinder him. The winning move he made in the El Camino Real Derby was quite impressive, but he is facing much stronger foes here. If he improves he has got a shot.
Eion Harty’s colt Anthony’s Cross will get plenty of support. Personally, I am not wild about his chances. He added blinkers and won the Robert Lewis last out. He beat a sub par field and he would have to move forward big time to win here. Look for him to be close to the pace. Jockey Joel Rosario is a big plus, but in the end I can’t endorse him as he is just too slow.
Bob Baffert is a 5 time winner of the Santa Anita Derby and has two entries this year. The first, Jaycito, was last seen finishing second to Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe Stakes. He broke his maiden in the Norfolk Stakes last year. His talent is tremendous, but there are still some quirks for him to work out. Baffert is throwing blinkers back on to keep him more focused. In the end I can’t back the closer over this speed favoring track, but his future should be very bright.
The other Baffert entry is Midnight Interlude. The Arnold Zetcher owned son of War Chant broke his maiden by 8 1/2 lengths in his 3rd career start last out. That win was in wire to wire fashion over a wet fast track. His works are smoking and his pedigree is begging for more distance. He probably isn’t ready for this caliber of competition just yet. I won’t make him a win candidate, but I can certainly see him running a big race for second place.
Patrick Valenzuela became the youngest jockey to win the Santa Anita Derby when he took the race back in 1980 with future Preakness Stakes winner Codex. 31 years later he has the mount on Indian Winter. The Jerry Hollendorfer trained son of Indian Charlie finished third in the Del Mar Futurity at two and was most recently second in the Turf Paradise Derby after being fractious and rank. The colt has two wins under his belt. He will need to improve here and distance is a question mark. Having P-Val in his corner will work to his advantage though.
Mike Smith could have a Kentucky Derby contender in Mr. Commons if he runs a huge race here. The son of Artie Schiller broke his maiden going 6.5 furlongs on the down hill turf course at Santa Anita. After that he turned in a strong race to win a first level allowance by a head. John Sheriff’s isn’t one to run horses over their heads so he must think Mr. Commons is ready for the big time. Who am I to disagree?
To recap I like the favorite, Premier Pegasus, to win the Santa Anita Derby. I don’t think there is a colt in this race good enough to mount a coup. I encourage using him as a single on Pick 4 tickets and playing him over Silver Medallion, Midnight Interlude and Mr. Commons in the exacta. He could be worth a win bet depending on his odds. I won’t speculate as to a fair price though.
Who do you like to win the 2011 Santa Anita Derby?