The Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park carries with it a $400,000 prize purse as well as bragging rights heading into the Kentucky Derby.
While it’s light on for numbers, its high on for quality. Here are our Santa Anita Derby Picks
The nine-furlong race makes for interesting betting with each horse holding current or past class credentials.
It is however set up as a showdown between two horses in particular.
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1 FRIAR’S ROAD
The first of Michael McCarthy’s two entries, Friar’s Road is still yet to win, and should it get up in this field in this coveted race, it’ll be a story in itself.
It comes in as a longshot, however, he has improved in his second start, finishing second to Shooters Shoot who also appears in the G1 Santa Anita Derby alongside him. He showed terrific closing in another runner-up finish at the beginning of May showing vast improvement.
While his claims to win this race are at long odds, he’ll have no issues at the trip of nine furlongs.
Michael McCarthy won’t be too worried about the 10-and-a-quarter belting that Rushie copped when second to Charlatan in a local optional earlier in the year – for Charlatan is a special class of horse.
But he ran a fine race at Oaklawn after that effort to take a different claimer over the fancied pair of Candy Tycoon and Background which is why he will have admirers in this race.
The win was convincing enough ye one-and-one-quarter lengths but the step up into high-rated company makes the task at hand more difficult.
A placing isn’t out of the question, but I don’t think he can win it.
3 SHOOTERS SHOOT
Peter Eurton went from turning a good effort with Shooters Shoot locally to winning at Oaklawn, holding him in good stead for the G1 Santa Anita Derby.
Shooters Shoot won his maiden by 3-and-one-quarter lengths over Friar’s Road who he’ll also meet again in this particular race. The win at Oaklawn was special. He defeated well-regarded Blackberry Wine by a neck and in doing show, showed why he could be a threat in this race.
Once he breaks from the gates, he’ll move to the front in his preferred front-running style, but can he hold off the likes of Authentic and Honor A.P? I’m not so sure.
4 ANNEAU d’OR
Blaine Wright has been steadfast in his approach towards the Santa Anita Derby with Anneau d’Or and he hasn’t wavered.
Many would remember Anneau d’Or’s run in the first division of G1 Arkansas Derby at the beginning of May, and given the current state of play around Charlatan’s positive race day test, he could move up the order of placings to fourth, further mounting his case towards the G1 Santa Anita Derby and adding prize money as well as vital Kentucky Derby qualifying points.
But right now that’s not the focus.
He challenged Charlatan hard in that race, sitting second before fading in the final stretch to finish fifth, which therein lays the issue.
He’s more of a turf horse in my opinion, and that’s because Anneau d’Or lacks speed. That final closing kick on dirt where a horse needs to be able to dig in and grip to advance forward is where he lacks right now.
Without that conversion from turf or synthetic to dirt – it hampers his ability to win or to get into the placings. That is what goes against him in this race when comparing him to Authentic and Honor A.P in this particular race.
5 AZUL COAST
One of two Bob Baffert-trained entries into the G1 Santa Anita Derby, Azul Coast came in second in the G3 Sham Stakes back in January.
He didn’t quite threaten eventual winner and stablemate Authentic – losing by seven-and-three-quarter lengths. But that race isn’t the focus.
He showed serious gusto in the El Camino Derby upstate in San Francisco’s Golden State Park, claiming the win in emphatic fashion. But just how well will that form on synthetic turf translate to the dirt of Santa Anita Park?
He’s an outsider, but given the short field, it keeps him within placing chance. He will have to do plenty to overcome the big boys in Authentic and Honor A.P but stranger things have happened.
6 HONOR A.P
Trained by John Shirreffs, last October Honor A.P broke his maiden in impressive fashion in a local start by five-and-a-quarter lengths over well regarded Tizamagician.
The son of Honor Code was then spelled and didn’t feature again until the G2 San Felipe Stakes where he appeared a touch unfit in March.
In saying that, Honor A.P handled the pace well but run out of puff in the straight – which was bound to happen after a lengthy layoff but he still finished a gallant second, albeit to Authentic who he will once again face-off against in this race.
He has been prepped for this race, and with fitness and greater distance now at his disposal, he is a serious contender and will rattle the cages in the final stretch where he is tipped to come into his own.
He won’t have the favoritism that Authentic will carry, so from betting perspective – there’s plenty to like about Honor A.P in the G1 Santa Anita Derby.
Trained by dual Triple Crown-winning trainer Bob Baffert, Authentic deserves outright favoritism.
The big three-year-old has won all three starts, including the local G3 Sham Stakes and G2 San Felipe Stakes this year.
In the San Felipe, Authentic got the better of an unfit Honor A. P., who ran like a short horse in the stretch. The pair will battle it out once more in what currently appears as a two-horse race.
With young horses, a lot can change between March and June, especially as the distances increase. On past form alone, Authentic looks like the best horse to back in this race.
The query may be the stretch out to nine furlongs given Authentic’s breeding hasn’t shown signs of stamina in either Dam or Sire in the past. Nevertheless, he is a class horse with serious form behind him – and winning form is good form.