The Santa Anita Derby produced yet another Kentucky Derby winner last year, though not in the traditional manner. Even with the Santa Anita Derby contested in June and the Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve pushed back to the first Saturday in September, trainer Bob Baffert was able to send out Authentic to a runner-up finish in Santa Anita Park’s main prep and then won the run the roses with him three months later.
Back to its regular spot on the calendar, this year’s Grade 1 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby features Baffert trying to extend his record win total to 10 with two hopefuls, including the probable favorite.
The race will be televised by NBC Sports as part of their “Road to the Kentucky Derby” series during a two-hour program airing on NBCSN and beginning at 5:30 p.m. ET. Also be sure to check out ABR’s “Santa Anita Park: Road to the Derby Live!” on Saturday, April 3. Hosts Dan Tordjman, Bram Weinstein and Ren Carothers will take viewers right up to post time for the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby in an immersive second-screen livestream experience that allows fans and bettors to interact in real-time.
1. Roman Centurian (8-1 morning-line odds): He ran a huge race to finish a neck behind Medina Spirit in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes and then came up empty in the San Felipe Stakes. Whether you believe he peaked in the Lewis or bounced in the San Felipe is the key to his chances here. His workouts seem ordinary for this race, so I’ll stay away.
JOCKEY: Juan Hernandez; TRAINER: Simon Callaghan
2. Dream Shake (7-2): He was a super impressive maiden winner and then was third in his first stakes try in the San Felipe Stakes, 10 ¼ lengths behind the victorious – and subsequently injured – Life Is Good. He was 2 1/4 lengths behind Medina Spirit that day and figures to benefit from the experience. Looks like a main contender.
JOCKEY: Flavien Prat; TRAINER: Peter Eurton
3. Rock Your World (4-1): He’s 2-for-2 but those wins came on turf. On the plus side, he has a pedigree for dirt has worked nicely on the main track. He’s an interesting possibility if there’s value on the toteboard.
JOCKEY: Umberto Rispoli; TRAINER: John Sadler
4. Parnelli (20-1): He’s made two starts in stakes and lost by a combined 33 lengths. Adding blinkers might help his cause, but can they produce a big enough turnaround to be a main factor here? Don’t think so.
JOCKEY: Edwin Maldonado; TRAINER: John Shirreffs
5. Back Ring Luck (20-1): Was claimed for $30,000 out of his final start at two and then won his 3-year-old debut four months later in an Oaklawn Park allowance race. He was a bargain for $30,000, but this seems a bit too ritzy for him.
JOCKEY: Tyler Baze; TRAINER: John Sadler
6. Ottothelegend (12-1): He stretched out to two turns and won an Oaklawn Park maiden race in the kind of mediocre time that does not bode well for his chances.
JOCKEY: Mario Gutierrez; TRAINER: Steve Asmussen
7. Medina Spirit (5-2): The injury that sidelined Life Is Good turned the Santa Anita Derby into a wide-open race. Or did it? This colt has won two of four starts and the only horse who has finished in front of him is the aforementioned Life Is Good. He has a nice turn of tactical speed and with Baffert calling the shots, he’s a very deserving favorite and the one to beat.
JOCKEY: John Velazquez; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
8. Law Professor (10-1): He’s another maiden winner taking an ambitious step forward. He showed some potential in that victory, and with continued improvement he could emerge as a contender for a minor piece of the purse.
JOCKEY: Kent Desormeaux; TRAINER: Mike McCarthy
9. The Great One (8-1): Broke his maiden by an explosive 14 lengths, then lost by more than 16 lengths in the San Felipe Stakes. It took him five tries to break his maiden, so maybe he’s a one-hit wonder. We’ll see.
JOCKEY: Abel Cedillo; TRAINER: Doug O’Neill
10. Defunded (6-1): Baffert’s “other” starter only has a maiden win and has not raced beyond six furlongs. With another trainer, he’d be a tossout. With Baffert? Give him a long look, especially with Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith aboard.
JOCKEY: Mike Smith; TRAINER: Bob Baffert
THE PICK: Medina Spirit
LIVE LONGSHOT: Law Professor