Taiba, a $1.7 million sale purchase, went from maiden winner to a major Grade 1 Kentucky Derby Presented by Woodford Reserve contender with a 2 1/4-length victory over Messier April 9 in the Grade 1 RUNHAPPY Santa Anita Derby. Amr Zedan, who owned 2021 Kentucky Derby first-place finisher Medina Spirit, also owns Taiba and had the confidence in his colt to jump him from a six-furlong maiden race to the 1 1/8-mile grade 1 event at Santa Anita Park.
The $750,000-guaranteed Santa Anita Derby, which in recent years has sent winners Justify, California Chrome, and I'll Have Another to capture the Run for the Roses, was supposed to determine whether Forbidden Kingdom or Messier would be the West Coast's best opportunity at victory beneath the iconic Twin Spires. Taiba was a surprising entrant in the race, and his trainer, Tim Yakteen, said a few days before the race that it was "going to be a bit of an ask" for the chestnut colt to win. But Yakteen also said that Taiba had been training forwardly and that "he has impressed very much in the morning."
Forbidden Kingdom, the even-money favorite, went to the lead as expected under jockey Juan Hernandez, but not with the same domination he had shown in such earlier victories as the Grade 2 San Vicente Stakes and San Felipe Stakes. Messier, the 13-10 second choice, and jockey John Velazquez didn't allow that to happen, sticking within a half-length or a length of Forbidden Kingdom through much of the early going.
Velazquez, who piloted Messier in his devastating 15-length triumph in the Feb. 6 Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes, also rode Taiba in his debut and elected to stay with Messier for the Santa Anita Derby. Veteran Mike Smith picked up the mount, being Zedan's choice, according to Yakteen.
Smith kept Taiba close to the leading pair, two lengths back of Messier after Forbidden Kingdom completed the first quarter-mile in :23.23.
"I wasn't in any hurry," said Smith. "I felt the others would do the dirty work for me and it set up just fine."
Forbidden Kingdom completed the first half-mile in :46.66, with Messier still in second. Messier launched his bid in the second turn, drawing even with Forbidden Kingdom approaching the quarter pole. Taiba, racing three wide in the turn, ranged up to challenge in the stretch, and once Messier put away Forbidden Kingdom, he had to deal with Taiba.
Taiba caught Messier approaching the final sixteenth, but his rival did not give up. Taiba simply proved better than the more experienced runner that day and ultimately drew off for the win, stopping the timer in 1:48.67. Messier was clearly best of the rest, with 10 lengths separating him from third-place Happy Jack. Armagnac finished fourth, followed by Win the Day and Forbidden Kingdom.
Smith paid tribute to Taiba's performance, saying, "He showed just how special he is. He belongs with anyone."
Smith has now won three of the last four editions of the Santa Anita Derby, taking it earlier with Justify in 2018, Roadster in 2019, and Honor A. P. in 2020. Justify went on to win the Triple Crown.
"It's hard to actually verbalize what he just accomplished," Yakteen said of Taiba's performance. "You don't see that at this level unless you're just exceptionally, exceptionally gifted. Obviously, this horse has that type of talent because Messier ran absolutely super—lights out. That was a strong horse to collar."
Yakteen took over the training of Taiba, Messier, and Armagnac not long before their previous trainer, Bob Baffert, began serving a 90-day suspension stemming from Medina Spirit's positive test after last year's Kentucky Derby. In the wake of the Medina Spirit situation, Churchill Downs last year announced that no horses in Baffert's care would be eligible to earn points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby.
The Santa Anita Derby offers 100-40-20-10 points for the first four finishers. Thus, Taiba and Messier, who had no points going into the race, have earned enough to get into the Kentucky Derby. Tabia ranks eighth on the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard while Messier is 18th. Third-place finisher Happy Jack, who had 10 points going into the Santa Anita Derby, now has 30 points, putting him on the bubble to make the 20-horse field in spot 23.
Gary Young, who picked out Medina Spirit for Zedan as a 2-year-old for $35,000, bought Taiba as well. Bruce C. Ryan bred the son of Gun Runner —Needmore Flatter, by Flatter, in Kentucky. Buckland Sales consigned the colt to the 2020 Fasig-Tipton Kentucky Fall Yearling Sale, where Hartley/De Renzo Thoroughbreds purchased him for $140,000. Hartley/De Renzo pinhooked Taiba into the 2021 Gulfstream Sale, Fasig-Tipton's 2-year-old select sale, where Young purchased him $1.7 million, the second-highest price of the sale.
When trained by Baffert, Taiba debuted March 5 in a six-furlong Santa Anita maiden special weight race. He went off as the 1-2 favorite and scored by 7 1/2 lengths.
Taiba is the only winner out of the young black-type winner Needmore Flattery, who was purchased by Yeguada Centurion for $195,000 from the Lane's End consignment to the Keeneland November Breeding Stock Sale in 2019. She dropped an Uncle Mo filly in Ireland in 2020 that remains unnamed. -Tracy Gantz
Arizona-Bred Desert Dawn Upsets Santa Anita Oaks
Closing from eight lengths off the lead of pacesetting fellow Phil D'Amato trainee Ain't Easy at 14-1 odds, the homebred daughter of Cupid gave 3-5 favorite Adare Manor all she could handle in a ding-dong battle down to the wire and emerged victorious by a neck.
Desert Dawn was entered off a fourth in the March 6 Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes and had just a maiden win earned in August 2021 to her credit, yet punched her ticket to the May 6 Grade 1 Longines Kentucky Oaks with her win in Saturday's 1 1/16-mile event. The Santa Anita Oaks awarded qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale to the top four finishers, placing Desert Dawn fifth on the Kentucky Oaks Leaderboard for a field limited to 14 starters.
Off at odds of 3-1, Ain't Easy shot to the front from post 2 while Adare Manor and John Velazquez, breaking from the far outside in a field of five sophomore fillies, pressed her every step of the way through splits of :23.05, :46.46, 1:10.56, and 1:37.76.
Ain't Easy had a head advantage on the favorite turning for home but tired leaving the furlong pole while Desert Dawn pounced and inched clear late to narrowly prevail.
"We are obviously disappointed in the result," Velazquez said of Adare Manor's loss. "She just didn't run her 'A' race. She broke slowly and was in a good position in the backstretch, but she just didn't run the way she usually does."
It was 7 1/2 lengths back to Ain't Easy, who held for third. The final time was 1:43.50 on a fast track. Desert Dawn returned $31.20 on a $2 win ticket. -BloodHorse Staff
Going Global Wins 2022 Debut in Royal Heroine Stakes
With a dismal performance on dirt now a distant memory, trainer Phil D'Amato's sensational Irish-bred Going Global remained unbeaten on the Santa Anita Park turf as she waltzed to a comfortable 1 3/4-length score in the April 9 $200,000 Grade 2 Royal Heroine Stakes. Ridden for the first time by Umberto Rispoli, Going Global got a flat mile in 1:33.97.
A measured second, one length off of pacesetter Javanica past a :24.59 opening quarter mile and :48.35 half-mile. Going Global, who typically rallies from off the pace, took command leaving the quarter pole and proved much the best under a vigorous hand ride.
"Although (it was) a small field, she was very impressive," said D'Amato, who has now saddled Going Global to win seven of her nine stateside starts. "She did it very easily. Umberto got her to relax and she did everything very well today. That last one on the dirt, that was my mistake. I should have never run her that day. She had a nice freshening since then and she responded very well. We are going to keep her on the grass the rest of the year and see where we are at year's end."
Sixth, beaten 15 1/4 lengths in the Grade 1 American Oaks originally scheduled for grass but switched to a wet-fast main track on Dec. 26, Going Global is now unbeaten in five starts, all stakes, over the Santa Anita lawn.
Off at 1-5 in a field of four older fillies and mares, the 4-year-old filly paid $2.60 and $2.10 with no show wagering. -Molly Rollins
Cairo Memories Bounces Back in Providencia Stakes
A return to the grass proved just the thing to send David A. Bernsen and Schroeder Farms' Cairo Memories back to the winner's circle in the April 9 Grade 3 Providencia Stakes Presented by The Thoroughbred Aftercare Alliance.
In a race that was won around the first turn, Cairo Memories out-footed Sterling Crest early, established control and exploded through the lane in a thoroughly dominant performance to win the $100,000 Providencia Stakes by 4 1/2 lengths. Ridden by Mike Smith and trained by Bob Hess, Jr., Cairo Memories, in the race of her life, got a mile and one eighth in 1:47.33.
A stakes winner going one mile on turf at Santa Anita in her second career start on Oct. 3 of last year, Cairo Memories was never a factor when beaten 24 lengths on dirt in the March 6 Grade 3 Santa Ysabel Stakes and it's safe to say, the turf is where she'll remain from here on.
The Cairo Prince filly, out of the Indian Charlie mare Incarnate Memories, earned her first graded stakes victory and now has three wins from six overall starts. -Molly Rollins
Brooke Marie Takes Monrovia Stakes
Brooke Marie, one of the top female grass sprinters in Louisiana over the winter, has proven her chops in California.
With trainer Eddie Kenneally shipping the 6-year-old mare west to Santa Anita Park to compete against a short field in the $200,500 Grade 2 Monrovia Stakes the daughter of Lemon Drop Kid responded by running down pacesetting Alice Marble for a half-length victory.
The Monrovia provided Castleton Lyons' Brooke Marie with the first graded stakes win of her 15-race career. In December, she registered her first black-type triumph in the Pan Zareta Stakes at Fair Grounds Race Course & Slots. -Byron King