2021 Kentucky Derby Prep: Santa Anita Derby

By Margaret Ransom

The field of 10 for the Santa Anita Derby (G1), which has traditionally served as the Golden State’s final and most significant Kentucky Derby (G1) prep, has been set for this Saturday and sits back in its traditional spot four weeks out from the Run for the Roses, which will be held on May 1.

Last year, the Arcadia oval’s feature race was postponed for two months to early June after the Run for the Roses in Louisville was pushed back four months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Santa Anita Park - US Racing Photo

Santa Anita Park – Photo Courtesy of US Racing Photo

Once again, the race offers Derby points to the top-four finishers on a 100-40-20-10 scale, which means the winner and quite possibly even the second-place finisher will gain an automatic spot in the gate for this year’s Derby.

And even though the race’s purse has been dropped to $750,000, down from the $1 million on offer over the past decade but up from the $400,000 last year, it still drew a field of ten that packs a significant talent punch.

The main event, which has been carded as Saturday’s eighth race, will go off at 3:30 p.m. PT. This year the local weather calls for dry conditions but cooler than earlier in the week, with afternoon highs hovering at about 80 under mostly sunny skies.

In 2018, a lightly raced son of Scat Daddy named Justify made just his third career start and his stakes debut in the Santa Anita Derby and won by three widening lengths, all en route to becoming horse racing’s 13th Triple Crown winner. In 2014, eventual two-time Horse of the Year California Chrome won Santa Anita’s top prep before wearing the garland of roses in Louisville, and in 2012 I’ll Have Another also won, joining the list of past winners that is made up of nothing but Hall of Famers – A.P. Indy, Sunday Silence, Winning Colors, Affirmed, Majestic Prince and Swaps.

Other names to have started or win the Santa Anita Derby include Pioneerof the Nile, Point Given and Free House, as well as off-the-board runners Silver Charm, Giacomo and many more. Exaggerator romped to a 6 ¼-length victory in the slop in 2016 before finishing second in the Derby and capturing the Preakness Stakes (G1) and three years ago the race would be the last career win for the John Shirreffs-trained Gormley. Last year Shirreffs saddled his third Santa Anita Derby winner in Honor A.P., who currently is standing his first season at stud at Lane’s End farm in Kentucky.

Since first contested in 1935, a total of 11 Santa Anita Derby winners – Hill Gail (1952), Determine (1954), Swaps (1955), Lucky Debonair (1965), Majestic Prince (1965), Affirmed (1978), Winning Colors (1988), Sunday Silence (1989), I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014) and Justify (2018) — went on to wear the garland of roses in Kentucky, with Affirmed and Justify representing two of the exclusive club of 13 Triple Crown winners. Overall, the race has produced 19 Derby winners.

Not surprisingly, Hall of Famer Bob Baffert has saddled a record nine winners, including Roadster two years ago, Justify, Dortmund (2015), Midnight Interlude (2011), Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Point Given (2001), General Challenge (1999), Indian Charlie (1998) and Cavonnier (1996). This year he sends out a talented pair in Medina Spirit and Defunded.

Retired Hall of Famer Gary Stevens has booted home a record nine winners – Winning Colors (1988), Mister Frisky (1990), Personal Hope (1993), Brocco (1994), Larry the Legend (1995), Indian Charlie (1998), General Challenge (1999), Point Given (2001) and Buddy Gil (2003).

Three horses share the fastest time of 1:47 for the nine-furlong distance – Lucky Debonair (1965), Sham (1973) and Indian Charlie (1998).

The field for the Santa Anita Derby, in post-position order, with jockeys, trainers, odds:

  1. Roman Centurian (Juan Hernandez, Simon Callaghan) 8-1

Empire Maker–Spare Change, by Bernardini

  1. Dream Shake (Flavien Prat, Peter Eurton) 7-2

Twirling Candy–Even Song, by Street Cry (Ire)

  1. Rock Your World (Umberto Rispoli, John Sadler) 4-1

Candy Ride-Charm the Maker, by Empire Maker

  1. Parnelli (Edwin Maldonado, John Shirreffs) 20-1

Quality Road-Sip Sip, by Bernardini

  1. Back Ring Luck (Tyler Baze, John Sadler) 20-1

Malibu Moon-Patti O’Rahy, by Rahy

  1. Ottothelegend (Mario Gutierrez, Steve Asmussen) 12-1

Uncle Mo-House of Danzing, by Chester House

  1. Medina Spirit (John Velazquez, Bob Baffert) 5-2

Protonico-Mongolian Changa, by Brilliant Speed

  1. Law Professor (Kent Desormeaux, Mike McCarthy) 10-1

Constitution-Haunted Heroine, by Ghostzapper

  1. The Great One (Abel Cedillo, Doug O’Neill) 8-1

Nyquist-Little Ms Protocol, by El Corredor

  1. Defunded (Mike Smith, Bob Baffert) 8-1

Dialed In-Wind Caper, by Touch Gold