Santa Anita Derby Preview: Danzing Candy vs. Mor Spirit Rematch

Danzing Candy cruised to an impressive two length win under Mike Smith in Saturday’s Grade II, $400,000 San Felipe Stakes - Photo Credit: ©Benoit Photo
©Benoit Photo

The Pace Scenario

Speed – Danzing Candy, Iron Rob

Stalkers – Denman’s Call, Exaggerator, Smokey Image, Uncle Lino

Closers – Mor Spirit, Dressed in Hermes, Rare Candy, Diplodocus

It looks as though Danzing Candy could get the exact same trip he got in the San Felipe last time out which could be bad for the rest of the field.  Iron Rob is the only “new shooter” that could press Danzing Candy, but going two turns is very questionable for him.  Horses that come from behind may have to change tactics and sit closer to the pace.


#1 Denman’s Call – Tough assignment today as this will be his first race going long.  In his three sprint efforts he’s been solid, and was only beaten four lengths by Nyquist going 7 furlongs.  However, I don’t like him as much stretching out so I do not believe he can make an impact here.

#2 Exaggerator – Unfortunately he just hasn’t looked like the same horse when going around two turns.  At the top of the stretch in the San Felipe it looked like Exaggerator was going to win the race, but he flattened out big time in the stretch.  It might get worse this time around as the distance gets longer today.  Not a fan of him until he gets back to one turn races.

#3 Danzing Candy – The lack of respect this horse seems to be getting is unfair.  Yes, he did get an easy lead and had things his own way, but he was able to do so because he has a very high cruising speed and the other horses couldn’t get to him.  He should get the same kind of set up again on Saturday against these horses, and could very well do the exact same thing once again.  I think he truly is a top 3 Kentucky Derby prospect, and I believe it will take a big time performance from another horse to pass him in this race.

#4 Mor Spirit – Hopefully…finally…this horse has his mind on business and is ready to put it all together on Saturday.  We’ve stated several times that he has the talent and ability to be very good, but he just hasn’t been a horse that’s shown he wants to do it.  However, his last two workouts have been the best he’s ever had, and all the signs point to him being ready to run his best race.  He’ll have to do just that if he wants to beat Danzing Candy, but I believe he will put it all together this weekend and get the job done with the added distance.

#5 Smokey Image – He can’t possibly be as bad as he ran last time out in the San Felipe.  While facing open company for the first time is always a challenge, it seemed Smokey Image was uncomfortable from the very start.  I’m willing to draw a line through that race, and am happy they are giving him another shot.  However, that race rattled my confidence enough to not want to back him this time out.

#6 Iron Rob – Much like Denman’s Call this will be a very tough task today as this will be his first race around two turns.  Iron Rob did beat Denman’s Call last time out so that’s the good news, and he could also keep the pace honest as he has the speed to press Danzing Candy.  I can’t see him hanging around when the real running gets going though.

#7 Dressed in Hermes – Looks to be more of a turf horse as his two dirt races weren’t too good.  Worth giving it a shot here for his connections, but wouldn’t put him on any tickets.

#8 Rare Candy – Just doesn’t look to be good enough from a class standpoint to compete with this group.  The added distance could help move him up somewhat, but it won’t be enough.

#9 Diplodocus – Will be the longest shot on the board…and for good reason.  Virtually no shot.

#10 Uncle Lino – Was beaten 10 lengths last time out by the same horses that are in this race, but I don’t feel like he ran his normal race last time out.  Expect a better effort today, but in the end I just don’t think he’s good enough to compete with these types.  His post position will do him no favors.

Bubble Watch

Who is already in: Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit are already in the field on the first Saturday and May so no heavy lifting will need to be done by them in his race.

Who is on the bubble: Exaggerator can finish in the top 4 and make his way to the Kentucky Derby, and even if he was to finish worse than that he’d still likely have enough points to run in the Derby.

Who really needs to win: Denman’s Call, Smokey Image, Iron Rob, Dressed in Hermes, Rare Candy, Diplodocus, and Uncle Lino really need a win or second place effort to lock themselves into the Kentucky Derby starting gate.

Top Picks and Plays

Nothing fancy for me in this race…it’s going to be a two horse race between Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit.  I believe Mor Spirit has shown improvement since the San Felipe and will turn the tables here so I’ll put him on top.  Danzing Candy lands in the second spot, and I will use the “ALL” button for third on the bottom of trifectas.  As far as multi race wagers go I will only use Mor Spirit and Danzing Candy.  Good Luck and enjoy this great weekend of racing!

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