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The Racing Dudes team reacts to Taiba surging past Messier to win the Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita Park, then discuss who they like moving forward, including any potential longshots. Join our replay watch-along to get our instant LIVE reactions to this major Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race worth 100-40-20-10 points to the top 4 finishers, then tell us your thoughts about the race in the Comments section!
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The track press release:
With his well-supported stablemate seemingly in control, trainer Tim Yakteen’s Taiba wheeled three-deep at the top of the lane and assumed command approaching the sixteenth pole in a scintillating 2 ¼ length victory in Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby. Ridden by Mike Smith, Taiba, who is owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc., got a mile and one eighth in 1:48.67.
The Santa Anita Derby, which has produced 19 winners of the Run for the Roses in Kentucky, provided Taiba with 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, with 40, 20 and 10 points to the second through fourth place finishers.
As expected, Richard Mandella’s Forbidden Kingdom went straight to the front, but was pressed every step of the way by Messier through early fractions of 23.23, 46.66 and 1:10.93.
A quarter mile from home, Messier, trained by Yakteen, put Forbidden Kingdom away but was no match for the winner late.
“You could have poured me out of a shot glass earlier,” said Yakteen, who took over the training of Taiba, Messier and fourth place finisher Armagnac from the recently suspended Bob Baffert. “But these two horses represented me unbelievably in this race and I’m just absolutely thrilled, floored, with the effort that Taiba put forth.”
A 7 ½ length first-out maiden winner going six furlongs March 5, Taiba was the third choice in a field of six at 4-1 and paid $10.60, $3.60 and $3.20.
“He didn’t really (break) that very well,” said Smith, 56. “I didn’t want to get in the way. I wasn’t in a hurry. I felt the others would do the dirty work for me and it set up just fine. He showed just how special he is. He belongs with anyone. He just recovers really well. I’m not getting any younger. As I get older, I have felt that something special is going to happen. This just may lead to that. The sky’s the limit.”
In addition to Baffert being absent from this year’s festivities in Kentucky there will be added drama surrounding Taiba, as his owner experienced victory and subsequent disqualification via a positive test for a prohibited race-day medication with last year’s Derby winner, Medina Spirit.
With the winner’s share of $450,000, Taiba, a $1.7 million 2-year-old in training sale purchase, bumped his earnings to $490,200 as he heads to America’s biggest race.
For his part, Messier, a 15-length winner of the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 6, ran his heart out but it wasn’t near enough to hold off his upstart stablemate. Off at 6-5 with John Velazquez, he paid $2.80 and $2.10 while finishing 10 lengths in front of longshot Happy Jack.
Ridden by Abel Cedillo, Happy Jack was off at 26-1 and paid $4.20 to show.
Complete splits on the Derby were 23.23, 46.66, 1:10.93 and 1:35.97.
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