ARCADIA, CA – Speedway Stable’s Roadster languished at the rear until just the right moment, then blew past his foes in the stretch to score big in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita Park.
Breaking from the rail under Mike Smith at 3/1 odds, Roadster took back and allowed Instagrand to post opening fractions of :23.34, 47.84, and 1:12.20. Sitting several lengths behind as he entered the far turn, Smith waited until the 3/8 pole, then gave Roadster the cue to move. The Bob Baffert trainee began quickly gobbling up ground and, by the time he straightened for home, was running four-wide under a full head of steam.
Collaring his 1/2-favored stablemate Game Winner inside the final furlong, Roadster inched his way past late to win by a 1/2-length in a final time of 1:51.28 for the 1 1/8-mile event over the fast main track.
“The first time he ran for me, he showed me he had all the gears,” said Smith, who has been Roadster’s only rider in 4 career starts. “The second time, he had the problem with his wind. We fixed that and he’s doing all the right things. We got a good break and then we dropped back. He took a breather while the others were going out there quick. When I asked him again, he was gone.”
The Santa Anita Derby is part of the Road to the 2019 Kentucky Derby prep race season. Roadster earned 100 points for the win, with Game Winner receiving 40 for second, Instagrand 20 for third, and Nolo Contesto 10 for fourth.
Game Winner kept on strongly under mostly a hand-ride from jockey Joel Rosario and took second by 1 3/4 lengths. As the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile champion, Game Winner was already secured a spot in the Kentucky Derby gate based on points, but his stablemate was not. The Santa Anita Derby was Game Winner’s second start since winning the Breeders’ Cup last fall, and Baffert was bullish on his prospect moving forward.
“It was a great finish,” said the Hall of Fame trainer after winning his ninth running of the race. “They were both finishing well, they were fighting. Game Winner is a fighter. It was a great stretch run. At the 1/8 pole, I knew I was going to win, I just didn’t know which one, but it was exciting. I think Game Winner’s next race will be better. I’ve been bringing him along really easy.”
After being allowed to use his speed on the front end, Instagrand traveled well but ultimately came up short under jockey Flavien Prat. With only 30 total points to his name (having earned 10 in last month’s Gotham Stakes [G3]), Instagrand will need a bit of luck in order to make the Derby.
“I thought he ran well,” Prat said. “At the 1/4 pole, I thought maybe I was done, but he switched leads and made a good run.”
Nolo Contesto weakened steadily off of the far turn after spending much of the race stalking Instagrand. He finished 3 lengths ahead of Synthesis, while More Ice never factored into the race and finished over 27 lengths behind the winner to complete the order of finish.
Roadster’s win was his second straight since returning from surgery to fix a breathing issue and improved his overall record to 4-3-0-1. The 3-year-old son of Quality Road, purchased for $525,000 as a yearling, increased his career earnings mark to $706,200.
“Roadster is a light horse but always showed brilliance from day one,” Baffert said. “We’re just lucky we were able to bring him back. His breathing is not an issue. Today, he passed the test to know he’s good enough to go to the Big Show.”
Roadster returned $8.20 to win, $3 to place, and $2.40 to show. Game Winner brought back $2.40 to place and $2.10 to show, while Instagrand paid $2.60 to show.