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Santa Anita Derby Preview: Large Field Set to Square Off
Dream Shake breaking his maiden (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Santa Anita Derby Preview: Large Field Set to Square Off

ARCADIA, CA – Get your popcorn ready, it’s showdown time at The Great Race Place!

The field for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) has 10 sophomores set to square off in California’s final Kentucky Derby (G1) prep race. The Santa Anita Derby shares Saturday’s spotlight with the Wood Memorial Stakes (G2) from Aqueduct and the Blue Grass Stakes (G2) from Keeneland.

Even though trainer Bob Baffert lost Life Is Good to injury, he still has the headlining horse for this race in Medina Spirit, who’s finished first or second in all 3 local preps this year. At one time or another, he defeated this race’s major challengers at least once, including last time when second in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). He drew post 7 and has John Velazquez coming in to ride for the second straight start.

The rapidly-developing Dream Shake wants to make his second stakes try a winning one after finishing third in the San Felipe last time out. The Peter Eurton trainee won impressively on debut and will break from post 2 for this with Flavien Prat aboard.

Roman Centurian is a consistent local who was second 2 starts back in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) before finishing fourth in the San Felipe. Juan Hernandez will be up back for the ride when he breaks from the rail.

The full field from the rail out: Roman Centurian, Dream Shake, Rock Your World, Parnelli, Back Ring Luck, Ottothelegend, Medina Spirit, Law Professor, The Great One, and Defunded.

Top Choice

#7 Medina Spirit – With Life Is Good gone, this is now the top horse in California. It seems as though this horse has gotten no respect on the Triple Crown trail, despite winning the Lewis and finishing second in the Sham Stakes (G3) and the San Felipe (the latter against some of these same foes). John Velazquez returning to ride is a great sign, too. “Cut off one head, two more shall take its place” – a well-popular quote from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or the annual description for what happens to the Baffert barn?

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#2 Dream Shake – He seems like he has the most upside, but he was beaten pretty easily by the top choice last time out. He should be right there with a chance, though, based on his talent level. He was never going to turn the tables on a horse like Life Is Good, but with that one out of the picture, he’ll have a better chance to get the job done here.

#9 The Great One – With a better trip, he could turn the tables on this group, but he must get better early positioning. He’s been extremely inconsistent throughout his career, but he can compete with this group at his best. Jockey Abel Cedillo needs to send this horse right from the start and play “catch me if you can.” If he gets that kind of ride, then he’s the logical choice outside of the top pair.

Exotic Plays

#1 Roman Centurian – He has the look of a horse who hits the board in big races but never really threatens to win. He’s a consistent runner who will likely qualify for the Derby, but he’s not a serious win bet candidate.

Party Crashers

#10 Defunded – The “other” Baffert is always dangerous, especially when a Hall of Fame jockey like Mike Smith is aboard, so keep an eye on him. Logic says that he’ll be up against it in a big way for his first race against winners and going two turns, but sometimes logic gets thrown out the window when it comes to this barn producing massive efforts.

#3 Rock Your World – We’ll see if this turf horse can successfully move to the dirt after impressively winning both starts thus far. Moving to dirt is very difficult, especially when it comes with a class hike, so his odds will dictate if he’s playable. Demand a square price before playing this talented, interesting horse.

Throw Outs

#4 Parnelli – This horse was pretty promising as a juvenile, but his 3-year-old season has been pretty horrific. Maybe he can turn it around here, though there’s no real reason to think that he will.

#8 Law Professor – His win last time out against maiden special weight company earned him a shot here, even though that was not the toughest of fields. Still, don’t blame the connections for taking a swing, even though he probably needs a race against lesser company before trying to tackle these types.

#5 Back Ring Luck – After 2 straight wins (including last out against Oaklawn Park allowance company), he was nominated to the Triple Crown, but he looks overmatched in this tough spot.

#6 Ottothelegend – I was pretty shocked to see Steve Asmussen ship this horse all the way to California after he broke his maiden at Oaklawn Park. This is a pretty ambitious spot, especially considering the Arkansas Derby (G1) will be at his home track next weekend.

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