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Santa Anita Derby Preview: Racing Holds Its Breath

Santa Anita Derby Preview: Racing Holds Its Breath

Racing continues this weekend at Santa Anita, despite the impending feeling of doom at a track that is surrounded in controversy. The entire horse racing world is holding their breath coming into this massive day of racing at The Great Race Place, hoping that all the horses come back healthy and sound. There is no doubt this meet has weighed heavy on the hearts of all racing fans. As for the Santa Anita Derby (G1), a small field of 6 will assemble for this year’s running of the event. Scheduled for race 8 on a outstanding 11-race card, the Santa Anita Derby has a local post time of 3:30 PM CT.

The star of the show this year is Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Stakes (G1) winner Game Winner, who suffered his first defeat last time out in his 3-year-old debut in the Rebel Stakes (G2). The Bob Baffert trainee has nearly $2 million in earnings, which makes him the classiest horse in the race by a wide margin. He drew the outside post today, with jockey Joel Rosario aboard once again.

Bob Baffert brings two horses into this race, with the highly-touted Roadster being his other legitimate threat. As a 2-year-old, Roadster was said to be Baffert’s “next big horse,” before a few health issues caused him to miss some time. After a throat surgery to help with his breathing, he made his 3-year-old debut a winning one, defeating Nolo Contesto in an allowance event last time out at Santa Anita. Mike Smith will ride once again today, breaking from the rail.

Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer also has a star horse in this race, with the highly hype Instagrand, who will need to rebound after a third place effort last time out in the Gotham Stakes (G2). That was his first race off of a long layoff, after last seen taking off the Best Pal Stakes (G2) last August at Del Mar. Jockey Flavien Prat takes the mount today, breaking from post 5.

The full field of 6 from the rail out includes: Roadster, More Ice, Nolo Contesto, Synthesis, Instagrand, and Game Winner.

Blue Grass Picks

Top Choice

#6 Game Winner – To be honest, I had Roadster on top in this race for awhile, but just couldn’t quite pull the trigger because of the class of Game Winner. Last time out in the Rebel Stakes (G2) he suffered the first loss of his carer, losing to Omaha Beach by a nose. Even in defeat, he ran very well in that race, while most likely being ready to improve with this being his second start off the layoff. In his races he has shown a lot of heart, which is something that not many in this crop has displayed. He is the class of this race. All of us that are backing him will hope that class out does flash in this contest.

Horses to Use in Multi Race Wagers

#1 Roadster – It really is amazing how much hype this horse has picked up over the last few weeks since returning to dominate allowance company at Santa Anita last time out. That race was solid; however, there is no doubt he must make a big improvement in this race to have a shot. Trainer Bob Buffet seems extremely high on this horse, though, which is enough for all of us to take a major interest. Baffert does not lie in his interviews. He has told everyone that will listen that this horse is doing very well leading up to this race.

#5 Instagrand – For weeks, I’ve been on the fence about this horse, but in the end I do believe his talents are high enough to give him one last shot. As far as a win bet, I’d stay away until he proves himself going these longer distances, yet I wouldn’t let him beat me on a multi-race ticket. He desperately needed to get a race under his belt last time out in the Gotham Stakes (G2). He’ll be much more fit for this race, with the major question now being whether he is a two-turn horse, or better going one-turn.

How is Saratoga Slim playing this race? See exclusive bonus analysis for the Santa Anita Derby in our Inside Track to the Blue Grass wagering guide!

Exotic Plays

#3 Nolo Contesto – When analyzing this horse you definitely come away a little confused about his true talents. Two races back he defeated Omaha Beach in a maiden special weight by a half-length. That win looks spectacular now, with Omaha Beach coming back to win a maiden special weight, before heading to Oaklawn Park and defeating Game Winner in the Rebel Stakes (G2). However, Nolo Contesto came back to run a very average second next time out in an allowance event, losing to Roadster. He has some talent; however, it’s not enough to think he can win this race today.

Party Crashers

NONE – One of the “big three” will win this race. No party crashers this time around.

Throw Outs

#2 More Ice – This is a surprise entry for Jerry Hollendorfer, who will be running on the dirt for the first time since his debut race way back in July at Los Alamitos. In his last start, he was a distant third in the El Camino Real Derby, behind Anothertwistafate and Kingly. Obviously, this is a much tougher task for him today.

#4 Synthesis – After a fourth place finish in the San Vicente Stakes (G2), this horse will now stretch out in distance for a challenge that will be much stiffer. He is likely to be one of the longest prices on the board, with very little hope of making much of an impact in this top heavy affair.

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