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Santa Anita Derby Preview: Showdown at Santa Anita
Honor A. P. breaking his maiden (Credit: Ernie Belmonte)

Santa Anita Derby Preview: Showdown at Santa Anita

The day has finally arrived!

After two months of waiting, Santa Anita Park finally gets to host its biggest race of the season, the $400,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1). Local post time for the Santa Anita Derby is 4:00 PM PT.

This year’s edition attracted a solid field of 7 horses and will go off as race 8 on a fantastic Saturday card that includes six other stakes, including the Fran’s Valentine, the Santa Anita Oaks (G2), the Crystal Water, the Cinema, and the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1).

Headlining the Santa Anita Derby field is the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic, who is undefeated in three career starts. He kicked off his 3-year-old campaign with a blowout gate-to-wire victory in the Sham Stakes (G3) that announced his arrival as a Kentucky Derby (G1) contender. He was triumphant in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) over this track in his next and most recent race, a victory that made him one of the top horses in his crop. He will break from post 7 under Drayden Van Dyke.

Honor A. P. looks like the favorite’s biggest challenger. The John Shirreffs trainee has worked beautifully in the mornings and has massive potential. In his lone start this season, he ran second in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) behind Authentic, which was considered a solid effort off of a lengthy layoff. The added distance is in his favor and Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith will be back aboard as he breaks from post 6. 

One horse desperately looking to turn things around is Anneau d’Or, who has not run well as a 3-year-old. After finishing second in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and the Los Alamitos Derby (G2) last season, the colt enters this event off of back-to-back poor efforts in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) and the Arkansas Derby (G1). He’ll look to get back on track when he breaks from post 4 with Victor Espinoza up for the mount. 

The full field from the rail out: Friar’s Road, Rushie, Shooters Shoot, Anneau d’Or, Azul Coast, Honor A. P., and Authentic. 

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Top Choice

#7 Authentic – He has shown elite talent in his two victories this season. His Sham Stakes (G3) antics down the stretch caused some concern, but that was corrected by the time he won his next start in the San Felipe Stakes (G2). His early speed is always going to make him dangerous, especially when his biggest rival likes to come from off the pace. That’s the main reason why we have him on top in this spot, though as the distances continue to get longer, it will become tougher and tougher for him to hold off his rivals.

Horses to Use in Multi-Race Wagers

#6 Honor A. P. – He has been heavily hyped for nearly a year, and when you see him in person, you understand why. His recent workouts have matched his good looks; several Southern California clockers are raving about his progression heading into this start. The added distance works in his favor and makes him a prime contender. In what truly looks to be a two-horse race, can he turn the tables on Authentic?

Exotic Plays

#5 Azul Coast – He shouldn’t be considered a serious win contender, but his running style suggests that he could hit the board at a decent price. The second Baffert trainee in the field did just that two starts back in the Sham Stakes (G3) before shipping to Golden Gate to win the El Camino Real Derby. That seems to be where he fits from a class prospective; this might be too tough for him to win.

Party Crashers

#3 Shooters Shoot – He proved to be a fighter last time out when dueling with Blackberry Wine in an allowance race at Oaklawn Park. The two were neck-and-neck the entire stretch before Shooters Shoot pulled ahead at the wire for the win. This is a much tougher test, but that last race showed off his talent. Look for him to be right on the lead with Authentic early, and if he can handle the added distance, then he has a chance to stick around and make things interesting when the real running begins. 

Throw Outs

#2 Rushie – Past the top two horses in the race, the rest of this group is pretty evenly-matched. Rushie has been consistent all year and has two wins while facing lessor company, but he was no match for Charlatan in an allowance two starts back over this surface. 

#4 Anneau d’Or – It’s really hard to play anyone exiting last year’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) this season; none of the horses have done anything in 2020, and Anneau d’Or – second in that race – has been one of the bigger disappointments. He must prove himself as a 3-year-old before he can be taken seriously. 

#1 Friar’s Road – This maiden was a late surprise entry. Two races ago, Shooters Shoot beat him easily. That horse is a fringe contender here at best, so Friar’s Road is a big longshot. 

Check Out Our Full Card Picks in the Inside Track to the Santa Anita Derby

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