2017 Santa Anita Derby Preview


April 6th 2017

The past twenty years, no Derby prep race has produced more Kentucky Derby winners than the Santa Anita Derby. The Santa Anita Derby has produced six Kentucky Derby winners over this time frame: California Chrome (2014), I’ll Have Another (2012), Giacomo (2006), Charismatic (1999), Real Quiet (1998) and Silver Charm (1997). 

This year’s Santa Anita Derby field seems to be lacking the Derby trail quality that it has enjoyed the past few years. Mastery’s injury indeed hurts here but most of the top 3-year-olds this year are based west of the Mississippi River.

That being said, there is enough talent to make this interesting and especially a nice size field of 13. I generally think this will be the most exciting, unpredictable race of the three big Derby preps this weekend. Below are the post-positions, jockeys and morning line odds.

The Santa Anita Derby  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #8 at Santa Anita Park – Post-Time: 6:12 PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network & TVG

1. Term of Art  – Baze/O’Neill – 12/1 
2. Reach the World  – Smith/Baffert – 5/1  
3. Battle of Midway – Nakatani/Hollendorfer – 5/1 
4. Comma Sister – Ocampo/Papaprodromou – 50/1  
5. So Conflated – Gutierrez/O’Neill – 15/1
6. American Anthem – Garcia/Baffert – 5/1
7. Kimbear – Talamo/Kruljac – 12/1
8. Gormley – Espinoza/Shirreffs – 9/2 
9. Iliad – Prat/O’Neill – 7/2 
10. Milton Freewater – Pereira/O’Neill – 30/1

11. Irish Freedom – Bejarano/Baffert – 20/1
12. Midnight Pleasure – Theriot/Ruis – 30/1
13. Royal Mo  Stevens/Shirreffs  – 10/1

Race Commentary:  Trainers Doug O’Neill, Bob Baffert and John Shirreffs all have multiple entries. So when handicapping this race, I had to determine each trainer’s best horse to help sort out this field of 13. On recent form, for Bob Baffert, its Reach the World. For Doug O’Neill, its Iliad. And for John Shirreffs, it’Gormley. Throw in Jerry Hollendorfer’s Battle of Midway and you have four horses to work with for your exotic bets.

Royal Mo and American Anthem are two talented, fast colts who are coming off disappointing finishes in the Rebel Stakes. It will be interesting to see how they bounce back at a track where they had previous success. Doug O’Neill’s Term of Art is a horse who has improved in each of this last three starts at Santa Anita Park, finishing 5th in the Sham Stakes, 4th in the Robert B. Lewis and 3rd in the San Felipe Stakes.

My Prediction: There are too many variables and uncertainties in this race for me to predict a finishing order. The pace and jockey’s race strategies will go a long way in deciding the outcome. I expect to see a few surprises and my intuition tells me that this race my come down to a battle between Iliad and Reach the World.

Reach the World displayed a nice closing speed in his last start and his second place finish by a neck was mainly a byproduct of him getting tied up briefly in traffic. So I like a Boxed Exacta of Iliad and Reach the World to play it safe but I really like Reach the World as the surprise winner here.

On the docket…

A preview of the Wood Memorial. My preview of the Blue Grass Stakes can be accessed by clicking HERE.


2017 Blue Grass Stakes Preview

2017 Kentucky Derby Logo

April 6th 2017

Coming up this Saturday is a huge weekend of racing with three very important Kentucky Derby prep races: the Blue Grass Stakes, the Wood Memorial and the Santa Anita Derby. All three races offer a $1 million dollar purse, 170 Kentucky Derby points and are run at the 9 furlong (1 1/8th mile) distance.

I will preview all three races individually and will start with the Blue Grass Stakes since the morning line odds have been released. 

The Blue Grass Stakes  – 1 1/8th Mile – Race #10 at Keeneland– Post-Time: 5:17PM CST. Televised by NBC Sports Network and TVG

1. It’s Your Nickel – Graham/McPeek – 20/1
2. McCraken – Hernandez Jr/Wilkes – 7/5 
3. J Boys Echo  – Albarado/Romans – 4/1
4. Tapwrit  –  Ortiz/Pletcher – 5/2  
5. Wild Shot – Lanerie/Arnold III – 12/1
6. Irap – Leparoux/O’Neill – 20/1
7. Practical Joke – Rosario/Brown – 7/2

Race Commentary: The Blue Grass Stakes doesn’t have the history of producing a lot of Kentucky Derby winners that a few of the other big Derby prep races have. The last Blue Grass Stakes runner to win the Kentucky Derby was Street Sense in 2007.  Then you would have to go all the way back to 1995 with Thunder Gulch. Oddly enough, neither Street Sense or Thunder Gulch won Blue Grass Stakes (Street Sense finished 2nd, Thunder Gulch finished 4th)

However, this year could be different as the 2017 Blue Grass Stakes field is small but very talent-packed. All the horses who I have bold-fonted above really have a legitimate chance of winning this race. However, I see this more as a showdown between McCraken and Tapwrit. The race favorite McCraken is undefeated in 4 career starts. His trainer, Ian Wilkes, has said that McCraken has gotten bigger and stronger since his last start in February. 

McCraken’s biggest threat is the Todd Pletcher-trained Tapwrit. However, remember that Tapwrit was defeated by McCraken in the Sam F. Davis Stakes (shown below) back in February. When reviewing this race, Tapwrit did display late speed and may have made this more of a race if he had an additional 1/2 furlong to work with. He will have that extra 1/2 furlong in the Blue Grass Stakes.

Other horses to keep an eye on are J Boys Echo and Practical Joke. Practical Joke won two Grade 1 races as a 2-year-old in the Hopeful Stakes and Champagne Stakes. He finished 3rd in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile race behind Classic Empire and Not This Time. He had a decent performance coming back after a long layoff in the Fountain of Youth Stakes with a second place finish behind Gunnevera. It will be interesting to see if he has improved off of that performance.

J Boys Echo won in his last start in the Gotham Stakes at Aqueduct. He received a 102 Beyer Speed Figure for this win despite the fact that his time of 1:46.34 for this 8 1/2 furlong race was very pedestrian. Even his final 2 1/2 fraction time, that I estimated at 32.4, wasn’t impressive.

My Prediction:  I think the handicapper Mike Battaglia has this one pegged right: 1) McCraken, 2) Tapwrit, 3) Pratical Joke, 4) J Boys Echo. However, I would probably box an Exacta bet of McCraken and Tapwrit knowing how hot Todd Pletcher has been on the Derby trail of late.

On the docket…

Previews of the Wood Memorial and Santa Anita Derby.