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Authentic Favored Against Six In Santa Anita Derby

 

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San Felipe Winner Returns In Rematch

By Margaret Ransom

Better late than never.

Authentic and jockey Drayden Van Dyke win the Grade III, $100,000 Sham Stakes, Saturday, January 4, 2020 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia CA.© BENOIT PHOTO

Saturday’s $400,000 Santa Anita Derby (GI) is certainly a classic example of the old cliché, but even though the race was delayed two months due to the Covid-19 pandemic, it drew a strong and talented field of seven talented sophomores who will race the nine furlongs of California’s signature prep for the Kentucky Derby (GI). The race also is a rematch of the San Felipe Stakes (GII) from back in early March, where the Bob Baffert-trained Authentic bested the flashy John Shirreffs-trained Honor A.P. by 2 ¼ lengths.

The race is also a Road to the Kentucky Derby event, which offers points on a 100-40-20-10 basis to the top-four finishers. The winner likely guarantees himself a spot in the starting gate on the first Saturday in September this year. So far, 11 Santa Anita Derby winners have won the Kentucky Derby — Hill Gail (1952), Determine (1954), Swaps (1955), Lucky Debonair (1965), Majestic Prince (1965), Affirmed (1978), Winning Colors (1988), Sunday Silence (1989), I’ll Have Another (2012), California Chrome (2014) and Justify (2018).

Starlight Racing and Madakat Stables, who owned Authentic through his first three starts, this past week sold an interest in the son of Into Mischief to Spendthrift Farm and the colt will race as part of the new three-pronged partnership until he retires, where he will take up stud duty along side his sire. But before that happens, the colt still has a lot of racing to do, starting with Saturday’s main event.

Authentic is undefeated in three races, including the San Felipe and Sham Stakes (GIII) in January and after the career-ending injury to stablemate Nadal, he remains one of Baffert’s top hopes to earn the roses at Churchill Downs in three months. The veteran conditioner has won the Santa Anita Derby nine times  – Justify (2018), Dortmund (2015), Midnight Interlude (2011), Pioneerof the Nile (2009), Point Given (2001), General Challenge (1999), Indian Charlie (1998) and Cavonnier (1996) — and sends this colt out as the 4-5 favorite in search of a tenth. It’s easy to see why he’s the early 4-5 favorite off his record and it doesn’t hurt that regular rider Drayden Van Dyke will be back aboard. He’ll for sure be headed straight for the front from his outermost post position leaving holding off the late pressure from his rivals as his main challenge.

Honor A.P. is a solid hope to give Shirreffs his third Santa Anita Derby winner, joining Tiago (2007) and Gormley (2017), and add is name along Giacomo’s as the trainer’s second Kentucky Derby winner. The hot-tempered son of Honor Code has a win and two seconds in his three-race career, including the San Felipe, to his credit and has reportedly been training exceptionally well during the track’s coronavirus lockdown. He’s certainly bred for this stretchout to nine furlongs and is in capable hands under Triple Crown-winning jockey Mike Smith, and he should get his preferred mid-pack trip, though he has shown some tactical ability in the past.

Anneau d’Or comes out of a second in the confusing Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (Gi), which produced an Eclipse Award winner in Storm the Court, but not much else. Only two of the eight runners that day came back to win a race, though they also lost more than they’ve won since, and this son of Medaglia d’Oro is probably the only on left with a shot at making the Kentucky Derby gate. He did have some trouble in his last two races – a ninth in the Risen Star Stakes (GII) and fifth in the Arkansas Derby (GI) – but his connections haven’t offered any excuses and expect him to run to the ability they believe he has in here. Triple Crown-winning jockey Victor Espinoza picks up the mount, which can only help, and all he may need is an uneventful and clean trip.

Azul Coast, Baffert’s other runner, is coming off a win in the El Camino Real Derby four months ago, but hasn’t missed a beat training in the mornings at Santa Anita. The son of Super Saver will be ridden by Umberto Rispoli for the first time and is another one who will be closing into what looks to be a fast early pace. He has the ability to post some decent figures and will need to in order to be competitive. And we’ve all learned our lesson with the “other Baffert” before.

Shooters Shoot has won his last two in maiden and first-level allowance company at a mile, including his last at Oaklawn Park, and stretches out here for his stakes debut. He’s improving for trainer Peter Eurton, who re-retains the services of hot jockey Abel Cedillo back here at home, and finds a good spot to make the jump in class. He’ll be part of the early pace scenario, the main question being if he can carry his speed the entire way to the wire.

Rushie is another one who moves into black-type company after a nice allowance win last out at Oaklawn Park. The Mike McCarthy trainee, who is by Liam’s Map, certainly seems to handle each the stretchout in each of his races, and he will benefit from having leading rider Flavien Prat aboard. He also has some tactical abilty, which can only help him if the pace scenario sets up to be extreamly heated early.

McCarthy also sends out Friar’s Road, who is still a maiden after three starts though both his pedigree and numbers suggest he belongs here.

Post time for the Santa Anita Derby, which is the day’s eighth race, is 4:09 p.m. PT.

The field:

1. Friar’s Road, 20-1
J – Geovanni Franco
T – Michael McCarthy

2. Rushie, 8-1
J – Flavien Prat
T – Michael McCarthy

3. Shooters Shoot, 8-1
J – Abel Cedillo
T – Peter Eurton

4. Anneau d’Or, 15-1
J – Victor Espinoza
T – Blaine Wright

5. Azul Coast, 15-1
J – Umberto Rispoli
T – Bob  Baffert

6. Honor A. P., 9-5
J – Mike Smith
T – John Shirreffs

7. Authentic, 4-5
J – Drayden Van Dyke
T – Bob Baffert

 

Compact Field For Santa Anita Oaks

Swiss Skydiver. Photo: Oaklawn Park

Just four will head postward in the $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks (GII), led by the 6-5 favorite Swiss Skydiver, who ships in from the Southeast off a pair of wins in the Gulfstream Park Oaks (GII) and Fantasy Stakes (GIII). The Kenny McPeek-trained daughter of Daredevil is well-traveled and will be starting at a sixth different track in her seventh career start and picks up the services of Mike Smith. She has won two of three starts at this 1 1/16-mile distance (with one third) and has three good works heading into this race.

Merneith, a $600,000 daughter of American Pharoah, makes her stakes debut after romping by 10 lengths to break her maiden at Oaklawn Park last month. The Bob Baffert trainee also has a pair of seconds, including one at a mile over this track back in February. She’s capable and talented and she doesn’t necessarily need the lead to win, as demonstrated by her last, and her best should certainly be enough to win. Drayden Van Dyke will ride.

Speech has three second-place finishes, including one to top filly Dona Veloce in the Santa Ysabel Stakes (GII) three months ago. She has put up some big figures over her five-race career and certainly belongs in this race, and she has a good turn of foot she can to be up on the engine in the early going if necessary, or sitting where she prefers just behind the pace. She does get Flavien Prat here, which can only help her chances.

Regal Beauty is Baffert’s other filly in here in her first stab at stakes company off her 3 ¼-length wire-to-wire maiden romp three weeks ago. She’s a nice filly and improving, so a strong performance won’t be a huge shocker.

The oaks is the day’s fifth race with a post time of 2:32 p.m. PT.

The field is:

1. Swiss Skydiver, 6-5
J – Mike Smith
T – Kenny McPeek

2  Merneith, 2-1
J – Drayden Van Dyke
T – Bob Baffert

3. Speech, 8-5
J – Flavien. Prat
T – Michael McCarthy

4. Regal Beauty, 10-1
J – Abel Cedillo
T – Bob Baffert

 

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