Santa Anita Derby Day is here, and the time to find out who will be the one to try to end the 22 year-long drought is upon us. With the news that Santa Anita Derby favorite, blog favorite and this blog's choice to break the drought Premier Pegasus off the trail with a hairline fracture, and that Jaycito is also out of the race with a foot issue, the race is wide open for someone to take advantage and punch their ticket to the Kentucky Derby. The three horses who look the likeliest to take advantage of the top two's absence are Silver Medallion, Anthony's Cross and Mr. Commons. Let's break down these three.
Silver Medallion won the El Camino Real Derby last time out in a driving finish, closing off a suspect pace. He has worked well in the interim since the race, and his pedigree does not suggest any problem with the distance. He picks up Garrett Gomez to ride him in the race. While he has never ran on the dirt, he has trained well over the main track. He should sit a stalking trip off of Comma To The Top and Midnight Interlude, and look to take over turning for home. He will vie for favoritism, and he will be this blog's selection for the race. This blog thought he would finish a clear second behind PrePeg going in, and with his defection, this blog will move him up to the top spot. He needs a 1-2 finish to assure himself a spot in the gate on May 7th.
Anthony's Cross (right) won the Robert B Lewis Stakes last out in game fashion over Riveting Reason. He has improved each and every start, and the addition of blinkers help kept him focus on his task. His swift works in the interim (not the norm for his trainer Eoin Harty) and the services of Joel Rosario add to his appeal. He has won at the distance, so today's 1m & 1/8 should not be a problem. He figures to be sitting even with Silver Medallion in a stalking position. This blog respects his form, but thinks he might be just a cut below. His inability to put away Riveting Reason, who is a solid horse but not the gamest animal, is a major red flag. He will be tested today. He needs a 1-2-3 finish to assure himself of a spot in the gate on May 7th.
The third contender is Mr. Commons. This son of Artie Schiller built on his stylish maiden win on the grass in an allowance race last time on the dirt. He won a one mile race, grinding his way to victory. He has worked smartly since the race, popping bullet after bullet, which is not his trainer's style. The private clockers in southern California raved about his 7 furlong work on March 28th, oohing and aahing over its quality. His pedigree does not scream dirt, but he handled it fine. He figures to lay mid-pack in the race and make a run in the stretch. His trainer John Shireffs knows his way around the Derby picture, winning it with Giacomo in 2005. This blog thinks that while the hype is understandable, he may struggle against this type. The allowance field he beat in that win was not the strongest, as several have struggled in stakes competition, and the third place finisher Chiloquin broke his maiden for a tag. He would need to win the race to get into the gate come the first Saturday in May.
Others who have faint Derby aspirations are Bench Points, who ran a distant third in the San Felipe Stakes behind PrePeg and Jaycito, snapping his undefeated streak. He would need to run 1-2 to get in the Derby. Indian Winter, who looks to bounce back after a questionable effort in the Turf Paradise Derby. He would need to win to get in.
This Santa Anita Derby has lost some luster due to the top two abdicating, but this leaves open a new threat to gain the throne. Who will step up and earn the precious graded stakes earnings? Who will step up and take the mantle of Drought Breaker and place it upon themselves to break the drought? Can that horse break the drought? We shall see? Good luck everybody!