Saturday April 5 – Santa Anita
Scheduled post time 3:38pm PT
This year’s edition of the Santa Anita Derby will answer some early questions about some precocious three-year-olds. Unfortunately, Shared Belief, last year’s scintillating two-year-old colt Eclipse Award winner has been sidelined, and without him present, the race definitely loses some of its sizzle.
In his stead comes local favorite and California-bred speedster California Chrome to claim the mantle of favorite. Does he deserve it? There are a few points for and a few points against this horse as he aims for his fourth consecutive victory. In his favor, most simply, is his powerful speed and his ability, so far, to carry it. Will the 1 1/8 miles be too much of a challenge? The fact is that until his last start, he was facing Cal-bred competition primarily. But his last race, in the San Felipe, was very legit, as he dueled with open stakes company for a half-mile in solid fractions before drawing away late.
Today, there is a very serious possibility that he will receive early pressure from Dublin Up, who has excellent speed. The extra half-furlong will test him to the limit. So he really should be 2-1 or higher to be value here.
Candy Boy looks like the main challenge. After an excellent second-place finish after making a middle move against Shared Belief two starts ago, he came back with a solid win against Midnight Hawk–who came back to finish second to California Chrome. He has enough speed to be close to the pace, but not so much as to put him in danger of getting into a duel. He makes a lot of sense in here, and one hopes he’ll be a tick or two higher than CC on the odds board.
Hoppertunity was game in victory in Oaklawn’s Rebel Stakes, and the distance doesn’t look like a problem. Is he good enough? That race earned a good TFUS race rating of 105, but a look at the chart indicates that no one in the field really had earned very good figures before that race. It may be that the group wasn’t all that strong. A good horse to use on the ticket, but may be a bit of low win-percentage type here.
Big Tire, Rprettyboyfloyd, and Dublin Up finished noses apart in a very solid maiden race (TFUS race rating 101) and are not desperately outclassed in this G1 event, which is only a couple notches better than a good MSW field.
This year’s edition of the SA Derby looks to be a race to think of in terms of probabilities, rather than one on which to take a strong stance on one horse. Midnight Hawk’s similar efforts behind California Chrome and Candy Boy show that those two are not all that different in ability. Based on my expectation of Candy Boy’s slightly higher price, I’ll make him the choice here, with Hoppertunity as the horse to add value.
Candy Boy to win.
Small exacta box of Candy Boy and Hoppertunity.