The Santa Anita Derby is one of the oldest and most important prep races for the Kentucky Derby in the country. Through the new Kentucky Derby point system, the Grade 1 race offers 100 points to the winner and all but ensures that horse a spot in the starting gate in the Run for the Roses. Held annually in April at Santa Anita Park, the Santa Anita Derby is contested at a mile and an eighth and currently boasts a purse of $1 million.
The Santa Anita Derby was inaugurated in 1935 and seven horses have won both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby.
Santa Anita Derby Picks
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Santa Anita Derby Racing Tips
The Santa Anita Derby has one of the most impressive histories of any Kentucky Derby prep race. While seven winners have gone on to win the Kentucky Derby, there have been several other horses who, while defeated in the Santa Anita Derby, came back to win the Run for the Roses.
The stakes record of 1:47 for a mile and an eighth is shared by three horses – Lucky Debonair (1965), Sham (1973) and Indian Charlie (1998).
Jockey Gary Stevens has ridden more winners of the Santa Anita Derby and has nine victories so far. Behind him in the standings is Bill Shoemaker with eight and Laffit Pincay, Jr. with seven. Stevens is still actively riding and could add more to that total. Trainer Bob Baffert has saddled an impressive seven winners so far in his career.
One of Gary Stevens’s most impressive victories in the Santa Anita Derby came aboard the filly, Winning Colors in 1988. Trained by D. Wayne Lukas, the filly had won the Santa Anita Oaks three weeks before and was facing male rivals for the first time. Once she passed that challenge, she faced the boys in the Run for the Roses and became only the third filly to win the Kentucky Derby.
In 2000, trainer Jenine Sahadi made history as the first female trainer to saddle a winner of the Santa Anita Derby when The Deputy gamely prevailed over the favorite, War Chant. Chris McCarron was in the irons for the winning ride.
One of the most memorable installments of the Santa Anita Derby came in 1997 when two popular gray colts, Free House and Silver Charm, renewed their rivalry. Though the filly Sharp Cat went off as the favorite, all eyes were on Silver Charm and Free House when they hooked up at the top of the stretch. Free House won the battle and earned the victory by a head but it was Silver Charm who won the war – he came back to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes before falling short of the Triple Crown in the Belmont Stakes.
In 2014, California Chrome launched himself into contention as a legitimate Kentucky Derby threat with a 5 ¼ length romp in the Santa Anita Derby. Up until that point, the California-bred had been met with some skepticism despite his strong record and he emphatically passed the class test. He went on to win the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes and as an older horse has won the Dubai World Cup and finished second in the Breeders’ Cup Classic. The popular chestnut has amassed over $14 million in earnings.
Santa Anita Results
The 2016 edition of the Santa Anita Derby was run over a sealed, sloppy track which is a rarity in sunny California. Exaggerator, trained by Keith Desormeaux and ridden by his brother Kent Desormeaux, had been knocking on the door in the California prep races and was third in the San Felipe and second in the San Vicente.
The dark bay son of Curlin excelled over the off track, settling off of the pace comfortably. He began to launch a rally as they approached the far turn and in the blink of an eye, he was on the lead and 4 ½ lengths clear. He drew off to win by 5 ¼ lengths as the second choice, returning $8.80, 3.60 and 2.80. The favorite Mor Spirit finished second and longshot Uncle Lino rounded out the trifecta.
Exaggerator went on to finish second in the Kentucky Derby and then benefited from another off track to win the Preakness Stakes. After a poor performance in the Belmont Stakes, he got a brief freshening and returned to win the Haskell Invitational before struggling in the final two starts of his career before retiring to stud.