Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) has drawn a well-matched group of 13 sophomores to go 1 1/8 miles. On the line is not only $1 million in purse money but 170 total points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby (G1).
The Santa Anita Derby is part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series of points races and offers 100-40-20-10 points to the respective top four finishers.
Iliad and Gormley are both eager to get back on the winning track in this spot after falling to the sidelined Mastery in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) last out on March 11.
Iliad broke his maiden for trainer Bob Baffert, who conditions Mastery, but was transferred to Doug O’Neill just in time to take the San Vicente Stakes (G2) by 3 1/2 lengths. The Ghostzapper ridgeling was no match for Mastery in the San Felipe, finishing second by 6 3/4 lengths, and should enjoy that one’s absence on Saturday with Flavien Prat returning to the saddle.
Gormley broke his maiden and easily captured the FrontRunner Sakes (G1) last season, but tired to seventh in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) to close out his two-year-old campaign for trainer John Shirreffs. He returned to post a head score in the Sham Stakes (G3) but slipped again when fourth, beaten 9 3/4 lengths, in the San Felipe last out. The Malibu Moon trainee likely needs a top three finish here under regular rider Victor Espinoza to retain his spot in the Kentucky Derby field.
Royal Mo is looking to rebound off a dismal ninth in the Rebel Stakes (G2) at Oaklawn Park on March 18. The Shirreffs trainee easily wired the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) at Santa Anita before that on February 4 and gets a jockey switch to Gary Stevens for this one.
Midnight Pleasure broke his maiden last July at Del Mar prior to placing in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) and finishing fourth in the FrontRunner at Santa Anita Park. He enters this one for trainer Mick Ruhls off a third against allowance/optional claimers on March 19 in his seasonal bow. American Anthem needs to run back to the form that saw him just miss by a head in the Sham Stakes (G3) on January 7 if he hopes to factor in the Santa Anita Derby. The Baffert pupil faded to next-to-last in the Rebel most recently.
Grade 3 scorer Term of Art never gives up but hasn’t factored in his past three races when third in the San Felipe, fourth in the Robert B. Lewis and fifth in the Sham. He’ll need to take a step forward to reach the top three here. Battle of Midway returned off a third in the San Vicente to post a neck victory over the returning Reach the World on March 9 in an allowance/optional claimer at Santa Anita. Both runners line up seeking a chance at Derby glory.
Rounding out the Santa Anita Derby field are California Derby victor So Conflated, a one-paced and well-beaten sixth in the Gotham Stakes (G3) last out; multiple stakes-placed Milton Freewater; and maiden winners Irish Freedom, Comma Sister and Kimbear.