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OffTrackBetting.com - It's game on in Saturday's Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby as multiple graded stakes winner Bolt d'Oro faces off with rising superstar Justify and five other sophomores at a mile and one eighth in the race that has produced 17 Kentucky Derby winners. Owned and trained by Mick Ruis, Bolt d'Oro, a two time Grade I winner, finished second, beaten a head in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes on March 10, but was awarded the victory via a stewards' inquiry.
Trained by Bob Baffert, who seeks his record eighth Santa Anita Derby win, Justify, who has won his two career starts by a combined 16 lengths, has become the talk of the racing world and is widely thought to be Baffert's top Derby hopeful.
Throw in Jerry Hollendorfer's Grade III stakes winner Instilled Regard, and Saturday's Derby has the look of a select showdown with 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points at stakes. (100 to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 points to the fourth place finisher).
Race 9 on Santa Anita's Saturday card with a Post Time of 7:12 PM
|1||Instilled Regard||5-1||Joel Rosario||Jerry Hollendorfer|
|2||Orbit Rain||50-1||Brice Blanc||Mick Ruis|
|3||Bolt d'Oro||6-5||Javier Castellano||Mick Ruis|
|4||Jimmy Chila||30-1||Mario Gutierrez||Doug O'Neill|
|5||Pepe Tono||20-1||Victor Espinoza||Victor Garcia|
|6||Justify||4-5||Mike Smith||Bob Baffert|
|7||Core Beliefs||20-1||Tyler Baze||Peter Eurton|
Owner: Ruis Racing, LLC
Trainer: Mick Ruis
A $630,000 yearling purchase, this Kentucky-bred son of Medaglia d'Oro won his first three starts, including the Grade I Del Mar Futurity Sept. 4 and the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes here on Sept. 30 prior to running third as the 3-5 favorite in the Grade I Breeders' Cup Juvenile on Nov. 4, a race in which he was severely compromised by an outside draw.
Sidelined due to a minor ailment following the Breeders' Cup, he overcame a four-month layoff to duel with Baffert's Grade I winning McKinzie the length of the stretch in the San Felipe, coming up a head short when ridden for the first time by Javier Castellano. With three works to his credit since, Bolt d'Oro is by all accounts, training forwardly for Saturday's Derby and with a star-studded resume in-hand, looms the horse to beat.
Owner: China Horse Club, Head of Plains Partners, LLC, Starlight Racing and WinStar Farm
Trainer: Bob Baffert
A striking physical specimen, this chestnut colt by Scat Daddy has a tremendous stride and appears to have a limitless future. Unraced at two, he broke his maiden going seven furlongs on Feb. 18 by 9 ½ lengths, after which Baffert gushed "It's not too late," when asked about the colt's Derby prospects. Stretched out to a mile for his second start on March 11, Justify cruised to a 6 ½ length win under Mike Smith and was believed headed to the Grade I Arkansas Derby on April 14, but was re-routed to the Santa Anita Derby by Baffert following a minor setback to McKinzie over the weekend.
Although Baffert has allowed that Justify is his most talented 3-year-old, Justify, who at this point has zero Kentucky Derby qualifying points, must run first or second to "make the gate" the first Saturday in May.
Owner: OXO Equine, LLC
Trainer: Jerry Hollendorfer
Purchased for $1,050,000 at a March 2-year-old in training sale, this Kentucky-bred colt by Arch broke his maiden going a mile and one sixteenth by 4 ¼ lengths in his third start here on Oct. 29. Subsequently third, beaten less than one length by Baffert's highly regarded Solomini in the Grade I Los Alamitos Futurity on Dec. 9 (McKinzie finished a head in front of him, but both Instilled Regard and McKinzie were moved up a notch following the disqualification of Solomini), Instilled Regard then shipped to Fair Grounds in New Orleans, where he took the Grade III Lecomte Stakes by 3 ¾ lengths.
Fourth as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade II Risen Star on Feb. 17, Instilled Regard will hope to bounce back as he runs out of his own stall and is ridden for the first time by Joel Rosario on Saturday.
ARCADIA, Calif. - Bob Baffert, who's built an unparalleled Hall of Fame career in large-part by utilizing his God-given instincts, is following his "gut" yet again as he's decided to run top Derby prospect Justify in this Saturday's Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby following a powerful six furlong workout in 1:13.20 Monday morning at Santa Anita Park.
"We'll run here," said Baffert, who returned from Dubai early Sunday evening. "He went nice and it looked like he handled it pretty well. As long as he comes out of it well, he runs."
Originally ticketed to the Grade I Arkansas Derby April 14, Baffert altered plans after announcing late Saturday morning from Dubai that his McKinzie, who was originally thought to be heading for a rematch with Bolt d'Oro here on Saturday, will not run due to an undetermined injury to a hind leg.
Justify, who came on the track with jockey Drayden Van Dyke at about 7:45 a.m., cantered by the Grandstand along with multiple graded stakes winning stablemate Hoppertunity. With a stable pony accompanying the pair, "Hopp" broke off first approaching the five furlong pole, with Justify a length and a quarter back at the pole.
With a stride reminiscent of Baffert's 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Justify, who was under a long hold from Van Dyke, had a length and a half to make up a sixteenth of a mile from the wire, got on terms a jump or two past the finish line and in a powerful display, motored well clear around the Club House turn as Van Dyke stood up at the seven furlong pole.
"I had his five eighths in 1:01 flat," said highly respected private clocker Andy Harrington. "I had him in 1:13 for six and out seven eighths in 1:27 and two (fifths). He did it with aplomb. He does everything they ask and he does it effortlessly. He's like a big kid who's just learning how to run...There's really no-telling how good he is."
Justify, a strikingly beautiful chestnut colt by Scat Daddy, out of the Ghostzapper mare Stage Magic, took his seven furlong debut on Feb. 18 by 9 ½ lengths, earning a Beyer Speed figure of 104. In his most recent start, he powered to a 6 ½ length score in a one mile allowance March 11, earning a 101 Beyer. Ridden in his first start by Van Dyke, he'll be handled for the second consecutive time by Mike Smith on Saturday.
Although Baffert is thought to consider him his most talented 3-year-old, Justify, who will be making his stakes debut on Saturday, would need to run first (100 points) or second (40 points) to become eligible to run in the Kentucky Derby on May 5.
Today's drill marked Justify's third recorded work since his rousing mile win on March 11 and follows a five furlong move of 59.60 on March 26 (second-best of 118 at the distance).
Baffert, who has won a record seven Santa Anita Derbies, beginning with Cavonnier in 1996 and most recently with Dortmund in 2015, could have an additional entrant for Saturday, but he said that part of the equation is as-yet undetermined.
"It looks like Solomini (most recently second in the Grade II Rebel Stakes March 17) is going to run in the Arkansas Derby," said Baffert. "I've got Restoring Hope (impressive maiden winner here on Feb. 2)...He's working this morning. I don't know what I'm gonna do with him."
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