Santa Anita lived up to its nickname Saturday: Great Race, Great Crowd, Great Story Lines at The Great Race Place.
With the dust still settling on an overcast Sunday morning after
Doug O’Neill gave Kevin Krigger a leg up on mutuelly maligned
Goldencents who went on to win Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby at 6-1,
turning back the Bob Baffert-trained 11-10 favorite Flashback by a
length and a quarter, a sense of reason and calm prevailed.
It was a far cry from the scene in the winner’s circle after
Goldencents won, giving O’Neill his second straight Santa Anita Derby
triumph, I’ll Have Another capturing last year’s edition before going on
to an unlikely victory in the Kentucky Derby, followed by a win in the
Preakness that proved his legitimacy to most naysayers.
O’Neill thus became the seventh trainer in 76 runnings of the
Santa Anita Derby to win it back to back. The others were H.A. (Jimmy)
Jones with Hill Gail and Chanlea in 1952 and 1953; Mesh Tunney with
Swaps and Terrang in 1955 and 1956; Robert Wheeler with the filly Silver
Spoon and Tompion in 1959 and 1960; Wayne Lukas with Muttering and
Marfa in 1982 and 1983; Bob Baffert with Indian Charlie and General
Challenge in 1998 and 1998; and Jeff Mullins, who won the race three
straight years, with Buddy Gil, Castledale and Buzzards Bay from 2003
Santa Anita’s winner’s circle resembled a three-ring circus
morphed into one after Saturday’s victory by Goldencents, but without a
ringmaster. Everyone wanted his 15 minutes of fame. Conspicuous by his
absence was Baffert, who designated assistant Jim Barnes to tend to
Flashback’s post-race needs.
Analyses were easier to come by Sunday morning. “Garrett (Gomez)
was in a good spot (on Flashback) turning for home,” Baffert said
reflecting on the race. “Flashback is still very mentally immature but
when he came back to the barn he wasn’t tired. “I’m happy for Kevin
Krigger. He does not stop hustling. He’s his own best agent. It’s like a
dream come true.”
In addition to Flashback, Baffert could have Sunland Derby winner
Govenor Charlie and War Academy heading to Louisville for the first
Saturday in May, if War Academy fares well in next Saturday’s Arkansas
Derby. The Giant’s Causeway colt worked seven furlongs from the gate
Sunday in 1:26.20 in company with Saddleranch, who was given a bullet
1:12.20 for six furlongs. Martin Garcia was on War Academy.
“The plan is to go to Kentucky depending on how everything goes,”
Baffert said. “I don’t worry about the (qualifying) points. It all
depends on how they train.”
Baffert took time to smell the roses Saturday, no pun intended.
The three-time Kentucky Derby winner was genuinely pleased to see 33,005
fans on track, and attributed it to their captivation with 3-year-olds
in pursuit of the Kentucky Derby.
“It looked like there were more people here yesterday than there
was for the Breeders’ Cup,” Baffert said before two-time Santa Anita
Handicap winner Game On Dude worked a mile for the April 20 Charles Town
Classic in 1:39. “They give the T-shirt away with the names (of the
Derby horses) on it. They love that.
“When you look out and see the back parking lot filled, that’s what it’s all about. Three year olds bring them out.”
As for Goldencents, Baffert was magnanimous in defeat.
“Flashback just couldn’t get to him,” he said. “I hate when that
happens. Goldencents is a good horse. He had everything his own way and
it’s hard to spot a horse like that. It was a good horse race.
“They ran fast (a mile and an eighth in 1:48.76) and it was
probably the strongest Derby prep I’ve seen. (Flashback) got a 103
Beyer, Goldencents got 105. (Wood winner) Verrazano went real slow, so
they’re not going to get a big figure. They walked around there, so the
Derby is still a wide open race.” (For the record, Verrazano got a 95
Doug O’Neill’s cell phone mailbox was full Sunday morning, where
he was on the beat at Hollywood Park. On the backburner was the fact
that O’Neill is a native of Dearborn, and his home state of Michigan
plays for the NCAA basketball championship Monday night against
Louisville, coached by Rick Pitino, who owns five percent of
“It will be mixed emotions, but Doug will have to choose who to root
for,” said trusted assistant Leandro Mora, who was tending to
Goldencents at Santa Anita.
“The horse ate well and he walked sound, so we’re very happy and
looking forward to the future,” said the 54-year-old Mora, who has been
with Team O’Neill for 11 years.
Celebration last night was kept to a minimum. “We went out to
dinner,” Mora said, “but I still was in shock thinking we’ll be going to
the Kentucky Derby back to back. It’s a miracle coming true.
“Yesterday was completely different from the San Felipe, when we
ran fourth. This time, the rider said, ‘the heck with it,’ and let the
horse be the horse and not have humans change what he does naturally.
Kevin just left him alone and the horse knew what to do.”
DERBY DAY ON-TRACK CROWD OF 33,005 INDICATIVE OF HUGE BOTTOM LINE DAY
While Saturday’s on-track crowd of 33,005 roughly mirrored last
year’s Derby Day total of 33,166, on-track and overall pari-mutuel
handle were up significantly.
The on-track handle of $4,047,710 was up $281,864 over last year
and the overall “take” of $19,897,306 represented an increase of $2