A victory in the 73rd running would move last year’s 2-year-old
champion alongside Affirmed, who in 1978 became the only juvenile
kingpin to win the Santa Anita Derby, en route to becoming racing’s
last winner of the Triple Crown.
Lookin At Lucky also could extend Baffert’s record of Santa
Anita Derby victories to six, increase his earnings to $1,873,000 for
owners Mike Pegram, Karl Watson and Paul Weitman, and entrench his
tug-o-war with Eastern-based Eskendereya for pre-Kentucky Derby
Baffert had been considering Oaklawn Park’s $1 million Arkansas
Derby on April 10 for Lookin At Lucky’s final Kentucky Derby prep, but
decided to stay home after a six-furlong work in 1:12 at Santa Anita on
Sunday. “The Arkansas Derby would have given us a week more from his
last race,” Baffert said, “but he worked really well here, and he’s
ready to go.”
The Santa Anita Derby will be but the second start this year
for the Smart Strike colt purchased last April for $475,000 before
proceeding to win five of six starts worth $1,243,000. Only a troubled
head loss to Vale of York in Oak Tree’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile
separates him from perfection. With three Grade I victories in 2009,
the Eclipse Award became his.
Lookin At Lucky returned this year wearing blinkers and
rallied stoutly to score a hard-earned neck victory over Noble’s
Promise in the Grade II, $300,000 Rebel Stakes on March 13 under
regular rider Garrett Gomez. America’s money won leader the past four
years, Gomez won his first Santa Anita Derby last year with his first
mount in the event, Pioneerof the Nile.
Post time for the Santa Anita Derby will be at approximately
2:40 p.m. It will go as the sixth race on an 11-race program with first
post at 12 noon. The Derby will be telecast by NBC as part of its
“Racing to the Kentucky Derby” program that gets underway at 2 p.m. and
includes Aqueduct’s Grade I Wood Memorial featuring Eskendereya.
The Santa Anita card, which will be televised in its entirety
by HRTV, includes three Grade II stakes races: the $150,000 Arcadia
Handicap at one mile on turf, the $150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap at 6
½ furlongs, and the $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies
at 1 1/8 miles on turf.
While Lookin At Lucky indeed is the focal point, the deep
field for the Santa Anita Derby includes two horses, Sidney’s Candy and
Caracortado, that are consensus choices among the Top 10 Triple Crown
candidates. A third entrant, Alphie’s Bet, is not far behind.
Recent history suggests that simply competing in the Santa
Anita Derby can bode well for the first Saturday in May. Eight Santa
Anita Derby winners have proceeded to capture the Kentucky Derby, but
none since Sunday Silence in 1989. During the last 15 years alone, four
horses that were beaten in the Santa Anita Derby went on to glory in
Kentucky Derby winners Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet
(1998) finished second in the Santa Anita Derby. Charismatic (1999) and
Giacomo (2005) both were out-of-the-money on the first Saturday in
April at Arcadia. Moreover, none of the four was favored in the Santa
Sidney’s Candy, the 3-1 second choice on Santa Anita
oddsmaker Jon White’s morning line, is expected to take the lead. As
evidenced by his triumph in the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16
miles on March 13, he could be hard to catch. He preceded his San
Felipe victory with a wire-to-wire win by 4 ¼ lengths at seven furlongs
in the Grade II San Vicente Stakes.
A homebred son of Candy Ride owned by the Sid and Jenny Craig
Trust, Sidney’s Candy is jockey Joe Talamo’s ticket back to the
Kentucky Derby. One year ago, at the age of 19, Talamo was the rider of
Derby morning line favorite I Want Revenge, who was scratched the
morning of the race after developing an ankle injury.
Sidney’s Candy also memorializes weight reduction guru Sid
Craig, who died in July of 2008, five years after the Craigs purchased
Candy Ride. He was unbeaten in six races during the 2003 season
including Del Mar’s $1 million Pacific Classic before foot problems
ended his racing career.
Sidney’s Candy enters the Santa Anita Derby with a 3-1-0
record in five starts for earnings of $223,560. His trainer, John
Sadler, is headed toward a second successive Santa Anita training
title, but he has made little impression with two previous Santa Anita
California-bred gelding Caracortado had his unbeaten string
of five victories broken when third, two lengths behind Sidney’s Candy,
as the 7-5 favorite in the San Felipe. The stretch-runner was
compromised by relatively slow early fractions in the San Felipe and
his connections are hoping for a faster pace in the Derby.
The unfashionably bred son of Cat Dreams, third choice at 5-1
on the morning line, seems to fancy the underdog role. His jockey, Paul
Atkinson, doesn’t get many riding calls, evidenced by the fact he had
five wins from just 35 mounts at entry time. At the age of 40, Atkinson
scored his biggest career victory when Caracortado won the Grade II
Robert B. Lewis Stakes by 1 ¾ lengths on Feb. 13.
Caracortado’s co-owner and trainer, Mike Machowsky, operates a
successful, but low volume stable. He and partner Don Blahut are
pledged to keeping Atkinson in the saddle should their blue collar
symbol with an income of $217,200 continue on to Kentucky.
Alphie’s Bet, pegged at 8-1 on the Derby morning line, is
coming off a powerful 2 ¼-length victory under Alex Solis in the Grade
III Sham Stakes at 1 1/8 miles on March 6. “He’s big, he’s strong, and
he’ll run all day,” Solis said of the California-bred son of Tribal
rule who is trained by Alexis Barba for Peter O. Johnson and breeder
Alphie’s Bet, with a 2-1-0 record in five starts for earnings
of $141,320, has blossomed as his distances have increased. Barba, who
trains a small stable, could join Jenine Sahadi, who saddled The Deputy
in 2000, as the only female trainers to win the Santa Anita Derby.
The complete field for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, with
jockeys and morning line odds (each starter carries 122 pounds): Posse
Power, Leslie Mawing, 50-1; Thomas Baines, Joel Rosario, 50-1; Who’s
Up, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Sidney’s Candy, Joseph Talamo, 3-1; Setsuko,
Rafael Bejarano, 20-1; Caracortado, Paul Atkinson, 5-1; Lookin At
Lucky, Garrett Gomez, 4-5; Cardiff Giant, Christian Santiago Reyes,
30-1; Skipshot, Frank Alvarado, 30-1, and Alphie’s Bet, Alex Solis,