Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Santa Anita Derby

Head to Head: Handicapping the 2020 Santa Anita Derby
Photo: Eclipse Sportswire

Saturday's Santa Anita Derby (G1), the next California prep for a postponed Kentucky Derby, has assembled in the form of seven 3-year-olds set to go 1 1/8 miles.

Laurie Ross of Horse Racing Nation's Pedigree Power blog and I sort out the contenders from the pretenders.



1.  Friar’s Road

The son of Quality Road offers pros and cons. As a minus, Friar’s Road was bested 3 1/4 lengths by Shooters Shoot two starts ago. However, on the plus side, Friar’s Road has since finished second at nine furlongs, beaten a length. He's still a maiden, with lower exotics the best-case scenario. 

Friar’s Road makes his graded stakes debut after consecutive runner-up finishes. The rail is winning at a good clip, but this one will need to be a bit more on the pace to take advantage of that at Santa Anita, and this race has quality speed. I'll pass.

2.  Rushie

This son of Liam’s Map was impressive in his last start, beating a strong group in allowance company at Oaklawn Park including Fountain of Youth (G2) runner-up Candy Tycoon by a handy 1 1/4 lengths. Rushie likes to be close to the pace, and his Brisnet speed figures have improved in each start. Exotics contender.

Michael McCarthy sends out both this entry and Friar’s Road. The latter certainly stands a better chance of upsetting the top talent off that performance last time. Using underneath.

3.  Shooters Shoot

This son of Competitive Edge also shipped to Oaklawn to beat a group allowance/optional claimers. Shooters Shoot battled gamely on the rail and refused to yield, winning by a neck over Blackberry Wine. But that group is miles away, literally and figuratively. I vote him most likely to back up in the stretch if he goes head to head with Authentic. Pass.

It took a few attempts, but Shooters Shoot finally hit his groove, taking down back to back races before a mild illness counted him out of last month's Arkansas Derby. An early running style should help as he finally gets a class test.

4.  Anneau d’Or

I really liked this Medaglia d’Oro colt, but that was a year ago before we discovered that Storm the Court and Thousand Words, who handed Anneau D’or short losses, weren’t all that. This year’s clunkers in the Risen Star and Arkansas Derby weren’t all that, either. Pass.


Looks like Laurie and I agree: Don’t burn your money again. I was convinced for all of three races that Anneau d’Or was going to be good, but his last two efforts have left so much to be desired. It’s probably about time to put this one back on the lawn. Pass.

5.  Azul Coast

Although considered a second stringer in the Baffert barn, Azul Coast hasn’t done anything wrong. Sure, there was that 7 3/4-drubbing by Authentic in the Sham (G3), but this son of Super Saver had to eat dirt and make up ground over a speed-favoring track. He did just that, making up 2 3/4 lengths in the stretch. Azul Coast is already a winner at nine furlongs. While not as talented as the top pair, he’s certainly an exotics contender.

The “other” Baffert, Azul Coast took a thumping at the hands of stablemate Authentic in the Sham but translated it into a next-out win in the El Camino Real Derby. His speed figures have trended down, so flipping the tables on his stablemate does not seem likely. Exotics.

6.  Honor A. P.

Honor A.P. gave it his best, but couldn’t get to Authentic in the San Felipe (G2). The extra distance should suit him since the John Shirreffs trainee has a middle to classic distance pedigree. Contender.

Another of Authentic's victims this season, Honor A. P. did his best off the bench in the San Felipe before flattening a bit late. He has been training forwardly and retains the services of Mike Smith. Contender.

7.  Authentic

How do you argue with perfect? Here it goes. Nine furlongs is at the top of Authentic’s distance scope. He drew the far outside and will have to deal with early pressure from Shooters Shoot and possibly Rushie. On the positive side, there’s that 3-for-3 record, and Authentic’s late-pace speed figures are high and consistent. Contender.

Newly acquired in majority by Spendthrift Farm, who stands sire Into Mischief, Authentic is the one to beat here. Quick out of the gate, he is undefeated and has yet to be seriously threatened in the afternoons. There is no reason to believe that he will not continue his win streak.

Final Thoughts

Stating the obvious, the Santa Anita Derby is all about the rematch between the undefeated Authentic and Honor A. P. No doubt I’ll be ridiculed for not picking the obvious, sure-thing Authentic. But there's no such thing as a sure thing in horse racing.

Ashley: Authentic looks poised to continue his undefeated march. With such a small field, drawing the outside post will be no hindrance as he has enough speed to quickly get to the rail after the break. Honor A. P. will be hoping to turn the tables and probably should not let Authentic get too far ahead in the initial stages of the race. Shooters Shoot offers an exciting alternative to Authentic in terms of pace. All in all, not a race in which to get fancy.




#6 Honor A. P.

#7 Authentic

#7 Authentic

#6 Honor A. P.

#5 Azul Coast

#3 Shooters Shoot

#1 Friar’s Road

#5 Azul Coast

Meet Ashley Tamulonis

Despite growing up in a non-horse racing state, Ashley has been a fan of the sport since a young age. Her love for horse racing was fostered through the kids’ book series Thoroughbred by Joanna Campbell, which led her to educate herself on the ins and outs of the sport. Since becoming actively involved in the industry just a few years ago, Ashley has had the opportunity to meet many important players in the industry, attend the Eclipse Awards, see personal favorite Mucho Macho Man race twice in person, and befriend many of the fantastic fans and horsemen involved in the sport.

Ashley began her time with Horse Racing Nation covering racing in South Florida but also blogged about nationwide racing, industry issues and, from time to time, offered her opinion on how various changes could be beneficial to the industry. A move North to New Hampshire began both a new chapter in both Ashley's personal life and professional life. She currently pens the From Coast to Coast blog for HRN. Ashley also participates as a voter in the NTRA Top Thoroughbred Polls.

An alumni of Macon State College, Ashley is from Central Georgia but is currently living in New Hampshire with her husband, Chris, and their two sons Charlie and Michael. A stay-at-home mom, Ashley juggles parenting with blogging and her other passions. Aside from horse racing, Ashley is a fervent football fan, enjoys reading and studying history, and hopes to someday author a historical work covering the Tudor period as well as biographies of horse racing’s stars, equine and human alike.

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