Santa Anita Derby 2017: Odds and Analysis

Santa Anita Derby 2017: Odds and Analysis
Photo: Alex Evers/Eclipse Sportswire

The Santa Anita Derby (G1) is the final California prep race for the 2017 Kentucky Derby. In the last six years, two colts, I’ll Have Another (2012) and California Chrome (2014) captured two of the three Triple Crown jewels. 2015 Santa Anita Derby hero Dortmund tasted defeat for the first time in the Kentucky Derby when he finished a close-up third, and last year’s Santa Anita Derby winner Exaggerator placed second in Kentucky to his nemesis, Nyquist.


This year, a full field of 13 colts and ridglings will line up in the starting gate for the 1 1/8 mile contest. Bob Baffert owns seven Santa Anita Derby trophies. Doug O’Neill owns two. John Shirreffs has one. The three trainers have a combined nine entries which cover almost 70% of the field.  


Ashley Tamulonis of Coast To Coast and I see a variety of scenarios on how the race can play out.  



Term Of Art (Tiznow - Miles of Style, by Storm Cat) ran the fastest final 1/16 split in the San Felipe, according to Trackus. His second dam is a half-sister to Mineshaft and the extra distance should play in Term of Art’s favor. His speed figures have improved in each start this year. Contender.


Term of Art (12-1) —has yet to get the better of this group. Since January, he’s gone 3-0-0-1 in Derby prep races. His best finish was last out in the San Felipe when he finished third. He lands in a bigger field with some new, tough customers here. Pass.

Reach the World (Tapit - Reach The Stars (IRE), by Galileo (IRE) has been outworking his stablemates and is ready to take on his little corner of the world. He circled the field widest of all in his last race and just missed to the promising Battle of Midway. Reach the World’s dam is a half-sister to Champion mare Escena.  1 1/8 miles should be easy for him. Contender.


Reach the World (5-1) —is one that I’ve been pretty high on since his debut. He’s now 3: 1-1-1, and looks to be dangerous inside speed here. Battle of Midway got the better of him in their last meeting, albeit by a short neck, but I suspect that’s because Reach the World was not on the lead in that effort. A similar effort plus his preferred trip makes this one dangerous. Contender.


Battle of Midway (Smart Strike - Rigoletta, by Concerto) has a stamina over speed pedigree. He was outrun in the San Vicente, but came back with a strong effort in an optional claimer for his two-turn debut. I’m not 100% sure that 1 1/8 miles is his best distance. In their last race, Reach the World’s internal fractions were faster than Battle of Midway’s and the final time was a pokey 1:44. The Hollendorfer trainee can’t afford another wide trip. Exotics.


Battle of Midway (5-1) —is another that looks to be a promising up and comer. His top speed figures fit in with the best of the bunch. His last work was a bullet six furlong move. Really liking this one as a contender.

Comma Sister  (Tale of the Cat - Haute Couture, by Medaglia d'Oro) After showing nothing on dirt, this Papaprodromou trainee won at 1/18 miles over good turf. A half sibling preferred turf and their dam is half to the stakes veteran turf sprinter/miler Get Funky. I’m with Ashley on this one. Pass.


Comma Sister (50-1) —has won at the Santa Anita Derby distance but did so on the turf in his last start. His two prior races came on dirt but did not end nearly as well as his turf effort. Actions speak loudly, and this one’s indicate turf is the preferred surface. Pass.

So Conflated (Eskendereya - Donnie's Secret, by Tiger Ridge) went from the warm CA temps to freezing in NY, finishing 22 lengths out of it in the Gotham. The California Derby was the O’Neill ridgling’s best performance, but class and distance are an issue. Pass.


So Conflated (15-1) —I’m really not sure what to make of So Conflated. His only dirt win came via a DQ, making the California Derby on tapeta the only time he crossed the wire first. He didn’t run a step in the Gotham against weaker, a result that I foresee will be repeated here. Pass.


American Anthem (Bodemeister - Indy's Windy, by A.P. Indy) gave Gormley all he could handle in the Sham Stakes. American Anthem hit a sour note in the Rebel Stakes, finishing 13 lengths out of it. American Anthem has the pedigree to easily handle 1 1/8 miles, but his late pace speed figures are poor. I agree with Ashley. I really liked this colt before his non-effort in the Rebel. American Anthem gets a jock switch to Martin Garcia, and with the right trip, perhaps he’ll be back to his ole’ self. Read his pedigree profile. 


American Anthem (5-1) —In a lot of ways, I’m beginning to think that the California preps are a bit suspect. American Anthem ran very well in the Sham only to run a well beaten 10th as the favorite in the Rebel in Arkansas. Will moving back to Santa Anita improve his performance this time out? Or is maybe not as good as many of us first thought. Prior to the Rebel, I loved Anthem, now I’m not sure. I think I will have to let him beat me if the “real” Anthem shows up.

Kimbear (Temple City - Sky Dreamer, by Sky Mesa) finally visited the winner’s circle in his sixth try. His dam is Grade 2 stakes placed on turf at 9F, and the Kruljac trainee has been breezing very well. That being said, I don’t think he’s loaded for bear and will find this a tough spot. Pass.


Kimbear (12-1) —by all appearances seems to be a “morning glory.” His morning works are speedy, but he just broke his maiden in his sixth and last time facing the starter. To me, Kimbear seems like he is one that would rather run with the pack rather than win. However, maybe getting him on the front end in his last start was the difference maker. Pass.

Gormley  (Malibu Moon - Race to Urga, by Bernstein) won the battle with American Anthem in the Sham Stakes, but regressed in the San Felipe. John Shirreffs’ colt has been full of early speed in each start. However, he was rated behind a stablemate in his last breeze, and Espinoza may try to get Gormley to relax in the early part of the race. Like American Anthem, Gormley’s late pace speed figures are low and the only way he’ll get 1 1/8 miles is by setting a glacial pace or by rating. Read his pedigree profile. Exotics.


Gormley (9-2) —And we’re back to the possibility of suspect fields on the California circuit. He posted a career high 116 speed figure while winning the Sham, but regressed when running fourth in the San Felipe last out. So does Gormley really want to go the classic distances, or is about a mile all he really wants? I’m beginning to suspect the latter. Could get a piece of the minors.

Iliad (Ghostzapper - Little Swoon, by You and I) was no match for Mastery in the San Felipe Stakes, but was clearly best of the rest. Iliad’s half-brother Melmich won stakes at 1 ¾ miles and the San Vincente winner is built for distance.  Contender.


Iliad (7-2) —in a circuit that has taken turns beating each other, Iliad has actually been one of the more consistent runners. He’s posted 3 consecutive triple digit speed figures, the only runner in this field to have done so. For me, consistency is key, and I like that Iliad has been pretty much on point. Contender.

Milton Freewater (Creative Cause - Lovehi, by Swiss Yodeler) looked like a good thing setting a new track record in his debut. Unfortunately, it was the highlight of his career. He’s a nice state-bred colt and tries hard, but is out of his league here. Pass.


Milton Freewater (30-1) —has raced primarily in state-bred company but gave a good accounting of himself in open company in his last start. However, he does not have the speed to keep up with the best of this field. Pass.

Irish Freedom (Pioneerof the Nile - Island Striker, by Smart Strike) looked like a good thing last year at Del Mar, but was away from the races until March. He didn’t show much in his first start back, finishing over 9 lengths behind Battle of Midway in the optional claimer. The Baffert colt has a distance loving pedigree but this race could be too much too soon. Pass.


Irish Freedom (20-1) —looked good winning his debut over eventual Robert B. Lewis winner Royal Mo, but he was well beaten by Battle of Midway and Reach the World in his last outing. His morning works look good, but he will need to translate that to the afternoons in order to hang with these. Pass.

Midnight Pleasure  (Midnight Lute - Platinum Preferred, by Vindication) has a sprinter/miler pedigree and I’m not convinced that he’s a two-turn horse. He was out-worked in his last breeze. Pass.


Midnight Pleasure (30-1) —has faced some of this field before now but did not come out on top. In fact, Midnight Pleasure has not visited the winner’s circle since winning his debut. Jockey Kent Desormeaux did lose the whip in the colt’s last race, so maybe he could have won that day since he missed the win by just 2 ½ lengths. Maybe a lesser win is in the cards, but I don’t think he will be the winner here. Pass.


Royal Mo (Uncle Mo - Royal Irish Lass, by Saint Ballado) was looking royal until he had his tail handed to him in the Rebel Stakes. His only victories occurred when he was allowed to rule the pace. His new jock Gary Stevens breezed Royal Mo in company a few days ago. Royal Mo pulled hard and shut down quickly after the wire. Not a good sign. Pass.


Royal Mo (10-1) —I got really high on Royal Mo following his Robert B. Lewis win, but then the colt didn’t run a lick in Arkansas for the Rebel. I’m willing to draw a line through that effort since he’d never been out of the exacta prior to that. He has a tall task trying to get the lead from the far outside post, but if jockey Gary Stevens can get him to his preferred spot on the lead and relaxed, then Royal Mo could be dangerous. Contender.



Race Keys:  Only three of the last ten winners of the Santa Anita Derby didn’t win their previous race. Six of the last eleven winners exited the San Felipe Stakes. 


Final Thoughts:

Ashley: Whew! What a tough field to sort out. Without a clear standout, this race could play out any number of different ways. Reach the World has speed from the inside. Royal Mo has speed from the far outside, and a few like American Anthem, Gormley, and Iliad could show speed from the middle. Battle of Midway and Reach the World are nice up-and-coming colts, but a repeat Robert B. Lewis performance from Royal Mo will be hard to beat, as will Iliad’s typical efforts. Laurie, I really feel like I’m throwing darts here.

Laurie: Ashley, I totally agree with you, this race could unfold in several ways. Once I saw the past performances, I got out the darts. The trainers have emptied their barns in hopes of earning a start in the Kentucky Derby.  In a full field, anything can and does happen and the best horse doesn’t always win. So, who is best at playing in California traffic?





#9 Iliad

#2 Reach the World

#1 Term of Art

#3 Battle of Midway

#2 Reach the World

#9 Iliad

#6 American Anthem

#13 Royal Mo



Meet Laurie Ross

 HRN Pedigree Analyst 


 Published Author

 Pedigree Research/Consultation/Sales 

 Pedigree Analyst – Bruno With The Works 

 ThoroFan Advisory Board Member

 Member – NTWAB

Through hands-on work at barns, I learned valuable lessons about Thoroughbred conformation, gait, and temperament and later worked withThoroughbred rescue/re-train organizations. I have committed my passion for horses to the intensive study of pedigree and breeding theory for the last 20 years. 

I support clients with all aspects of pedigree/breeding analysis, research, sales, catalogue review, and recommendations on claims or private sales. Clients include national leading owners, racing/breeding syndicates, the little guy with one mare, and everyone in between. 10-20% of all proceeds are donated to Thoroughbred rescue & retraining groups. Check out my website, Iron Maidens Thoroughbreds, and the IMTBreds blog.

I welcome your questions regarding pedigree, handicapping, and breeding. If you would like me to cover a specific topic, please contact me. 

Twitter: @IMTBreds
Facebook: IMTBreds
LinkedIn: Laurie Ross

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