Kentucky Derby 2014 - Handicapping the Santa Anita Derby

The spotlight will be on California Chrome in the Santa Anita Derby.  Many handicappers consider him to be a top pick for the 2014 Kentucky Derby. The Santa Anita Derby field shows the dearth of viable three year olds in California this year. Only three of the colts have the background to be considered legitimate contenders. The rest are maidens or recent maiden winners, so the premiere race looks like an early January prep. Florida Filly Ashley Tamulonis and Pedigree Power Laurie Ross bring you our L.A. Story.
RPRETTYBOYFLOYD — Has a bit of an issue with seconditis. In his last start, he had the lead in the stretch only to be headed by the winner. He did run a very nice 3rd in the G2 San Vicente in his third career start, but the fact of the matter is, he is still a maiden. If he couldn’t get it done in the weaker San Vicente, I don’t see him getting the job done here while facing the top 3 West Coast colts. He gets blinkers added, but I don’t think being more involved early will do him any good against the likes of California Chrome. Pass.
RPRETTYBOYFLOYD (Bluegrass Cat - El Bank Robber, by Eltish) is still a maiden.  He was on the tough losing end of photo finishes in his last two starts. On the plus side, he fits right in with fellow entrants Big Tire and Dublin Up, as only a nose and head separated the three in their last race.  On the negative side, it was a maiden race. I agree with Ashley, the blinkers won’t help. Maybe a guided missile would. Pass.

FRIENDSWITH K MILL — Though he exits a close second against The Admiral, I really don’t like that this colt’s only career win came on the lawn. Dam Tight Lipped was a non-winner in 7 starts but is a half to a stakes placed sprinter and a graded stakes placed middle distance runner. None of Tight Lipped’s other progeny have shown any indication that they want to route. Maybe “Friends” gets a little more stamina from his sire line, but there are too many questions and not enough answers with this colt. Pass.
FRIENDSWITH K MILL (Flashy Bull - Tight Lipped, by Kissin Kris) just missed when switched to a two-turn dirt route in his last start.  His sire is noted for getting speedy types, although he does have a couple of stakes winners at 1 1/8 miles. Friendswith K Mill’s damsire won the Haskell and he’s the damsire of Backseat Rhythm, a G-1 winner at 1 1/8 miles. Friendswith K Mill has the pedigree and running style to handle the distance, but it will be at the top of his limit.  The pretty gray colt would have to be pretty special to win here and I don’t see signs of it, but he could finish third or fourth. Contender.
HOPPERTUNITY — I underestimated him in the Rebel, but I won’t do so this time. Getting a masterful ride from Smitty, Hoppertunity proved he could run with the big boys…and dish out as well as receive some knocking and bumping along the way. Mike Smith stays aboard, and as the inside speed, they get first run to the rail and a shot at potentially controlling the pace if they’re quick enough. With 55 points in the bank, a win is not necessary in order to move on. I expect to see a good race, but obviously Team Hoppertunity will want something left in the tank for next month. Contender.

HOPPERTUNITY (Any Given Saturday - Refugee, by Unaccounted For) was three wide the entire way in the Rebel Stakes. Mid-stretch he was forcefully pushed out by Tapiture.  Hoppertunity came back over on his rival and got the better of him by ½ a length.  Hoppertunity’s sire was a tough multiple graded stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles and defeated Hard Spun and Curlin in the Haskell.  The colt’s dam was ½ length shy of a graded stakes win at 1 ½ miles over the turf, so he should have the lungs to get the distance.  Hoppertunity is a half to multiple Grade 1 winner Executiveprivlege.  His third dam is the incomparable Champion Davona Dale, winner of both the NY Triple Tiara (Acorn, Mother Goose, CCA Oaks) plus the Kentucky Oaks and Black Eyed Susan Stakes. I agree that Hoppertunity doesn’t need to win, just earn points for the big dance. I’ve noticed that he has a definite good/bad race cycle and may toss in a clunker.  I have to use him anyway. Contender.
Big Tire — Moved from the turf to the main track, Big Tire turned in a series of better finishes, finally get that elusive first victory in his last start. In doing so, he beat fellow Derby entrants Rprettyboyfloyd and Dublin Up to the wire, giving us three shots of seeing if Race 2 from Santa Anita on March 7 will end up being a “key race.” His pedigree indicates that more distance might be the ticket, but again, there are more questions than answers at this point. Consider for exotic use.
BIG TIRE (Candy Ride (ARG) - Giant's Firestone, by Giant's Causeway) finally won his maiden in his sixth lifetime start. He’s obviously a late maturing colt, so how about rolling Big Tire into a nice allowance race.  His dam was 0-9 in her career and the trainer is 0-19 in graded stakes. I’ll stick with the other son of Candy Ride.  Pass

CALIFORNIA CHROME — Last out, this striking chestnut made mincemeat out of the San Felipe field, proving that not only could he handle open company, he could make them look as though they hadn’t even bothered to show up. Since making his debut around this time last year, the Art Sherman trainee has been on a steady diet of races and works. Normally this would concern me in a colt still in the first half of his sophomore season, but he seems to thrive on the work. Not to mention, you have to trust in the man who was part of Team Swaps. Facing much the same cast Saturday as he did in his last, I can’t help but think that things would have to go horribly wrong in order for the end result to be anything different. Since his spot in the starting gate at Churchill Downs is virtually assured, I don’t think we’ll see the very best this colt has to offer. A win would be nice, but it isn’t necessary. Contender.
CALIFORNIA CHROME (Lucky Pulpit - Love the Chase, by Not For Love) has won his last three races by over 18+ lengths. He’s an athletic colt who can cut the corner and be gone before anybody knows what happened. He doesn’t need the lead to win and could be the best colt in training in California right now.  He’s also one of the most consistent colts on the Kentucky Derby trail.  California Chrome’s pedigree suggests that 1 1/8 miles is as far as he’ll be able to go. His last three late pace speed figures have declined in every start. Nitpicking? Of course.  Read his pedigree profile here.  Contender.

CANDY BOY — I’ve been high on this one for some time now. He’s a colt that I think will appreciate the classic distances, and he has a good running style that has him involved with the race but not getting cooked by early speed. With the savvy Gary Stevens aboard again, he’ll get a good trip. His speed figures have been steadily improving, but the time span between his last start and this one is a bit concerning. However, he’s been training like a monster, and I trust that Sadler will have him ready to go as this is a must win situation. At the very least, Candy Boy needs to run second to have any hope of making it to Kentucky. Contender.

CANDY BOY(Candy Ride (ARG) - She's an Eleven, by In Excess) was three wide and gaining at the 1/8 pole in the Robert Lewis. He conquered Chitu by a measured ½ length in a typical confident ride by Gary Stevens.  Candy Boy’s speed figures improve in every race and that’s pretty rare.  His sire gave us 2010 Santa Anita Derby winner Sidney’s Candy and 2009 runner-up Chocolate Candy, but damsire In Excess imparts speed to his offspring.  He’s the damsire of only one stakes winner at 1 1/8 miles.  Candy Boy could become the second.  Candy Boy and his stakes winning dam own the only blacktype in two generations, although Test Stakes (G-1) heroine Leave Me Alone is part of this distaff family. Ashley and I are both sweet on this colt and the right ride could have the rest looking like suckers.  Read his pedigree profile here.  Contender.
SCHOOLOFHARDROCKS — Well beaten by California Chrome in his stakes debut and just his second lifetime start, Schoolofhardrocks looks to improve on that effort. It’ll be his second start off the layoff, so he may have just needed the race. The other scenario, though, is that he liked Del Mar’s all weather surface better than Santa Anita’s traditional dirt surface. He has many questions to answer, and I don’t see him improving off his last start enough to hang with the big boys. Consider for exotics.
Schoolofhardrocks (Rock Hard Ten - Miss Chapin, by Royal Academy) didn’t offer much resistance in the San Felipe Stakes, which was only his second start.  The colt has a strong turf pedigree. His sire is a grand-son of Champion European Roberto. Rock Hard Ten won over the dirt, but his progeny love the grass. Plus, Schoolofhardrocks’ dam won her sole start over the lawn.  I don’t see him doing much here except getting in the way.  Pass.

Dublin Up — From the same owners that brought you 2012 Kentucky Derby 3rd place finisher Dullahan, Dublin Up looks like one that will try to give California Chrome a dog fight on the front end. If “Chrome” doesn’t take the bait, I still see this one shooting out of the gate from his outside post and rocketing across the track to establish the rail position and the early lead. Like rail drawn Rprettyboyfloyd, this colt is still a maiden, and asking a colt to break his maiden in a Grade 1 spot against experienced stakes competitors is a tall order. I don’t like his chances of achieving that feat anymore than I like Rprettyboyfloyd’s. Pass.
DUBLIN UP (Unbridled's Song - Stormy Welcome, by Storm Cat) belongs at the same class level as Rprettyboyfloyd.  He was caught on the lead of a mile maiden race and finished third by a short neck.  Maybe he’s in here to try and soften up California Chrome or somebody owed the Racing Secretary a favor.  Pass.

Conclusion:  50% of the races are won by pace setter/pressers.  Favorites win 35% of the time and are in the money 71%.   Four of the last five Santa Anita Derby winners either wired the field or pressed the pace.
Ashley: Dublin Up is going to want the lead and will go early from his outside post. California Chrome set the pace in his last start but has proved that he can sit back and let others do the dirty work. He has enough speed and staying power that he can stay close to Dublin Up without hurting his own chances. I see him, Hoppertunity, and Big Tire bunched together right behind Dublin Up with the rest of the field strung out behind them. The big 3 really stand out here, and though California Chrome is strictly the one to beat, I fully expect Candy Boy to show up in a big way.
Selections: Candy Boy, California Chrome, Hoppertunity, Big Tire

Laurie:  I see two things that can happen here. Either one of the maiden-types will set the pace while the three most accomplished colts stalk. OR California Chrome will gallop off into the California Sunset like he did in the San Felipe. Hoppertunity looks like the best bet to beat California Chrome.  He’s a tough battle tested colt and has a similar running style. The only caveat is the good/bad race cycle that I’m hoping he’ll break. Candy Boy is also a consistent winner, but the distance is at the top of his range. Friendswith K Millis an improving sort and could round out the exotics. I’m going for the no-brainer play here.
Selections:  California Chrome, Hoppertunity, Candy Boy, Friendswith K Mill


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Older Comments about Kentucky Derby 2014 - Handicapping the Santa Anita Derby...

Real Quiet, Giacomo and Strike the Gold must not have been listening then
  • geldedridgling · IMO none of those 3 outran their pedigree. We’re talking a grandson of Fappiano (Real Quiet) like Unbridled , or a son of Alydar (Strike The Gold) like Alysheba, or a son of Holy Bull (Giacomo) with a son of Hail to Reason as his damsire. I didn’t even mention the dam side of the first 2. They all have 10 furlong pedigrees. There are about 6-8 Derby winners or runner ups in those immediate families. Not so much with the Top 3 from this race. · 1324 days ago
Tell that to the ones who rotuinely outrun their pedigree
These are simply for enjoyment, i dont think anyone takes them seriously since they honestly thought spot stretching out from 7f was a contender last week and Wildcat Red who is as game as they come was a pass. Ray Charles read the form and knew Spot was a throw out in the Fla Derby.
None of the “Big 3” have a solid 10 furlong pedigree, so I’ll take a shot with one of the few that does: Schoolofhardrocks. His dam didn’t have success on dirt but neither did Palace Malices’ dam and they both have the same 12 furlong turf daddy. Further, if he makes the Derby, Churchill tends to be kind to turf oriented horses so he should have a great shot in what is shaping up to be a speed oriented race.
Nothing bold here... Candy Boy over Hopp/CC at the shadow of the wire, Friendswith K Mill makes a late move.
*PrePeg's SF fun
Cal Chrome has been a beast his last three and besides the late FuPeg's run, his San Felipe was impressive. But I am wary of his pedigree for longer distances. With that being said, I am going with Candy Boy and giving Schoolofhardrocks another shot in his 2nd start off layoff.
great animals outrun their pedigrees. Also, what type of mares do you think lucky pulpit is getting? My guess is not as good of ones the top stallions in kentucky are getting and he has actually produced a few nice runners. Cal Chrome is his dam's 1st foal I believe - for all you know, she can be an outstanding broodmare
i think candy boy or hoppertunity. i know California Chrome has a good dam sire, but lucky pulpit kills me with weak stamina rating. this is either going to go like Chitu or Cario Prince. it's not worth taking such a favorite when only one side of the family is strong at distance.

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