On par with other big California stakes races, the Grade 1, $400,000 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park appears short on quantity and high on quality. The nine-furlong Kentucky Derby prep for 3-year-old horses only includes six runners. However, each of them own current or past class credentials.
Considering Authentic is an undefeated colt trained by two-time Triple Crown winner Bob Baffert, he stands out as the star of the field. Honor A. P. figures to attract attention and money as well off his runner-up finish behind that rival last time.
The Santa Anita Derby is carded as Race 8 with a post time of 4 p.m. PT. Odds here are projected by Horse Racing Nation.
1. Friar’s Road, 20-1 (Quality Road – Michael McCarthy/Geovanni Franco – 3: 0-2-0): This maiden improved in his second start with a good runner-up finish to Shooters Shoot in a local March 15 maiden race. Despite the 3 ¼-length margin, he closed well against a horse that returned to win at Oaklawn Park in an optional claimer. Friar's Road failed in his next start though, which came at Oaklawn as well when he found some traffic in another runner-up finish in May 2. At the nine-furlong distance, he lost by a length to Hunt the Front. Now Friar’s Road gets thrown to the wolves in a Grade 1 race. But at least the distance is not an issue for him. If the pace sets up well enough, he could pick off enough horses to complete the trifecta. Use underneath.
2. Rushie, 8-1 (Liam’s Map – Michael McCarthy/Flavien Prat – 4: 2-1-0): After finishing second by 10 ¼ lengths to Charlatan in a local optional claimer, he ran a good race at Oaklawn to take a different optional claimer over Candy Tycoon and Background. He only won by 1 ¼ lengths, however, and now faces better horses. For this colt to hit the Top 3 in the Santa Anita Derby, he will need to move forward by a several lengths off the last effort. The task is too difficult to recommend him for any position. Toss.
3. Shooters Shoot, 6-1 (Competitive Edge – Peter Eurton/Abel Cedillo – 6: 2-1-1): Similar to Rushie, Shooters Shoot went from turning in a good effort locally to winning a race at Oaklawn. In this case, Shooters Shoot broke his maiden by 3 ¼ lengths over Friar’s Road. Then, he ran his heart out at Oaklawn on April 11, defeating stakes-caliber Blackberry Wine by a neck in an optional claimer. Is that race good enough to contend with Authentic and Honor A. P.? His up-front running style won't help, as he will need to deal with Authentic in the initial stages. On paper, the difficult level of this field and pace scenario make the task too difficult. Toss.
4. Anneau d’Or, 10-1 (Medaglia d’Oro – Blaine Wright/Victor Espinoza – 5: 1-2-0): To Anneau d’Or’s credit, he did not run a terrible race in the first division of the Arkansas Derby (G1). After chasing Charlatan in third through the initial stages, he came up flat in the lane and faded to fifth, 9 ½ lengths behind the winner. Considering he competed against Charlatan, the losing margin could have been worse. Anneau d’Or’s problem is that he never shows a final closing punch in the stretch run, at least not on dirt. He runs like a turf horse who cannot grip the surface properly when the real running starts. With that said, he might hang around late. Use underneath.
5. Azul Coast, 15-1 (Super Saver – Bob Baffert/Umberto Rispoli – 3: 2-1-0): Although the “other” Baffert entry closed for second in the Sham Stakes (G3) back in January, he did not come close to threatening his stablemate Authentic, losing by 7 ¾ lengths. In Azul Coast’s next start, he did capture the El Camino Derby at Golden Gate Fields. Give the change in surface, does that matter? Good synthetic form does not always translate well to dirt. Besides Authentic, he also faces another heavy hitter in Honor A. P. this time. In terms of the Top 3 positions, the odds are stacked against him. Toss.
6. Honor A. P., 5/2 (Honor Code – John Shirreffs/Mike Smith – 3: 1-2-0): Last October, this son of Honor Code broke his maiden impressively in a local start by 5 ¼ lengths over Tizamagician. He took a long break afterwards and did not return until the San Felipe Stakes (G2) in March. In that race, Honor A. P. stalked the pace set by Authentic before looming at the top of the stretch. Off the layoff, Honor A. P. flattened out a bit and settled for second. But he could rebound with better fitness and more distance, while Authentic is liable to regress with distance. In his interviews leading up to this race, Shirreffs has sounded confident. There is more upside to betting him than Authentic. The pick.
7. Authentic, 6/5 (Into Mischief – Bob Baffert/Drayden Van Dyke – 3: 3-0-0): Without a doubt, Authentic deserves the favorite's role. He won all three starts, including the local Sham Stakes (G3) and San Felipe Stakes (G2). The stretch out to nine furlongs is a concern, as this is a son of Into Mischief and the bottom side does not offer any strong hints of stamina either. In the San Felipe, Authentic probably beat an unfit version of Honor A. P., who ran like a short horse in the stretch. With young horses, a lot could change between March and June, especially as the distances increase. On past form alone, Authentic looks like the best horse. From a betting standpoint, Authentic is better used defensively in multi-race wagers. Otherwise, his odds are too low to rely on him heavily for plain win bets or exotics. Win contender.
Conclusion: As stated above, Honor A. P. gets more distance in this race and makes his second start off the bench. He could grind his way to victory at nine furlongs.
Given he will start as second choice, Honor A. P. is the better value compared to Authentic in vertical wagers such as win bets and exotics.
In multi-race wagers, Authentic and Honor A. P. are the only two horses bettors need. The price is low on both, but that is unavoidable as one of them will win.
Trifecta players can save the longer shots for underneath spots and hope one of the two favorites fails to fire.