In what shapes up as one of the most compelling grass races of the current Autumn Meet, streaking Sharp Samurai heads a field of 11 sophomores going 1 1/8 miles in Saturday’s Grade II, $200,000 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita.
Additionally, with Santa Anita’s 19-day Autumn Meet drawing to a close on Saturday, there will be a special early first post time of 12:15 p.m. in order to facilitate an 11-race program.
Trained by Mark Glatt and in search of his fourth consecutive stakes victory, Sharp Samurai faces no less than four formidable eastern-based colts but rates top billing as he enters Saturday’s Twilight Derby fresh off victory in the Grade II Del Mar Derby Sept. 3.
A winner of Laurel Park’s Grade III Commonwealth Derby at a mile and one eighth on turf Sept. 30, trainer H. Graham Motion’s Maryland-bred Just Howard will make his Southern California debut in search of his fifth consecutive win.
A close third to Just Howard in the Commonwealth Derby at odds of 5-2, Stuart Janney’s homebred Profiteer, trained by Shug McGaughey, ships west for the first time from his Belmont Park base and looms dangerous with Mike Smith engaged to ride.
An emphatic 5 ¾ length winner of the Grade III, 1 1/16 miles turf Arlington Classic in Chicago two starts back on May 27, trainer Brad Cox’s Cowboy Culture overcame trouble en route to a powerful 1 ½ length score in a one mile turf stakes at Indiana Downs on Sept. 6 and rates a huge chance in his first West Coast start.
George Krikorian’s homebred Big Score and trainer Phil D’Amato’s Bowies Hero, two-three finishers behind Sharp Samurai in the Del Mar Derby, are both stakes winners over the Santa Anita turf and rate big chances as fresh commodities on Saturday.
SHARP SAMURAI: Owned by Jedd Cohen’s Red Baron’s Barn, LLC and Rancho Temescal, this Kentucky-bred gelding by First Samurai has displayed a dazzling turn of foot in winning his last three races, including the 1 1/8 mile turf Del Mar Derby and the Grade III La Jolla Handicap at 1 1/16 miles on turf two starts back on Aug. 6. Undefeated in three starts with Gary Stevens aboard, he’ll hope to be rolling late into a legitimate pace. A maiden $75,000 claiming winner here on Feb. 10, Sharp Samurai now has five wins from eight starts and earnings of $345,870.
JUST HOWARD: Owned by Skeedattle Associates, this chestnut colt by English Channel broke his maiden four starts back on May 29 at Pimlico and has seemingly improved with each start, culminating in his first graded stakes victory on Sept. 30. Blessed with a good measure of tactical speed, he has stalked the early pace in his last three starts and will likely employ similar tactics as he’ll again be ridden by Maryland-based Fergal Lynch. With an overall mark of 9-4-2-1, Just Howard has banked $266,520.
PROFITEER: By red-hot sire War Front, this Kentucky-bred colt is out of Janney’s Smart Strike mare Hit It Rich. Third, beaten 1 ¾ lengths by Just Howard in the Grade III Commonwealth Day Stakes Sept. 30, he’s in search of his first stakes win in what will be his eighth career start. On form, it would appear he’d be best suited by making a run from off the pace. With an overall mark of 7-3-1-1, Profiteer has earnings of $152,530.
COWBOY CULTURE: With three out of his five wins coming in turf stakes, this Kentucky-bred colt by Quality Road retains the services on Saturday of top rider Florent Geroux and is one of several who have demonstrated an ability to quicken readily. Most recently based at Churchill Downs, Cowboy Culture would appear to be primed for a top effort in what will be his eighth career start. Owned by Head of Plains Partners, LLC and Cheyenne Stables, LLC, he has earnings of $266,980.
BIG SCORE: Trained by Tim Yakteen and a winner over the course of the one mile turf Zuma Beach Stakes in his third career start on Oct. 10, 2016, this Kentucky-bred colt by Mr. Big rallied to be second, beaten a half length by Sharp Samurai in his most recent start, the Grade II Del Mar Derby on Sept. 3. With his biggest win coming five starts back in the Grade III Transylvania Stakes on April 7 at Keeneland, Big Score would relish a fast pace with regular rider Flavien Prat back aboard. With an overall mark of 9-3-3-1, he has earnings of $436,300.
BOWIES HERO: Yet another who does his best running from off the pace, Bowies Hero was most recently third, beaten one length by Sharp Samurai, in the Grade II Del Mar Derby Sept. 3. Owned by Agave Racing Stable and Hebert Bloodstock, this Kentucky-bred colt by Artie Schiller rallied to take a division of the ungraded, one mile turf Oceanside Stakes two starts back on July 19 and would obviously be well served by a fast pace. With four wins and a third place finish from eight starts, he has earnings of $231,325.
THE GRADE II TWILIGHT DERBY WITH JOCKEYS & WEIGHTS IN POST POSITION ORDER
Race 9 of 11 Approximate post time 4:15 p.m. PT
1. Cistron—Tyler Baze—120
2. Cowboy Culture—Florent Geroux--124
3. Big Score—Flavien Prat—122
4. Bowies Hero—Kent Desormeaux—120
5. Just Howard—Fergal Lynch—124
6. Sharp Samurai—Gary Stevens—124
7. Troublewithatee—Corey Nakatani—120
8. Channel Maker—Drayden Van Dyke—120
9. Profiteer—Mike Smith—120
10. Dangerfield—Kyle Frey—120
11. Ann Arbor Eddie—Mario Gutierrez--120
Source: Santa Anita Park