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Post Time: Wide open field for Santa Anita Derby

One of the biggest races during the Santa Anita spring meeting takes center stage on Saturday afternoon.  The $1 million Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby for 3-year-olds drew 30 horses bidding for 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. The top four finishers will gather 100-50-20-10 points, respectively.

The morning line favorite is Iliad (7-2), the second-place finisher in the local prep, the San Felipe Stakes in March. The winner of the race, Mastery suffered an injury after the wire and is off the Derby trail.

Doug O’Neill will saddle four horses and Bob Baffert, who has won seven Santa Anita Derbies, will give a leg up to three horses in the field.

Mastery’s injury opened the door for the West Coast colts seeking Derby glory. Colts from California have dominated on the Triple Crown trail for the past three years, but this year appears to favor the horses back east.

The Santa Anita Derby is scheduled to go to post at 6:30 p.m. EDT and is race 8 on the 11-race Santa Anita card.

Here’s a look at the entries for the Santa Anita Derby (post position, horse, trainer, jockey, ML odds in parenthesis):

1 – Term of Art (O’Neill, Baze, 12-1). The son of Tiznow finished third in the San Felipe, after a bobbled start. He is the first of four O’Neill runners in the race and drew the rail. He’s improved over the first few months of the year, but there are much better horses in here.

2 – Reach the World (Baffert, Smith, 5-1). Big Money Mike and Battlin’ Bob Baffert. Not much else needs to be written. Finished second in a key allowance race and has been working well for the top trainer in California. Contender.

3 – Battle of Midway (Hollendorfer, Nakatani, 5-1). The Smart Strike colt won that allowance with Reach the World by a neck and has a big chance in this race. Sports a bullet work on Apr. 1 at the Great Race Place and has proven he can handle two turns. My pick.

4 – Comma Sister (Papaprodromos, Ocampo, 50-1). Long shot with little chance against this group. Has some pedigree to go long, but can’t reasonably give him a shot.

5 – So Conflated (O’Neill, Gutierrez, 15-1). Was looking for a big effort from the son of Eskendereya in the Gotham and he ran a clunker. Could be a synthetic horse, as his only win was on the Tapeta at Golden Gate in San Francisco.  Not going to be fooled twice. Pass.

6 – American Anthem (Baffert, Garcia, 5-1). The vulnerable favorite in the Rebel last month at Oaklawn, he returns to California in attempts to revive his winning ways. It’s telling that Mike Smith jumps off to ride Reach the World. The son of Bodemeister should be able to run all day. Does he get back on track? That’s the big question.

7 – Kimbear (Kruljac, Talamo, 12-1). Come-from-behind type who scratched out of the Sunland Derby to run in here. He returns to a routing after three straight sprints. His last was a big effort breaking his maiden in his sixth career start. Thinking it was the start to bigger things. Very capable of catching a piece.

8 – Gormley (Sherreffs Espinoza, 9-2). Didn’t run a lick in the San Felipe, after winning the Sham in the slop at a mile. Thinking he’s an underlay at that price and that there are more interesting colts at fairer odds.

9 – Iliad (O’Neill, Prat, 7-2). Has meet-leading rider Flavien Prat aboard and looks to add on to his impressive second-place finish behind Mastery in the San Felipe. Owner Kaleem Shah looks to get back to the Derby with valuable Derby points on the line with his talented ridgling. The son of Ghostzapper is a horse for the course and should be involved late.

10 – Milton Freewater (O’Neill, Pereira, 30-1). Creative Cause colt faces graded company for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby. Has hit the board in 6 of 7 career races and could be in the mix underneath in the exotics. Can’t see him winning, however.

11 – Irish Freedom (Baffert, Bejarano, 20-1). Lightly raced colt is a son of Pioneerof the Nile out of a Smart Strike mare, so there is some nice pedigree there for Donegal Racing. Has some solid works on his worktab, but would be a big surprise to win in this field.

12 – Midnight Pleasure (Ruis, Theriot, 30-1). Struggled in his only route race around two turns in the Front Runner won by Gormley. Son of Midnight Lute may be better honing his skills at the mile distance, but with a wide open Derby – everyone seems to be taking a shot.

13 – Royal Mo (Shirreffs, Stevens, 10-1). Tough-luck draw in a big field having a short run to the first turn. The Lewis winner didn’t have much luck shipping to Oaklawn in the Rebel, finishing ninth. He returns to more familiar surroundings and if not for the post, would be considering in a bigger way. His father handled the 9 furlong distance beautifully. Don’t discount based on his Oaklawn performance.

Post Time Outlook:  1 – Battle of Midway; 2 – Reach the World; 3 – Kimbear; 4 – Iliad

Gene Kershner, a Buffalo-based turf writer, is a member of the National Turf Writers and Broadcasters Association, and tweets @EquiSpace.

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