Danzing Candy, Mor Spirit likely to vie for favoritism in Santa Anita Derby

Profile Picture: James Scully

April 7th, 2016

Two of the last three Kentucky Derby (G1) winners prepped in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) and the connections of Danzing Candy and Mor Spirit have serious aspirations for this year’s Run for the Roses. The top two finishers from the March 12 San Felipe (G2) head a 10-horse field on Saturday.

The 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby is the main event on a 12-race program that features five stakes, including the Santa Anita Oaks (G1) with leading Kentucky Oaks (G1) contender Songbird.

Danzing Candy stretched his win streak to three when making his stakes debut in the San Felipe, leading all the way in a two-length decision that registered an excellent 104 BRIS Speed rating. Despite the presence of new speed on Saturday, the Twirling Candy colt figures to be forwardly-placed once again from post 3. Hall of Famer Mike Smith retains the mount for Cliff Sise Jr.

Mor Spirit, who posted consecutive wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and Robert Lewis (G3), rallied belatedly for runner-up honors as the 8-5 favorite in the San Felipe and the Bob Baffert-trained ridgling posted his third consecutive BRIS Late Pace rating. The son of Eskendereya will be closing ground in the latter stages with Gary Stevens.

Two-time stakes victor Exaggerator has earned more than $1 million in eight career starts for Keith Desormeaux but the Curlin colt must rebound after recording a weakening third in the San Felipe. He’ll have the services of three-time Kentucky Derby winner Kent Desormeaux.

Uncle Lino and Smokey Image, the respective fourth- and fifth-placers in the San Felipe, will try to find the form to challenge. Iron Rob and Denman’s Call, the first two in the 6-furlong San Pedro on March 20, face a difficult assignment in the stretch out to two turns. Previous turf performers Diplodocus, Dressed in Hermes and Rare Candy rates as serious outsiders.

Danzing Candy photo courtesy of Benoit Photos