How to Bet Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby
by Scott Shapiro
A race that once looked like a rematch of last month’s San Felipe Stakes (G2) was turned on its head when Grade 1 winner McKinzie was forced to scratch from the event due to an issue with one of his hind legs. The setback has left Hall of Famer Bob Baffert with one less top-tier three-year-old in his barn, but not without a major chance of winning a record-setting eighth Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Justify (#6) has been the hottest topic in the Triple Crown discussion since his 9 1/2-length maiden-breaking performance on February 18. The son of Scat Daddy followed up that smashing debut victory with an equally impressive showing in his initial try versus winners going a mile over a muddy track on March 11. On Saturday, he takes the massive jump into Grade 1 company as he attempts to cement his place in the Kentucky Derby (G1) starting gate on the first Saturday of May.
It is easy for those who will oppose Justify in the 2018 Run for the Roses to point to the curse of Apollo or the fact he has not faced quality competition yet, but he certainly is in with a huge shot on Saturday in the featured event on Santa Anita’s 13-race card. With a limited amount of speed signed on, I expect Hall of Famer Mike Smith to be aggressive early and hope his colt is as good as advertised.
Before the emergence of Justify, Bolt d’Oro (#3) was largely considered the most talented of the Southern California-based three-year-olds. The Ruis Racing colt was awesome throughout his two-year-old season and entered the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) the odds-on favorite. However, a less than ideal start and wide voyage throughout was too much to overcome.
I thought the $630,000 son of Medaglia d’Oro was going to need a race off the four-month break, but he ran huge when placed first via DQ in the aforementioned San Felipe. With thsy start under his belt in early March, the Mick Ruis trainee appears poised to be a major factor in Louisville, Kentucky, next month. That being said, I am a bit worried about how hard he ran last time out. He very well could take a step backward on Saturday despite the four weeks off.
Most racing fans will tab the 2018 Santa Anita Derby as a two-horse race, but I also give a serious look to Instilled Regard (#1). The son of Arch proved he can compete with the top runners on the West Coast three-back in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G1) and followed that up with a dominant victory in the Lecomte Stakes (G3) at Fair Grounds.
I am more forgiving than most in regards to his fourth-place effort as the 7-5-favorite in the Risen Star Stakes (G2) since he traveled back and forth to New Orleans from California twice in less than five weeks. If he can get back to either of his two efforts prior to the Risen Star he has a chance to beat at least one of the top two on odds-maker Jon White’s morning line. Since he will provide significantly greater value both in the Win pool and underneath in exactas, I will key my wagers for this year’s Santa Anita Derby around Instilled Regard finishing first or second.
The rest of the field appears overmatched, but if they go at it early on the front end perhaps Pepe Tono (#5) can pick up the pieces at a price.
Here is how I will wager on the 2018 Santa Anita Derby:
3+6 with 1 = $40
1 with 3+6 = $20
$2 Trifecta Wheel
3+6 with 1 with 3+5+6 = $8
TOTAL BUDGET = $68