How to bet the 2019 Santa Anita Derby

Profile Picture: Dick Powell

April 5th, 2019

The $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) will be run on Saturday as Race 8 at Santa Anita Park going 1 1/8 miles on the dirt. It only attracted a field of six but there is tons of quality in it. ROADSTER (#1) (5-2) romped in his career debut going six furlongs at Del Mar last July then came back there five weeks later and ran third to eventual juvenile champion Game Winner as the odds-on favorite. Despite those expectations, he went to the sideline for six months before returning here for a win over first-level allowance foes going two turns for the first time. The son of super sire Quality Road should only get better with distance and he draws the rail with Mike Smith. MORE ICE (#2) (30-1) took three starts to break his maiden, which he did going two turns on the turf. There isn’t much of a program for juvenile turf horses on the West Coast so he came back two starts later to beat allowance foes. The son of More Than Ready finished up the season with a third in the Eddie Logan Stakes before shipping north for a well-beaten third on the Tapeta in the El Camino Real Derby. NOLO CONTESTO (#3) (6-1) lost all chance in his career debut going six furlongs when he was bumped at the start but he came back next time out to break his maiden here going two turns. Behind him was Omaha Beach, who came back to win the Rebel Stakes (G2) last month and hand Game Winner his first career loss. Last out, Nolo Contesto was sent off as the odds-on favorite going a two-turn mile but could not handle Roadster. He is a horse who has attracted a lot of attention but has to break better. SYNTHESIS (#4) (30-1) is 1-1-4 in nine lifetime starts, and those came when he was in the barn of Keith Desormeaux. Now with George Papaprodromou, he stretches back out in distance while moving up in class. Pass. INSTAGRAND (#5) (3-1) was the early juvenile leader last year after a 10-length debut win going five furlongs in blazing-fast time followed by another 10-length win, this time in the Best Pal Stakes (G2) going six furlongs. Owner Larry Best decided to put him away and avoid the late-season juvenile races to preserve him for this year. Instagrand made his 2019 debut at Aqueduct in the Gotham Stakes (G3) going a one-turn mile and I liked how he was able to press a blazing-fast pace and still have energy in the stretch. That’s a lot to ask first time out and he should be much tighter in this spot. Trainer Jerry Hollendorfer has drilled him hard for his two-turn debut and he should get a perfect trip outside of Roadster. GAME WINNER (#6) (4-5) is the juvenile champion who lost none of his luster when he lost the Rebel Stakes (G2) last out. The winner of four straight races last year, he returned off a four-month layoff at Oaklawn Park and almost ran down Omaha Beach, who broke the race open on the far turn. Game Winner was coming with every stride but lost an improbable photo. His training might have been affected during the shutdown at Santa Anita Park but it looks like it is all systems go with Joel Rosario returning in the irons. With the 45 Kentucky Derby (G1) eligibility points he already has, I have some questions about how tight trainer Bob Baffert will have him for this one. ANALYSIS Small field limits opportunities but #5 INSTAGRAND can upset the Baffert duo. WAGER Win #5 Exacta Box #5, #6 PHOTO: Instagrand and jockey Drayden Van Dyke win the Best Pal Stakes (G2) on August 11, 2018 © BENOIT PHOTO