Sharp Samurai the one to beat in Twilight Derby

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Alastair Bull

October 26th, 2017

Sharp Samurai beats Big Score to win the Del Mar Derby. Benoit Photos.Sharp Samurai will need to beat a good field as he tries to win his fourth consecutive stakes race in the 1 1/8-mile Twilight Derby (G2) for 3-year-old turf runners at Santa Anita Park Oct. 28.

The son of First Samurai is one of the leading 3-year-old turf runners on the West Coast, a ranking earned after winning the La Jolla Handicap (G3) and the Del Mar Derby (G2) during the Del Mar summer carnival.

Returning from the Del Mar Derby to oppose him in the Twilight Derby, an important lead-up to the Hollywood Derby (G1) in four weeks, are the two horses that finished just behind him: Big Score, who was earlier runner-up in the Penn Mile Stakes (G2), and Bowies Hero, a winner of two stakes races and whose jockey lost the whip in the Del Mar Derby.

Cowboy Culture heads west after a good turf season. He beat Haskell Invitational winner Girvin in the Keith Gee Memorial Stakes on turf at Fair Grounds, finished ahead of another Kentucky Derby runner in Fast and Accurate when winning the Arlington Classic (G3) May 27, and won the Centaur Stakes at Indiana Grand against a field that included subsequent Ontario Derby winner Tiz a Slam.

Another graded stakes winner on his way to Santa Anita Park is Just Howard. He’s shooting for five on end after winning a maiden, two Maryland-bred stakes races, and the Commonwealth Derby (G3) at Laurel Park Sept. 30.

Canadian-bred Channel Maker adds a little interest. Third behind subsequent Jim Dandy Stakes (G2) winner Good Samaritan in the Summer Stakes (G2) last year, Channel Maker this year won the 1 ½-mile Breeders’ Stakes, the third leg of the Canadian Triple Crown. He took on older horses at his last start, finishing sixth in the Joe Hirsch Turf Classic (G1) behind Beach Patrol.

Two Californian runners inexperienced on turf but with graded stakes placings behind the top-class 3-year-old Mastery are lining up. California Cup Derby winner Ann Arbor Eddie is running on turf for the first time, while Cash Call Futurity (G1) third-place finisher Dangerfield has had just one start on turf, finishing fourth in an allowance behind another Twilight Derby runner, Troublewithatee.

Penn Mile Stakes third-place finisher Cistron and Commonwealth Derby third-place finisher Profiteer complete the field.

Though Big Score was a little late clear in the Del Mar Derby, it will be tough for him or Bowie’s Hero to turn the tables on Sharp Samurai. Both should be included for multiples. Channel Maker will appreciate returning to 3-year-old company and shouldn’t be forgotten, and neither should Cowboy Culture and Just Howard.