by Millie Ball
June 4, 2020
If there's a man who knows what it takes to win the Runhappy Santa Anita Derby, it's the 9-time winning trainer Bob Baffert. His undefeated colt Authentic earned a fourth consecutive bullet work on May 31 while preparing for the race he has been pointed to since his victory in the Grade 2 San Felipe. His last quarter was clocked in :24. In all 4 of these works, he looks like he's putting minimal effort into achieving a fast time. I haven't seen an exercise rider or jockey knuckle down on him since his winning debut at Del Mar, so one can assume his talent runs deeper. However, he has never had to eye-ball a fierce competitor in a race, something I'm anxious to find out about him prior to the Kentucky Derby. Up to this point, Authentic's occasional inability to stay focused when in high gear appears his only weakness. He will be my top choice.
It's been a pleasure watching Honor A. P. carve out his morning drills at Santa Anita like clockwork since his runner-up effort to Authentic in the San Felipe. Jockey Mike Smith has been working him frequently and is very encouraged by his progress (read my full Q&A with Smith here). This son of Honor Code has a nice, big, fluent stride that will prosper over a mile and one-quarter. His Wednesday morning gallop indicates to me that he’s in top form. He certainly can bridge the gap over 9 furlongs Saturday, but not likely enough to gain the advantage. These two colts, Authentic and Honor A.P., are standouts with the remainder of the field seeming wide open.
Azul Coast's works are much more flattering when he's in front and gets brave, as seen May 31, although he runs from off the pace in his races. The Santa Anita Derby became a diversion for him after the Sunland Derby cancelled. He is training equally as well.
Trainer Michael McCarthy chose to run Rushie, a recent first-level allowance winner, in the Santa Anita Derby because, he said, "There was nowhere else to run." It doesn't instill a huge amount of confidence! However, the timing is good with 5 weeks between races and the colt appears to be going the right way. This was evident in his 5-furlong work May 30 when Flavien Prat set him down at the quarter pole, teaching him to chase the company in front of him and he responded instantly. He finished in a swift final time of :59.80 while still very much in the bridle.
Shooters Shoot missed the Arkansas Derby due to spiking a temperature, but appeared to recover quick enough to post a 5-furlong work in :59.80 just 14 days later. Abel Cedillo worked him 5 furlongs on June 1 in 1:02.40 with a final quarter-mile in 24:40, galloping out in 1:15:60 He was very happy with the work from his first-ever Santa Anita Derby mount.