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Santa Anita Derby Day Rapid Reactions

by Jeremy Plonk

June 3, 2020

Entries were drawn this afternoon for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby Day card, an 11-race lineup that includes a whopping 7 stakes races. First post is slated for 12:30 pm PT with the Grade 1 co-features going as Race 5 (Santa Anita Oaks), Race 8 (Runhappy Santa Anita Derby) and Race 10 (Hollywood Gold Cup). Stick with Xpressbet and 1/ST throughout the week for more in-depth previews, workout analysis, selections and more.

The Santa Anita Oaks offered some surprise omissions in the entry box with divisional leader Venetian Harbor and rising star Gamine taking passes. The field of 5 includes the well-traveled Swiss Skydiver for Kentucky-based trainer Kenny McPeek. She’s won the Gulfstream Park Oaks and Oaklawn’s Fantasy in her last 2 starts. A rare, coast-to-coast troika for her will have to come at the expense of Santa Ysabel runner-up Speech, Evening Jewel-winning Cal-bred Smiling Shirlee and Bob Baffert’s last-out maiden dominators Merneith and Regal Beauty. Posts don’t look overly critical in this spot, though Swiss Skydiver may get pressure from Merneith and/or Speech just to her outside.

The Runhappy Santa Anita Derby lured the expected rematch of San Felipe Stakes 1-2 finishers Authentic and Honor A.P. The former looks to give Baffert a record-padding 10th victory in Santa Anita’s nationally respected 3-year-old showcase. Baffert also bids with Azul Coast, winner of the El Camino Real Derby in February when last seen at Golden Gate Fields. The lineup includes 2019 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile runner-up Anneau d’Or in search of his first stakes win as well as a trio of runners racing in stakes company for the first time. Two of those newcomers are inside-drawn speedsters Rushie and Shooters Shoot, either or both of whom could find themselves in front of Authentic in the early hunt. The favorite drew widest in post 7, giving jockey Drayden Van Dyke some decisions to make. Honor A.P. might benefit if the aforementioned fresh faces to the Santa Anita stakes set are able to extend Authentic.

As for the recently re-renamed Hollywood Gold Cup (contested in recent years as the Gold Cup at Santa Anita), a 6-pack has accepted the challenge over 1-1/4 miles. Trainers with a remarkable 11 victories in this race match steeds, including 5-time winner Baffert (Improbable), 4-time victor Doug O’Neill (Parsimony) and 2-time champ John Sadler (Higher Power). The Gold Cup might also be the Redemption Cup; it features the beaten favorites in the Kentucky Derby/Preakness (Improbable), Pegasus World Cup (Higher Power) and Santa Anita Handicap (Midcourt). All appear drawn well in the 6-horse field, that includes Kentucky shipper Tenfold’s late-closing kick from a very manageable outside draw over this trip.

Saturday’s undercard events also feature the career debut of $3.6 million sophomore Cezanne, who has trained like Bob Baffert’s next star 3-year-old for his Race 6 maiden unveiling.