SANTA ANITA, Cali. (WHAS11)-- Approximately 2,070 miles west of Churchill Downs, the gates will open on Saturday for a race that could send three or more starters to Derby 140. The Santa Anita Derby has always been a huge stepping stone.
I'll Have Another won both at Santa Anita and Churchill in 2012, but you have to go all the way back to Sunday Silence in 1989 to find another Derby double winner in recent history. Winning Colors also doubled in 1988.
But you might pay attention to second place finishers like Real Quiet and Silver Charm, who shipped to Louisville on the brink of greatness. Giacomo and Charismatic finished fourth at Santa Anita.
I point this out because some pretty good horses are going to finish second or third or worse this weekend in Arcadia California. This will be a showdown between three recent stakes winners. All are in the Derby Top Twenty.
California Chrome will be the favorite after three stakes wins in a row, and a 102 Bris speed figure in the San Felipe Stakes. The Cal bred won last time on an easy lead over Midnight Hawk and Kristo.
But this time he will be challenged by the hard charging Candy Boy, who will probably love the added distance and Hoppertunity, who won the Rebel Stakes in Arkansas over Tapiture.
This could be a jockey's race. California Chrome has won his three in a row under Victor Espinoza. Gary Stevens got Candy Boy to the winner's circle in the Bob Lewis Stakes and Mike Smith returns to ride Hoppertunity after their winning spin at Oaklawn.
Of the top three, Candy Boy has the most to lose or gain. Trainer John Sadler chose to skip the intermediate Derby preps and 50 points and take the all or nothing shot in the Santa Anita.
This is shades of Cairo Prince, who took the same route and Florida, missed the board and wound up on the Derby points bubble.
Candy Boy needs to hit the board to get to Louisville. California Chrome and Hoppertunity have 50 points in the bank and can make reservations. That means, down the stretch, Gary Stevens might be pushing the hardest.
Among the other starters, Rprettyboyfloyd, Friendswith K Mill, Dublin Up, Schoolofhardrocks and Big Tire are maiden and allowance horses with high hopes and lower numbers. They are also horses with long names.
On the front end however, the Santa Anita Derby should be a remarkable three horse race, and in the winner's circle, you might find a Kentucky Derby favorite.