Brent Sedo | Sat 07/04/2018 - 03:53 EDT

2018 Santa Anita Derby Picks

2018 Santa Anita Derby Picks

Santa Anita Derby Preview and Odds

Run at 1 1/8 miles on the Santa Anita dirt track, the Santa Anita Derby offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a 100-40-20-10 scale for the top four finishers, as well as a $1 million total purse. Outside of Bolt d'Oro, none of the six other entries in the field have yet to claim a Derby spot, with the expected cut off for the 20-horse Derby field to be around 40 points. 

Sitting near the top of the Derby leaderboard with 64 points already, Bolt d'Oro has been made the SA Derby morning line favorite at odds of 6-5. Trained by southern California mainstay Mick Ruis, Bolt d'Oro won the first three starts of his career, including the (G1) Del Mar Futurity and the (G1) Frontrunner Stakes at Santa Anita. He broke poorly and had to run way wide in the 2017 Breeders' Cup Juvenile, but still managed to get up for third as the post time favorite in that race.

He made his 2018 debut in the (G2) San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita, where he duelled thorugh the stretch with the highly regarded McKinzie before being edged by that one at the wire. After a stewards' inquiry, it was deemed that McKinzie had interfered with Bolt'd'Oro in the stretch drive, and the order of finish was reversed.

He's a fast and talented colt who is the deserving favorite here. He doesn't need anymore qualifying points to make the Derby starting field, and it's unlikely trainer Ruis will want jockey Javier Castellano to push him anymore than is necessary to stay in touch with the leaders and try for the win late, but he's good enough that he might just run away from the field on his own.

Justify Needs to Justify the Hype

It seems almost every year Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert pulls a surprise Derby contender from his barn, and this year he has Justify (4-5) who has been creating a lot of Derby buzz despite the fact he's not yet on the Derby leaderboard and the Santa Anita will be his one and only chance to gain qualifying points. Which means he likely has to finish in the top two to get in.

Unraced as a two-year-old in 2017, Justify has two starts to his name this year, both at Santa Anita. He won his maiden debut in mid-February by 9 1/2 lengths over seven furlongs, setting very fast early splits and getting to the 3/4 mile mark at an eye-catching 1:09 flat.

He then moved to a one-mile allowance race, where he broke a bit slow and chased some solid early fractions before taking over and winning going away by more than six lengths. The competition gets a lot tougher here, and he's going to have to overcome a big stretch out in distance, but he's a factor if he's able to carry his speed all the way.

After the top two, there's some drop off in ability in the rest of the field, and it seems worthwhile to try and get a price in the exotics by throwing Pepe Tono (20-1) into the mix. He only has a maiden win to his credit in four lifetime starts, but he at least has graded-stakes experience after finishing sixth in the (G3) Robert Lewis in early February. Last out he raced in the same allowance event that was won by Justify, and while he was no where near that one, he did start running in the lane and managed to get up for third. He's not expected to challenge out of the gate, but the added distance here could work to his advantage.

The one other runner in the field that already holds Kentucky Derby qualifying points is Instilled Regard (5-1), who currently holds 19 points and likely needs at least a third place finish to grab a spot in the gate at Churchill Downs. After taking three starts to get his maiden win, he came right back to run second in the (G1) Cash Call Futurity - getting the benefit of a DQ against race winner Solomini - and started 2018 by winning the (G3) Lecomte Stakes at Fair Grounds in New Orleans.

He stayed in Louisiana for the (G2) Risen Star Stakes, where he finished behind a pair of big long shots as the race favorite. While it was his first time finishing off the board, and perhaps he just needed a race to get back in form after the winter layoff, he didn't show the kind of kick in the lane that you would expect from a top contender against a field he should have dominated.

The Santa Anita Derby goes Saturday, April 7 from Santa Anita Race Track in Arcadia, California. It's race #9 on a 12-race card, and preceeds the (G1) Santa Anita Oaks, which is a qualifying race for the 2018 Kentucky Oaks. Post time for the SA Derby is 4:12 PM Pacific.

Entries w/ ML Odds

  1. Instilled Regard (5-1)
  2. Orbit Rain (50-1)
  3. Bolt d'Oro (6-5)
  4. Jimmy Chila (30-1)
  5. Pepe Tono (20-1)
  6. Justify (4-5)
  7. Core Beliefs (20-1)

Santa Anita Derby Picks

  • 1) #3 - Bolt d'Oro
  • 2) #6 - Justify
  • 3) #5 - Pepe Tono
  • 4) #1 - Instilled Regard

In addition to the Santa Anita Derby, a big day of racing in the US includes the running of the (G2) Wood Memorial Stakes in New York and the (G1) Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland in Kentucky. You can wager on all these races - and make a pick for the Kentucky Derby future bets as well, with an account at Bovada's online racebook.     

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