PAMPLEMOUSSE, ‘PIONEER’ SET FOR EPIC MATCH IN SANTA ANITA DERBY

Ali-Frazier, Celtics-Lakers, Yankees-Red Sox, The Pamplemousse-Pioneerof the Nile. With all due respect to the other participants in next Saturday’s Grade I, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby, The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile have captured the fancy of racing fans. The two 3-year-olds are the heavyweights the racing world will focus on with keen intensity as they take what they hope will be their final step towards the Kentucky Derby on May 2.

Each horse has a similar record, but contrasting running styles. The Pamplemousse’s forte is speed. He is unbeaten in his last three starts since stretching out, numbering the Grade III San Rafael Stakes and the Grade III Sham Stakes among his victories. The son of Kafwain trained by Julio Canani has three wins and a third in five starts, with earnings of $209,280.

Pioneerof the Nile is a stretch runner. The son of Empire Maker trained by Bob Baffert also has won his last three starts: the Grade I CashCall Futurity, the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes, and the Grade II San Felipe Stakes. He has a 4-0-1 record from seven starts, with earnings of $784,200.

The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile also are horses of different a color. The Pamplemousse is gray; Pioneerof the Nile is dark bay or brown.

The Pamplemousse’s rider is Alex Solis. Garrett Gomez rides Pioneerof the Nile. Neither has ever won the Kentucky Derby, but hope their Santa Anita Derby mounts will give them a chance to add a victory in the Run for the Roses to their already glossy resumes.

While The Pamplemousse and Pioneerof the Nile are the marquee contenders in the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, Dan Ward likes the chances of Chocolate Candy. “We’ll be overlooked,” said Ward, 50, the right hand man at Santa Anita for Jerry Hollendorfer, perennial training king in the Bay Area, who conditions Santa Anita Derby contender Chocolate Candy for the Sid and Jenny Craig Trust.

“I can’t worry about the other horses in the race,” the soft-spoken Ward said. “I just worry about us.”