GARRETT GOMEZ, PIONEEROF THE NILE, WINNER: “Any time you win … it wasn’t the way we were really trying to get it done today. We wanted to try something like the race he ran before, and that was to try to make one solid run with him. But with all the scratches, it just jeopardized the pace for us. I tried to get in behind and settle early on. He was OK for a while, but then as they kept slowing down in front of him, I tried to take hold of him and get him back a couple times. He went for it once or twice, and then all of a sudden when they slowed down about the 6 1/2 , I was going to have to slow him down too much. He’s such a big-striding horse, he’s in a comfortable rhythm if he’s able to stretch his legs. The bad part about him is that when he gets up there, he just kind of lollygags on me – otherwise, I wouldn’t be hesitant about any of this. He just makes me hesitant because I know he waits a little bit. I was trying to get him to relax a little bit. He was pulling a little, and it was either yank him out pull. It worked out for us. We’re happy we won, and we’ll go on to the next step.

“I feel it was a carbon copy of his last race, and we weren’t trying to accomplish that. We weren’t trying to do that. We wanted him to run more like he did in the race prior to that. I wouldn’t say it’s a missed opportunity; I was just a little disappointed I wasn’t able to get it done the way we wanted to. You’re always happy to win the Santa Anita Derby, but just knowing the next step for him, I was trying to get a little more preparation for the next step. I wasn’t able to accomplish that.”

JOEL ROSARIO, CHOCOLATE CANDY, SECOND: My horse ran good, but the other horse (Pioneerof the Nile) is a more tactical horse. He was able to set a slow pace, so my horse was a little bit closer, and I don’t think he finished like he can. I think when we have more pace in the race, he’ll be OK. I think this should set him up well for the Kentucky Derby. I really liked the way he moved coming to the quarter pole and coming to the wire. I really like his ability. I’m sure there will be more pace in the Kentucky Derby, and he will like that.”

COREY NAKATANI, MR. HOT STUFF, THIRD: “He ran good, but there was no pace in the race. I mean, a few horses scratched, and my horse ran hard. Going to the half-mile pole, I knew they were going slow, so I didn’t want to lose too much contact with them. I started to make a move and they all quickened around the far turn. I dropped back to the inside, gave him a little education, and he ran hard. He’s just one of those Belmont-type horses, I think.”

ALEX SOLIS, TAKE THE POINTS, FOURTH: “That was racing to the fullest for me today. I didn’t know about what had happened to The Pamplemousse until I woke up from my nap about 10:45. Obviously, I was disappointed. Very disappointed. But you’ve just got to pick up your head and keep going. So I wound up with Take the Points, and he ran real good. I was proud of his effort. He ran a gallant race, and that’s all you can ask for.”

VICTOR ESPINOZA, FEISTY SUANCES, FIFTH: “I was trying to steal the race, but I didn’t have enough horse to do it. I just wanted to go as slow as I could, and see if I could make it. He tried hard. But it was just one of those days when he couldn’t beat those kind of horses.”


BOB BAFFERT, PIONEEROF THE NILE, WINNER: “I saw the pace slowed down and my horse was getting a little keen. He was pretty sharp for this race. Down the backside, when he (Garrett Gomez) finally let him run a little bit, I thought, ‘Well, I’m glad he’s letting him do that,’ because this horse, his stride is so long, that’s nothing for him. You can put him on the lead, and he would have kept going, but I think he did a great job of changing his tactics halfway down (the backstretch). But good horses can adapt to any situation. That’s why he’s a good horse. That’s why he’s won four in a row now. He’s learning how to run, but the thing is, he’s very competitive, and I felt really good today about him. I knew he was going to win the Santa Anita Derby, and once he came out of the gate clean, I felt real good about him. I’ll just keep him happy and healthy (en route to the Kentucky Derby on May 2). He’s ready to go.”

Asked how the late scratches affected the race: “With The Pamplemousse out, it sort of changed everything. I was really excited about the race, and it’s too bad for those guys, but I know what it’s like. Kafwain scratched two days before the (2003 Santa Anita) Derby with the same tendon injury, so it’s a tough deal . . . Still, we got to see a good horse perform today.”

JERRY HOLLENDORFER, CHOCOLATE CANDY, SECOND: “He was real wide coming for home, that was one problem, and the pace was slow. I have no excuse. I think we ran well enough to try the (Kentucky) Derby if Mrs. Craig wants to, and I think I would want to. It (the late scratches of The Pamplemousse and Z Day) changed the whole complexion of the race from what everybody thought for a month. It changed in a few hours.”

NOTES: Winning owner Ahmed Zayat is from Hackensack, N.J.