From favorite to longshot, from inside to outside, optimism prevailed Thursday morning for Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast’s Grade I classic for 3-year-olds that could use the 74th edition of the mile and an eighth test as a steppingstone to the $2 million Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.

Eight Santa Anita Derby winners have gone on to win the Run for the Roses, but none since Sunday Silence in 1989. Since 1989, however, four horses that were beaten in the Santa Anita Derby went on to win the Kentucky Derby: Silver Charm (1997), Real Quiet (1998), Charismatic (1999) and Giacomo (2005).

Premier Pegasus, winner of the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 miles by nearly eight lengths on March 12 under regular rider Alonso Quinonez, was installed the 8-5 morning line favorite in a field of 11. The son of 2000 Kentucky Derby winner Fusaichi Pegasus drew post position eight.

“The post is good,” Quinonez said. “It’s always better when you’re on the outside. But when you’ve got speed, it doesn’t really matter. He should be as good or better Saturday than he was coming into the San Felipe. The extra 16th of a mile can only help him.”

Martin Garcia, who rides San Felipe runner-up Jaycito, is confident his colt can improve enough to give Premier Pegasus more of a run for the money. Jaycito is the 4-1 second choice.

“He’s been training a lot better (than he did before the San Felipe), and like I’ve said, he needed that race,” Garcia said. The San Felipe was Jaycito’s first start since the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile last Nov. 6, a span of more than four months. “He’s going to be tough on Saturday, and I think he’s going to be closer (to the pace),” Garcia continued. “I’ve been working him and he’s been training super-good.”

Jaycito, a committed stretch runner save for his front-running maiden win at six furlongs last August, closed from 10th and last in the San Felipe after being bumped at the start and going five-wide through the stretch. Trainer Bob Baffert was resigned to the draw.

“You can’t change it,” he said.

All systems were go for 9-2 third choice Silver Medallion, trained by Eclipse Award winner Steve Asmussen, whose division at Santa Anita this meet has been supervised by assistant Scott Blasi.

“We’re happy with his post, we’re happy with everything," said Blasi, who noted that Asmussen would be on hand for the race. “The horse just has to run on the dirt like he did at Golden Gate (winning the El Camino Real Derby on synthetic Tapeta). The horse has trained well and the post is somewhere where I wanted him to be, four through nine . . . We just have to run our race and have a clean trip.”

Mike Smith is unbeaten in his two rides on Mr. Commons for trainer John Shirreffs and feels on talent, the son of Artie Schiller has a longshot’s chance at 12-1.

“I wouldn’t think a mile and an eighth would be a problem for him,” said the Hall of Fame jockey and the regular rider of Horse of the Year Zenyatta. “He’s got a lot of talent, although he might be a bit against it as far as seasoning, but he’s coming into the race the right way, because he’s really starting to train well right now. He’s ready to run a good one. Hopefully, it will be good enough.

“The race is crucial for him in that he needs graded earnings (to qualify for one of the 20 spots in the Run for the Roses), so we’re going to go out there and give it our best.”

Anthony’s Cross hasn’t raced since his nose victory in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 12, but that’s according to plan.

“I just wanted three prep races before I go to the (Kentucky) Derby if I’m good enough to get there,” trainer Eoin Harty said. “This would be his third prep race . . . He’s doing good, he’s very fit and he worked five-eighths Monday (in :59.80 at Hollywood Park). He won’t get tired (going a mile and an eighth or a mile and a quarter).”

Tim Yakteen was asked how Bench Points can make up the nine lengths he lost by to Premier Pegasus in the San Felipe. “Well, it will be his second time routing and I think that’s going to help us out,” the trainer said.

Corey Nakatani knows where he’s going to be in the race, at least early on. That would be in front on speedster Comma to the Top, who led in the San Felipe before weakening to fourth.

“He’s got such a natural high cruising speed and the other day (in the San Felipe), it was kind of a suicidal pace, so I opted to take back just a tad off of them, but it was still too fast,” said Nakatani, who won the 2008 Santa Anita Derby on Colonel John.

“He came out of the race in good order. He worked Monday and we’ll go from there. As far is the track right now, it comes down to this: good horses are going to run fast on it and slow horses will run slow on it. But the surface is safe and that’s the main thing.”

The field for the Santa Anita Derby, which goes as the 10th race on an 11-race program: Offlee Wild Boys, Joe Talamo, 50-1; Indian Winter, Patrick Valenzuela, 15-1; Mr. Commons, Mike Smith, 12-1; Silver Medallion, Garrett Gomez, 9-2; Comma to the Top, Corey Nakatani, 8-1; Midnight Interlude, Victor Espinoza, 20-1; Quail Hill, Martin Pedroza, 50-1; Premier Pegasus, Alonso Quinonez, 8-5; Anthony’s Cross, Joel Rosario, 6-1; Bench Points, Rafael Bejarano, 12-1; and Jaycito, Martin Garcia, 4-1.

Each horse is assigned 122 pounds.

First post time on Santa Anita Derby Day is 12 noon. Gates open at 10 a.m. There will be a guaranteed $500,000 late Pick 4. Official Santa Anita Derby T-shirts will be available free to all paid admission customers at Santa Anita while supplies last.

Saturday’s local weather forecast calls for sunny skies with high temperatures in the mid-60s.


Premier Pegasus, as expected, is the favorite on Santa Anita oddsmaker Jon White’s morning line for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby, though the 8-5 price is higher than would have been the case without Jaycito in the field.

“When it looked like the Santa Anita Derby might have an eight-horse field without Jaycito, I had planned to make Premier Pegasus a 6-5 favorite,” White said. “But then the situation changed when the Santa Anita Derby field grew to 11 entrants and when (trainer Bob) Baffert elected to enter Jaycito. Consequently, I did raise Premier Pegasus to 8-5.”

Premier Pegasus won Santa Anita’s Grade II San Felipe Stakes by a record 7 ¾ lengths on March 12.

“As I’ve said before, Premier Pegasus was so dominant in the San Felipe that I don’t think there is any question he will be a strong Santa Anita Derby favorite,” White explained, “especially considering the San Felipe had what is considered to have been the best field of all the graded stakes races for 3-year-olds in California this year.”

White said he used the final odds for the Kentucky Derby Future Wager that closed last Sunday for some guidance in making the morning line for the Santa Anita Derby.

“I thought it could be quite helpful to take into consideration the final prices for the five Santa Anita Derby horses included among the single betting interests in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager,” White said. “I think those prices are meaningful vis-à-vis the Santa Anita Derby because they are based on actual money wagered, though one must also keep in mind people were betting on the Kentucky Derby and not the Santa Anita Derby. Nevertheless, those prices would seem to give us a pretty good idea of how the public currently perceives those particular five horses.”

Undefeated Eclipse Award winner Uncle Mo (the 1-5 morning-line favorite in Saturday’s Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct) closed as the 3-1 favorite in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, with Grade I Florida Derby winner Dialed In the second choice at 5-1. Premier Pegasus was 9-1, with Jaycito closing at 20-1, Silver Medallion at 41-1, Anthony’s Cross at 43-1 and Mr. Commons at 96-1.

“I had considered making Silver Medallion the second favorite or co-second favorite with Jaycito for the Santa Anita Derby,” White said. “But after seeing those final prices in the Kentucky Derby Future Wager, I was swayed to make Jaycito the second favorite at 4-1, with Silver Medallion the third choice at 9-2 and Anthony’s Cross at 6-1. I had planned to make Jaycito 7-2 but raised him a notch to 4-1 after he drew the outside post.

“Silver Medallion and Anthony’s Cross are the only Santa Anita Derby entrants to already have won at a mile and an eighth. Silver Medallion is a smaller price than Anthony’s Cross because, among other things, Silver Medallion earned a good Beyer Speed Figure of 94 in the El Camino Real Derby and had a terrific seven-furlong workout on the dirt in 1:23 3/5 here last week. That tied Silver Medallion with Sway Away for the fastest seven-furlong drill here since opening day.

“When it appeared to be an eight-horse Santa Anita Derby field without Jaycito, I had Mr. Commons 6-1 on my preliminary line. But the Kentucky Derby Future wager influenced me quite a bit in terms of his price for the Santa Anita Derby. I raised Mr. Commons to 12-1 after I saw his future wager price was so huge at 96-1.

“Some people might wonder about giving much credence to the Kentucky Derby Future Wager when making odds for the Santa Anita Derby because the Kentucky Derby Future Wager is a national wager. But these days, because of simulcast wagering and computer wagering, the Santa Anita Derby also really is a national wager, not just a Santa Anita wager. So the Kentucky Derby Future Wager actually might be a good indication of how people are going to bet the Santa Anita Derby.”


In order to accommodate its annual Santa Anita Derby 5K Walk and Run, Santa Anita Park and the city of Arcadia have announced that Baldwin Ave., from the 210 Freeway to Huntington Drive, will be closed to vehicular traffic from 7:30 a.m. to 9 a.m. on Saturday.

Accordingly, Santa Anita’s Gate 8, which adjoins the Westfield Shopping Mall on Baldwin Ave., will also be closed to vehicles during the same period.

Those wishing to visit Santa Anita’s popular Clockers’ Corner venue at the top of the stretch, will be able to enter on Santa Anita’s east end through parking lot Gate 5. Gate 5 will be open for easy access to Clockers’ Corner beginning at 5 a.m. and will remain open throughout the day.

Gate 5 is located on the east end of the racetrack at the confluence of Colorado Place and Huntington Drive. For additional information on the Santa Anita Derby and on the Santa Anita Derby 5K Walk and Run, fans are encouraged to visit, or call (626) 574-RACE.


With an assist from the weatherman, Mike Machowsky is hopeful his rags-to-riches gelding Caracortado can return to the winner’s circle in Saturday’s Grade II Arcadia Stakes scheduled for one mile on turf, one of four graded stakes on Saturday

“Everything’s going fine,” the trainer and co-owner of Caracortado said. “I’m just hoping we don’t get much rain. If it’s too soft or if it comes off the turf, I wouldn’t run. I’d run him at Keeneland or wait for Churchill (Downs, $500,000, Grade I Woodford Reserve at 1 1/8 miles on turf May 7).”

Saturday’s local forecast does not call for rain, although there is a chance of precipitation Friday.

Machowsky was unconcerned about drawing the rail. “It’s not a big deal,” he said. “I wouldn’t worry about the post for him unless it was a big field and he drew the 12 hole.”

The field for the Arcadia, which goes as the seventh race: Caracortado, Joe Talamo; Leroy’s Dynameaux, Joel Rosario; Norvsky, Chantal Sutherland; Blue Chagall, Garrett Gomez; Liberian Freighter, Martin Garcia; Jeranimo, Rafael Bejarano; and Run It, Alonso Quinonez.


La Nez will be in receipt of 10 pounds from Unzip Me in Saturday’s Grade III, $100,000 Las Cienegas Handicap scheduled for about 6 ½ furlongs on turf. Trainer Eric Kruljac hopes it’s enough.

“On paper there’s enough speed in the race for her, but you know how that is,” he said. “It doesn’t always play out how it looks on paper, and Unzip Me is just a monster.”

Unzip Me, winner of 11 of 18 career starts for trainer Marty Jones, won the Clockers’ Corner Handicap last out under 125 pounds. La Nez, a late-running California-bred daughter of Storm Creek, won the Irish O’Brien March 19 for her fifth win from 16 starts for Kruljac.

“I have faith that the weather won’t be a factor,” he said. “We didn’t draw the eight hole (from which La Nez has won four California-bred stakes) but we missed it by one; we’re in the seven. She’s doing great. Her weight’s good, she had a fantastic breeze and she couldn’t be doing any better. But like I said, Unzip Me is just a monster. She carries 127 and I think they could have put 157 on her and she’d still win.”

The field for the Providencia, which goes as the ninth race: Bonita Star, Joe Talamo; Withgreatpleasure, Patrick Valenzuela; Wave of Applause, Mike Smith; So Belle, Rafael Bejarano; Whisper Louise, Victor Espinoza; Hard to Resist, Joel Rosario; Cambina, Garrett Gomez; Wallstreeter, Brice Blanc; and True Way of Grace, Chantal Sutherland.


HRTV will be onsite Saturday at Aqueduct to provide live coverage of the Grade I, $1 million Resorts World New York Casino Wood Memorial in addition to the day’s other graded action.

HRTV’s Caton Bredar and former New York-based jockey standout Richard Migliore, who also works for NYRA as a broadcast analyst and racing office associate, will be onsite throughout the day to provide viewers with timely reports and the latest information on the action from Aqueduct.

HRTV will be on from 5:30 to 6 p.m. for complete, in-depth coverage, and analysis of the Wood. Last year’s 2-year-old Eclipse champion Uncle Mo is the 1-5 favorite for the Wood, his final start before the Kentucky Derby. Owned by Mike Repole, trained by Todd Pletcher, and ridden by John Velazquez, the son of Indian Charlie has won his four starts by a combined margin of 27 lengths, including a 4 ¾-length romp in the Grade I Champagne Stakes at Belmont Park last October and an easy 4 ¼-length score in the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Juvenile at Churchill last November.

Wood Day also features the Grade I Carter, featuring a deep and contentious field including Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile runner-up Morning Line, multiple Grade III winner Calibrachoa, Apriority, owner of the third-fastest Beyer Speed Figure this year (113) and Grade I-placed Yawanna Twist.

The graded action kicks off at approximately 4:09 p.m. with the Grade III Comely for 3-year-old fillies at a mile and continues with the Grade III Bay Shore for 3-year-old sprinters at 4:42 p.m., followed by the Carter (5:15 p.m.) and the Wood (5:48 p.m.).


Santa Anita offers another in its series of “Free Fridays” tomorrow. All patrons will receive free General Admission.

In addition, Santa Anita will offer $2 beers, soft drinks and hot dogs and free box seats as available. The promotion will continue on the final Friday of the meet, which ends April 17.

FINISH LINES: KNBC reporter John Klemack will report live tomorrow, 4:30 a.m. to 7 a.m., from Clockers’ Corner. His guests will include jockeys Joe Talamo, Santa Anita Handicap winner Chantal Sutherland and HRTV’s Kurt Hoover . . . Host Jack Disney’s guests for Sunday's Fans' Forum will be Hoover and Bob Mieszerski of Today's Racing Digest, 11:15 a.m. in the East Paddock Gardens. -30-