2014 Santa Anita Derby Picks with Odds and Predictions
by Trevor Whenham - 4/1/2014
The 2014 Santa Anita Derby will be run on Saturday, April 5. Given the ridiculously wide-open nature of the Kentucky Derby field at this point, this is hopefully a race that will provide some much-needed clarity. There is an intriguing field coming together, but the race really seems to be all about three strong contenders looking to prove that they are serious threats on the first Saturday in May.
Here’s a look at the big three with some 204 Santa Anita Derby picks and predictions (futures odds to win the race are from Sportsbook.ag):
California Chrome (+200): The likely favorite in this race is viewed nationally as the best horse on the West Coast, and at this point likely the best horse in the country — at least until he shows what he is all about here. If he were to win this race in convincing fashion then it would be quite shocking if he weren’t the post-time favorite for the Kentucky Derby. His trainer is Art Sherman, who is very old school and well-respected. He isn’t a regular face on the Derby Trail, but he is more than capable. Victor Espinoza has the ride, and there is nothing at all wrong with that. This horse has to overcome some history with his breeding. He is a California-bred. Only four California-breds have ever won the Kentucky Derby, and none have done it since 1962. It only takes one horse to beat a trend like that, though, and there haven’t been a ton of California-breds that have displayed the talent to post a 107 Beyer as early as this horse did in the San Felipe. While I have obviously been impressed by the horse, I am frankly hoping he regresses a bit in this race. He has been running at a very high level this spring, so a slightly lesser effort might leave more in the tank for Churchill. More significantly, it could inflate what might otherwise be microscopic odds in May.
Candy Boy (+400): This horse has beautiful connections. Classy veteran trainer John Sadler and miracle comeback jockey Gary Stevens both know a thing or two about getting the most out of horses. While I really like that, what I don’t like is that he is coming into this race without a start since Feb. 8. That’s a whole lot of rust, and in the Florida Derby we learned how much of an issue that can be after favorite Cairo Prince disappointed badly off a similar layoff. There will also be some major pressure on this horse. He needs to finish at least third — and likely better — to even earn enough points to potentially have a spot in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. That means he needs to be at his absolute best at this one, and without recent races under his belt I’m concerned about his ability to do so. That being said, he’s a beautiful, big horse who just looks like he wants to run forever, and he has already shown a lot of versatility and desire to win. I have a real bias towards Stevens, and that has served me well in big races during the last year, so I will be looking here if the price is right — ideally better than these futures odds, though that doesn’t seem too likely.
Hoppertunity (+400): This Bob Baffert trainee with Mike Smith aboard is the third of the big three in this race. With Baffert and Smith at the helm, the connections here are every bit as good as what Candy Boy has for this challenge. The horse has raced four times already this year, so rust isn’t a concern. The biggest issue, though, is that he did not run as a two year old. That means he is a victim of the Curse of Apollo — no horse since Apollo in 1882 has won the Kentucky Derby without a two year old start, though many have tried. That’s a lot of history to overcome, though I’ll be more concerned about that in a month than I am now. I like the breeding — his sire, Any Given Saturday, is a horse I lost money on in the Derby — and I have few concerns about his ability to handle this distance and more. I like him a touch less than Candy Boy, but if the price were better here than on my preferred horse I would happily back him. I don’t think that either horse is as good as the likely favorite, but given what I anticipate the odds to be I suspect I’ll be looking to beat the favorite on this day.
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