2018 Santa Anita Derby Expert Picks with Odds and Betting Predictions
Gormley didn't exactly use his Santa Anita Derby win last year as a springboard to Triple Crown greatness. In recent years, though, that has been more of an exception than a rule. I'll Have Another won the first two legs of the Triple Crown in 2012 after winning this race. Two years later California Chrome won the same three races. The next year Dortmund only finished third in Kentucky after his Santa Anita Derby win, but he had a stablemate named American Pharoah who was pretty tough to match up to. And in 2016 Exaggerator pulled off a Santa Anita/Preakness double. This year the race promises to be a strong one that has a chance to again be a big Triple Crown factor. Here is how the small-but-strong seven-horse field sets up (horse, jockey, trainer, odds):
Justify, Mike Smith, Bob Baffert, 4/5: This is one of two major contenders for the Kentucky Derby this year that is looking to overcome the curse of Apollo. Apollo was the last horse to win the Kentucky Derby without having raced at least once as a two-year-old, and he did it long before cars were invented. Can this horse, who only made his racing debut on Feb. 18, overcome that much history to shine on the first Saturday in May? He's making his stakes debut here, but his two wins have been incredibly impressive - he has won by a combined 16 lengths and has made it looked so easy it is ridiculous. Baffert was intending him across the country this weekend, but the injury to McKinzie meant the Baffert stable had an opening here and this made sense. Bolt d'Oro is a very legitimate horse, so if this colt looks as strong as he has been so far then we know he will be a big factor in Kentucky. I am not at all crazy about this price - and it is likely going to be lower by post time - but I am a believer in the talent, the connections and the breeding.
Bolt d'Oro, Javier Castellano, Mick Ruis, 6/5: Technically, the horse won his last race out, but that was only because McKinzie was disqualified in a truly awful decision. This horse was just a touch worse than McKinzie that time, and now he is up against what could be an even more talented Baffert horse. This is this colt's second race back from his long layoff after the Breeders' Cup Juvenile, so he could be better than he was last time out. He certainly has been working well. And the breeding is sound - along with the jockey. But I don't trust the trainer, and I have been skeptical about the horse in his last two starts. I haven't been on his bandwagon yet, and I certainly am not going to climb on it now.
Instilled Regard, Joel Rosario, Jerry Hollendorfer, 6/1: I think this horse isn't getting enough respect at this price. Two races back he won the Lecomte. That sent him into the Risen Star next time out in high regard, and he disappointed in finishing fourth. But that result has improved with time - Noble Indy finished third and beat this colt by a only narrow margin, and then he went on to win the Louisiana Derby last weekend. The pace was garbage for a closer like this horse in the Risen Star. The pace should be better here, and this horse could do some damage. I like the price.
Pepe Tono, Victor Espinoza, Victor Garcia, 20/1: This horse was pounded by Justify last time out, so he is very well practiced for what is going to happen here. He has only beaten bad horses, and there aren't bad horses atop this field. Fourth would be a major victory for this horse, and better than fourth just isn't happening unless there is a serious disaster up top.
Core Beliefs, Tyler Baze, Peter Eurton, 20/1: All you really need to know about this horse is that he wasn't nominated to the Triple Crown as a foal, and that hasn't been corrected at any time since. Nominating a foal costs little in relative terms, and most owners and trainers do it on principle, so it's a real concern when a horse isn't on the list. And the horse only broke his maiden on March 8, which is another red flag. The only thing this horse has going for him is that he is quite possibly going to be a big part of the early pace scenario, but that will likely benefit other horses much more than himself. No value here.
Jimmy Chila (30/1) and Orbit Rain (50/1): The former is a maiden who has done little and who has connections that I have no respect for. The latter is a stablemate of Bolt d'Oro who is making his three-year-old debut and absolutely doesn't belong. He may be in here to be a rabbit of some sort because nothing else makes sense.
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