Santa Anita: Betting the Twilight Derby

Profile Picture: J. Keeler Johnson

October 16th, 2020

Although West Coast runners will have a home-court advantage in Sunday’s $200,000 Twilight Derby (G2) at Santa Anita, I suspect an East Coast shipper will emerge victorious.

Nine horses have been entered in the 1 1/8-mile turf test for 3-year-olds, including the speedy #6 Smooth Like Strait, a two-time graded stakes winner on the California circuit.

Two starts back, the son of Midnight Lute dueled for command in the 1 1/16-mile La Jolla H. (G3) at Del Mar and kicked clear to score by 2 1/2 lengths. He earned a competitive 95 Brisnet Speed rating for the effort. With hot jockey Umberto Rispoli in the saddle, Smooth Like Strait looms as the best of the locals.

But as a general rule, turf horses based east of the Mississippi River tend to be superior to their West Coast counterparts, and this is reflected by two bits of form in the Twilight Derby.

Many of the locals are exiting the 1 1/8-mile Del Mar Derby (G2), in which East Coast raider Pixelate (generally more of an ungraded stakes type) rallied to win by a head. Perhaps even more significantly, Smooth Like Strait was beaten to fourth place when he shipped east for the 1 1/16-mile American Turf (G2) at Churchill Downs, where he finished behind the formidable #9 Field Pass.

A four-time stakes winner, with a pair of graded victories under his belt, Field Pass has earned nearly a half-million dollars with consistency against tough competition.

Whereas Smooth Like Strait is questionable over the 1 1/8-mile distance of the Twilight Derby, Field Pass is undefeated in two starts over the trip and grabbed the Jeff Ruby Steaks (G3) on synthetic, before he switched to turf and wired the Audubon S. at Churchill Downs. In the latter race, Field Pass defeated Pixelate by 3 1/2 lengths.

Although Field Pass failed to win the American Turf, he bettered Smooth Like Strait by 2 1/4 lengths and finished third.

He continues to train forwardly and figures to maintain his advantage Sunday, especially if Smooth Like Strait hooks up in a pace duel with the frontrunning Del Mar Derby third-place finisher #5 Dominant Soul.

I’ll play Field Pass on top in the trifecta and key Smooth Like Strait underneath.

$4 trifecta: 9 with 6 with 1,2,4,7 ($16)
$3.50 trifecta: 9 with 1,2,4,7 with 6 ($14)
Total: $30

Good luck!