On Saturday, April 6, some of the best three-year-olds in the nation will head to the Great Race Place, Santa Anita Park, for the Santa Anita Derby. Traditionally one of the top three-year-old prep races for the Kentucky Derby, the Santa Anita Derby is one of the SoCal racetracks most historical events.
Year to year, it draws massive crowds and eager horseplayers looking to cash out on the budding superstar three-year-olds. Last year, Justify won the Santa Anita Derby before going on to win the Triple Crown. The SA Derby could produce another Kentucky Derby favorite on par with Justify.
Before handicapping this Saturday’s race, take a few moments to check out the horses that have made the Santa Anita Derby so special.
Horses to Know in Santa Anita Derby History
Unforgettable Swaps, Silky Sullivan, and Sham
The great Swaps won the SA Derby in 1955, Silky took it three years later in 1958, and Sham took it in 1973. There’s no way to discern which of the three was the better horse. Many SoCal horseplayers tab Swaps as one of the very best ever.
He probably gets the nod, but it took Secretariat to deny Sham a Derby and Preakness and possible Triple Crown winning Belmont victory. Silky Sullivan hung about 20 to 30 lengths behind before making the type of run that forced his backers to look downward and only listen to the race call.
Affirmed Won the Santa Anita Derby
The SA Derby has produced two Triple Crown winners. The first was in 1978 when the indomitable Affirmed took home the Santa Anita Derby. Affirmed essentially won the Triple Crown by beating rival Alydar in 3 match races.
He remains one of the very best horses to every run. The thing that made Affirmed special was that even though he wasn’t the most talented horse in the race every time he ran, he was most certainly the toughest horse in the race. He never gave up. When he got a chance to run against Alydar, he really never gave up.
So Did Winning Colors, Sunday Silence, A.P. Indy, and California Chrome
Winning Colors won the SA Derby before taking the Kentucky Derby in 1988. A year later, Sunday Silence won the Santa Anita Derby and then won Charles Wittingham his only Kentucky Derby victory in 1989.
A.P. Indy didn’t win the Kentucky Derby in 1992 the way he won the Santa Anita Derby, but he did win the Belmont Stakes. He also won the Breeders’ Cup Classic that year.
How can anybody forget California Chrome? The brilliant horse not only took the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby, he also won the Preakness and was oh so close to breaking the Triple Crown Curse in the Belmont Stakes a year before American Pharoah did break it in 2015.
Will the 2019 Santa Anita Derby Produce Another Justify?
Justify beat Bolt d’Oro to win the Santa Anita Derby last year. The exceptionally talented Bob Baffert trained three-year-old went on to win the Triple Crown. Will this year’s Santa Anita Derby produce another Justify?
Right now, horses listed as probable for the SA Derby are Sparkyville, Extra Hope, Synthesis, Game Winner, Instagrand, Nolo Contesto, and Roadster. That looks like a pretty salty group. It’s almost time for us to pick up our handicapping pens and get to work!