Flashback heads a field of nine sophomores lined up for the Grade I Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, and his poor post position adds drama to what already promised to be an exciting race.
Flashback is trained by Bob Baffert, who seeks a record seventh victory in the Santa Anita’s signature race for 3-year-olds.
An impressive 6 1/2-length winner of the Grade II Robert B. Lewis Stakes on Feb. 2, Flashback got caught up in a heated pace duel with Goldencents in the Grade II San Felipe, and it cost them both. Still, Flashback finished an impressive second, beaten a half-length by Hear the Ghost.
Following the San Felipe, Baffert replaced Julien Leparoux with Garrett Gomez.
In addition to Hear the Ghost, Flashback and Goldencents, third-place finisher in the San Felipe, Tiz a Minister, will also run on Saturday.
Trainer Doug O’Neill, who won the Santa Anita Derby a year ago with I’ll Have Another, will saddle Goldencents, an impressive winner of the one-mile, Grade III Sham Stakes at the track on Jan. 5.
Goldencents will again be handled by Kevin Krigger, and Tiz a Minister gets a new rider in Joe Talamo as Gomez opts for Flashback.
Here's a closer look at each of the entries in post position order.
1. FLASHBACK, 9-5, Garrett Gomez
All things considered, this grey son of Tapit ran a solid second as the San Felipe favorite and is the horse to beat on Saturday. He should get patient handling with Gomez taking over, and he has a solid worktab since his last race. Look for him to be attentive to the pace, but not head and head early.
2. HEAR THE GHOST, 5-2, Corey Nakatani
He benefited from the fast pace in the San Felipe, but the impeccably-bred son of Ghostzapper is considered by many veteran observers to be the real deal, and he stands to improve with added distance. He was ridden smartly by Corey Nakatani last time for trainer Jerry Hollendorfer.
3. POWER BROKER, 5-1, Rafael Bejarano
The Baffert trainee has been idle since running fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile on Nov. 3 and needs to win or run second to get the points necessary to make a Run for the Roses in Kentucky. The son of Pulpit broke his maiden in the Grade I FrontRunner Stakes Sept. 29 and has trained lights-out for his return to action. Rafael Bejarano, who had his choice of several horses in the race, sticks with him. The entry chart says he'll run without Lasix after running with it his first four starts.
4. TIZ A MINISTER, 6-1, Joe Talamo
A maiden $40,000 claim by Paul Aguirre on Aug. 2, this California-bred colt by Ministers Wild Cat flew from dead last to finish third in the San Felipe and will hope for a similar pace scenario on Saturday. With Garrett Gomez opting to ride Flashback, Joe Talamo will be aboard for the first time. Tiz a Minister has more game-day experience than anyone in the field, as he’ll make his eleventh career start in the Derby.
5. GOLDENCENTS, 6-1, Kevin Krigger
Goldencents got caught up in a suicidal pace duel with Flashback in the San Felipe, and connections are intent on avoiding a similar scenario on Saturday. He rated kindly in the Sham Stakes on Jan. 5, and trainer O’Neill has tried to gear his stable star down in the mornings. He could be on the lead anyway. Owned in part by University of Louisville basketball coach Rick Pitino, connections are hoping to run first or second to secure the necessary points for a run in the Kentucky Derby.
7. SUPER NINETY NINE, 6-1, Martin Garcia
Trained by Baffert, Super Ninety Nine was a brilliant gate-to-wire winner of the Grade III Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 18, but he pressed the pace and tired badly as the favorite in Oaklawn’s Grade II Rebel on March 16. An impressive allowance winner going a mile at Santa Anita on Jan. 31, he sat second early that day and won going away by 3 1/4 lengths. Favored in five of his six lifetime starts, the Kentucky-bred by Pulpit is well seasoned and highly regarded.
8. SUMMER EXCLUSIVE, 20-1, Edwin Maldonado
This was a surprise entry by trainer Peter Miller. Summer Exclusive was a first-out maiden special weight winner going 6 1/2 furlongs on March 2, winning by a length in fast time, 1:15.88. A Florida-bred colt by Exclusive Quality, he's had three works at Betfair Hollywood Park since his win, including a seven furlong move in 1:26.00 on March 25. Look for him to be on lead or thereabouts early with Edwin Maldonado up.
9. STORM FIGHTER, 20-1, Gary Stevens
Veteran trainer Bruce Headley, who was second with Bertrando to A.P. Indy in the 1992 Santa Anita Derby, will take a shot with California-bred Storm Fighter, who comes of a maiden special weight win going 1 1/16 mile versus statebreds. Comebacking Gary Stevens sticks with the longshot son of Stormin Fever and will try to win a record tenth Santa Anita Derby. Bred by the late Larry Mabee of Golden Eagle Farm, look for Storm Fighter to try to settle close to the early pace on Saturday.
9. DIRTY SWAGG, 50-1, Tyler Baze
Owner/breeder/trainer Myung Kwon Cho likes to swing for the fences, and he’ll need a significant tailwind to reach the warning track with Dirty Swagg. Well-beaten in his last two starts, the Sham Stakes and the Grade I CashCall Futurity, the ridgling by Street Hero was third in the Real Quiet Stakes on Nov. 10. He’ll need to run back to that race in order to be competitive.
“That’s why I don’t come (to the draw). I always get jinxed when I come to the draws. It’s one of those things, once they draw, there’s nothing you can do so you just make the best of it. I really don’t like the one hole, but we have it.
"What makes the SA Derby so exciting, is not only if you win it you punch your ticket for the Kentucky Derby, but it’s …one thing I’ve learned is that the mile and a eighth distance really starts separating the ones that want to go on. You go into a race thinking, ‘I think I’ve got a chance’ …I remember Cavonnier, I ran him in a prep before the Derby, he got beat goin’ a mile, I didn’t think he was Derby bound, and I ran him back two weeks later thinking I’d give him one more try, and he won easy. He was needing the extra distance. War Emblem, he’s another horse that as soon as he went a mile and a eighth, he did well; he was also needing the extra distance.
"We’re going to find out Saturday the horses that actually want to go that far, and the cream always rises to the top. The good horses are always right there.
"Hear the Ghost is only getting better and better. Flashback, I’ve got Power Broker, he’s actually training really well, who ran here during the Autumn meet. Super Ninety Nine ran really well here, went to Oaklawn and did not show up at all in the Rebel, but he’s been training well here.
"The mile and an eighth really separates them. We’ll find out, and the fans get the chance to see these horses and get ready to follow them through the Classics.
"The Santa Anita Derby is always such an exciting race. The fans love watching these 3-year-olds run. You never know who the next super star is going to be. Even as trainers, just like watching Animal Kingdom the other day, still is exciting. We’re always looking for a horse to step up and separate themselves. Flashback is training well, and that last race toughened him up, he needed that. I still think Goldencents is a really good horse, and I just think he got compromised with Flashback. Hear the Ghost is another one coming up that ladder. If they’re going to win, they have to bring their ‘A’ game.”
On the Points System
“The point system brings the horses that are in good form to the Derby, which is a good thing. Hawthorne Park did got left out in the cold, no points there. The ones it really affects are the fillies, they have to run against the boys in order to get any points towards the Derby. A horse like Dreaming of Julia, would have to run against the boys.
"I’ve always gone to the Derby with a horse that was running well, and you don’t want to go to the Derby with a horse that’s off form just because you love him and (he was a good) two-year-old. I think when it’s all said and done, they’ll look it over and decide if it was a good idea, but to get into the Derby now, you’ll have to run one-two. We’ll know after the race.”
On Power Broker
“He ran the BC Juvenile, he was on the outside, and it seemed like a speed-biased track that day so I told Rafael to get him into the race and send him out there. Well, he didn’t break well and I was hoping that Rafael wasn’t going to listen to my instructions, and he did, and he emptied out early. He was just chasing them the whole way.
"We gave him some time off, he filled out, matured, and he can get the distance. He doesn’t have to be near the lead, and Rafael is just going to ride him with confidence. It was either this or an allowance race, and he’s got a good foundation. He’s run at Del Mar, he’s run here, he’s won a grade I, so the only thing I’m worried about distance-wise is if he can get it fast enough. You need a good trip, and some luck.
COREY NAKATANI, HEAR THE GHOST
“Hopefully, the scenario will pan out, and another speed horse has been entered, Pete Miller’s horse (Summer Exclusive). The way it could pan out, is that my horse is young, he’s getting better each race that he’s run, as you can tell by his form, and this guy to my right (Bob Baffert), he’s always tough in these races. I’m out there, I’m giving a hundred and twenty percent to try and put my best foot forward with Hear the Ghost -- so hopefully, his last race didn’t take too much out of him.
"In his last race, on the day, it felt like it was a speed biased racetrack in the San Felipe, and for those colts to run that fast and still be there and stick around at the end, like Flashback, he deserves to be the favorite. Hopefully, Hear the Ghost keeps moving forward, and he doesn’t have to run his best race, but at the same time you want him to show positive signs going into not only this race, but the Kentucky Derby.
“he kind of reminds me of a horse I got on for Bob back in the day. He’s kind of nonchalant, goes about his business, and doesn’t really get too excited. When I first started to get on him, he was a little rambunctious, bucking, squealing, having fun and not really putting his best foot forward. The horse I’m mentioning was Cavonnier, who ran second in the Kentucky Derby by about this much.
He just seems like that caliber of horse. He’s a little green still in what’s going on but when I called on him in the San Felipe that last eighth of a mile, he really laid it down and showed that he’s got the ability to be here. Hopefully we can get another SA Derby and look forward to going to Kentucky.
“Well, I’ve told Baffert that he owes me a Kentucky Derby, but in this business you just keep going about your business and keep trying to find a horse that’s a legitimate contender in the Kentucky Derby, let alone (a winner). I’ve been fortunate to run fourth a few times, I ran second on Nehro. It not only would be a dream come true but a lot of sweat, a lot of tears, and a lot of joy would come to my heart and my family’s heart. I’m sure a lot of people have been in my shoes…Laffit has one, Pat Day has one, so hopefully the Good lord has one for me too.”
PAUL AGUIRRE, TIZ A MINISTER
“He’s doing fantastic. He just worked 1:13 over at Hollywood, and I was real excited about that, until I started to look at some of the other horses’ works. It seems like everybody is coming up to the race right, but I couldn’t be happier with the way my horse is coming up.
“That’s what we plan on doing, just sitting back and hoping some of the other horses get in a hot pace battle where we can come up.
“You know, the most important thing, the biggest thing it would mean… it would be a way for me to pay back my client Steve Young. He’s been in this business with me for 20 years, and he would get a little bit of his money back. That would make him very happy.”
KEVIN KRIGGER, GOLDENCENTS
“I think this race will be different from the San Felipe. I think the pace will be more relaxed in here. I don’t think Flashback will be head-to-head with me going into the turn or around the turn, and I think that will give us a fairer chance at having a more relaxed scenario.
“This horse can go a mile and an eighth. Last race, he had nine weeks off, and this race, he’s coming back in a month. We will have a horse that’s ready, and he won’t be as fresh, as rank as he was in the San Felipe.
“Normally, in this situation I’m on the outside looking in. This time, I’m actually in it. To actually have ridden a horse this good, and to unfortunately have lost twice on him, and still be riding in the Santa Anita Derby means a lot. Doug stuck with me and he’s sticking with me. I just want to thank him and thank God that I’m in the situation I’m in riding in the Santa Anita Derby, and prepping for the Kentucky Derby.
“You know, like you said Tom Knust got me from Golden Gate to ride here and I’ve had good agents before, but Tom has worked overtime. Believe me, he’s doin’ a heck of a job to have me in this situation right now. It’s a privilege to possibly win the Santa Anita Derby and go on to the Kentucky Derby, it will be more than a dream come true, it will be historical, so I want to make history.”
BRUCE HEADLEY, STORM FIGHTER
“Well, that’s what the race is for, we’ll find out. He’s training great. He’s an extremely good looking horse, so we’ve had high hopes. (T)his isn’t the first time, because every time I run a race, Mr. Baffert has one of the ‘best in the west’ in every race so this is something you’ve got to get used to.
“(Going to the Kentucky Derby is) just a dream, and something you always look forward to. It would be really great for my family and for Golden Eagle (Farm).
Edited Santa Anita Derby release