By Dick Downey
Photo by Santa Anita
Goldencents, ridden brilliantly by Kevin Krigger, won the Santa Anita Derby for 2012 Kentucky Derby winning trainer Doug O'Neill.
Krigger and Goldencents got after it right away. When Super Ninety Nine shot the lead from the gate, he was almost immediately engaged by Goldencents off his flank to the outside. The pair cut out splits of :22.72 and :46.48, reminiscent of the fast early pace in the Grade II San Felipe, in which Goldencents faded to fourth.
But this time it was different. Krigger took hold of Goldencents and rated him through a third quarter-mile in 24 seconds, and Super Ninety Nine, ridden by Martin Garcia, maintained a short lead. Flashback and Garrett Gomez stalked two lengths back, give or take, in fourth, then fifth, then third going into the far turn.
Krigger let out the reins on Goldencents circling the turn, and they grabbed the lead in upper stretch. When Flashback came after them, Goldencents quickened and opened up two lengths on the even-money favorite.
Flashback remained resolute and trailed by a length at the furlong marker, but he lost a little ground the rest of the way in and finished second by 1 1/4 length. Goldencents was timed in 1:48.76.
Everything else was far up the track. Super Ninety Nine stayed on for third, beaten 9 3/4 lengths, followed by Tiz a Minister, Power Broker, Storm Fighter, Summer Exclusive and Dirty Swagg.
Goldencents returned his faithful $15.00, $5.40 and $3.40, and he delivered a paycheck of $450,000 to his owners, Glenn Sorgenstein and Joshua Kaplan, who race as W.C. Racing, David Kenney and Rick Pitino, head basketball coach at the University of Louisville, who races as R.A.P. Racing. Pitino was in Atlanta, where his Cardinals beat Wichita State 72-68 to make the NCAA Tournament finals.
Goldencents got 100 Kentucky Derby points and now has 129; Flashback picked up 40, pushing his total to 70; and Super Ninety Nine is now on the bubble -with 30 points after being awarded 20 -- and with his training expressing doubt he's a Kentucky Derby horse. Tiz a Minister picked up 10 points, making his total 20.
Goldencents, bred in Kentucky by Rosecrest Farm and Karyn Pirrello, is a son of Into Mischief out of Golden Works, by Banker's Gold.
Doug O'Neill, winning trainer: “I did (think he had enough left), but I think every trainer has a false sense of hope every time you run one, but I felt like we had a lot of horse left. This time it worked out perfect.
“Again, just credit to Kevin. He didn’t panic early when the pace was a little bit hot the first quarter, and was able to just chill and save horse. Credit to Kevin and the horse. They’re a great team.
Did slowing down Goldencents' workouts help? “I think it did. I think it saved some more energy for the afternoon. I was getting caught up into he was just a fast horse. It is fun to watch a horse work one ten and change, but you do worry it saps some of their energy for the afternoon, so we just tried to stay away from that. Whether that has anything to do with it or not, it worked today.”
When will he ship to Kentucky? “I don’t know. We’ve got to huddle up. As soon as the alcohol wears off, we’ll figure it all out.
“After the last race I really blamed myself. Generally what we do is to try and joke with the jock in the paddock and keep him loose and have a good time. But I think I just got in Kevin’s ear last time out about being careful, don’t let this happen, don’t let that happen, etc… So, the errors last time were not Kevin or the horse, I think it was more me and the human connections. And this time, I think we did it right.
“I think with the mile and a quarter coming up, with these longer races, you have to have tactical speed, which he does. And, you have to have a real strong head on his shoulders, which he does, but the biggest key to these races is to stay injury free. These races can tax a horse, so I think if he can stay injury free, he’s got a good chance to win it.”
Kevin Krigger; “Right here, right now, is the biggest moment of my life. It’s only going to get better, the horse, me, the team. As far as this horse, I had him relaxed, and that’s the key to him all the way. I wasn’t fighting him, I really wasn’t, I just kept him at his pace and kept him relaxed.”
“The gate broke and Martin Garcia hustled Super Ninety Nine to get him to the lead. I just took my hands off his neck to keep him relaxed and he stayed relaxed down the backstretch. He pulled a little bit but I didn’t want him to get closer than a half length, I didn’t want to get in a dog fight. He stayed relaxed, and when we went into the far turn, I said ‘let’s go!’ and he said ‘how far?’ and he kept running.
“I looked back on the inside just to see if anyone was coming since Martin was trying to float me out a little, and took another hold to make Goldencents drop back enough to make Martin Garcia go back on the rail, and after that I just gradually made my way back up to Super Ninety Nine. I wasn’t focused on where anyone was during the race, I was just focused on keeping Goldencents relaxed and comfortable.
“It’s going to mean everything to me, to be able to go to the Derby, to be able to make a run for the Roses, every jock dreams about this. I have never sat on any other three-year-old that makes me feel the way he does. He’s fast, he does it easy, and he relaxes for me. That’s the key factor, to be able to say that I am the only jockey to have ridden this horse is a big plus for me.
“I have to thank (agent)Tom Knust. If it weren’t for him I would still be chasing Russell Baze up north, and because of him, we’re chasing roses now.”
Glenn Sorgenstein, co-owner of Goldencents: “It’s awesome. I came out here as a little kid, my dad brought me out here 20 times to the Santa Anita Derby, and I never thought I would win it. He’s lookin’ from above. Thank you so much!”
Bob Baffert, Flashback, second and Super Ninety Nine, third: “We were all in a good position turning for home. When we got to the outside the other horse, he just quickened on him. The winner ran a really good race. They ran pretty fast times.
“Super Ninety Nine was in a good spot. He probably doesn’t want to go that far. Flashback, he ran a good race. Goldencents, he’s a good horse. He’s going to be really tough.
“We’re going to wait and see how he (Flashback) comes out of it. He was still running at the end. He’s still a young horse, and we’ll wait for the dust to settle. He had every chance to win today and couldn’t get to that horse.”
Garrett Gomez, up on Flashback: “Everything was good. I was very happy with my position, and I was able to get him to settle a little bit. He took everything well. Up the backside I found myself behind Goldencents and Baffert’s other horse, and I thought I was in a good spot, I really did. I thought even if I get stuck in here for a while that I was in a good spot saving ground right in behind them.
“At about the middle of the turn I was able to edge my way out and I thought I was just going to run by them. He actually just didn’t pick up the way I was expecting him to, and I had to start grinding on him a little bit. He picked up, just not enough. When I turned for home Goldencents quickened just a little bit and I couldn’t go with him. Late in the race, my horse never threw the towel in, he kept grinding away. He’s a young three year old, too. His first start was at Hollywood Park so he’s been playing catch-up for a while. He’s a sincere racehorse and still ran a really good race today.”