Liquidity, hoping to bounce back from a sixth-place finish in the Louisiana Derby (gr. II) on March 10, has been installed as the 5-2 favorite for Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I) for 3-year-olds.
The 1 1/8-mile fixture, to be run for the 70th time, drew a wide open field of 10 sophomores with designs on the Kentucky Derby Presented by Yum (!) Brands (gr. I) on May 5.
Liquidity, second in the Hollywood Futurity (gr. I) last year, also finished second in the Sham Stakes (gr. III) at Santa Anita before disappointing in Louisiana. A Kentucky-bred son of 2000 Horse of the Year Tiznow owned by J. Paul Reddam and trained by Doug O’Neill, Liquidity drew post position No. 5 in the West Coast's major steppingstone to the Triple Crown.
The Santa Anita Derby goes as the sixth event on an 11-race program.
“He looks great and he’s trained well, but until they show it in the afternoon, you never know,” O’Neill said. “We’ve definitely trained him a little bit harder. We’ve cranked on this guy a lot more than we did before the Louisiana Derby. I think he would have to run a much improved race Saturday over the Louisiana Derby, although numbers-wise, he didn’t run that bad. We’re expecting to see some improvement.”
King of the Roxy and Sam P., each conditioned by 2006 Eclipse Award-winning trainer Todd Pletcher, are the second and third choices at 3-1 and 4-1, respectively.
King of the Roxy, an Ohio-bred son of Littleexpectations owned by Team Valor Stables, won the Hutcheson Stakes (gr. II) at 7 1/2 furlongs on March 3 after a disappointing showing in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (gr. II) last Nov. 4. The nine furlongs looms as his biggest question mark Saturday.
“I thought his Hutcheson was a really good race,” said Richard Migliore, who rides King of the Roxy. “It was really impressive. I know everybody’s questioning how far he can go, but he kind of leveled off and ran for home that day, and that was at 7 1/2 (furlongs), so we’re only talking about three-sixteenths more.”
Sam P., who will be ridden by top New York rider Ramon Dominguez, was second to Great Hunter in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes (gr. II) on March 3.
Tiago, 20-1 on the morning line, is a half-brother to Giacomo, who finished fourth in the 2005 Santa Anita Derby before going on to win the Kentucky Derby in a 50-1 shocker. Hall of Fame jockey Mike Smith, who rode Giacomo for owners/breeders Jerry and Ann Moss and trainer John Shirreffs in the Kentucky Derby victory, rides Tiago for the same connections. However, Tiago was a well-beaten seventh in the Lewis last out.
“He was in the No. 1 hole and got a lot of dirt in his face and wasn’t comfortable,” Shirreffs said.
In giving the call on Tiago to Smith, the trainer noted, “It was an easy decision. After his last race, nobody was knocking on our door.”
Bwana Bull, winner of the California and El Camino Real (gr. III) derbies, will attempt to give perennial Bay Area training champion Jerry Hollendorfer his first Santa Anita Derby triumph. A son of 1994 Horse of the Year Holy Bull, Bwana Bull has won his last three races.
$750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I, Race 6, 2:30 p.m.), 3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8 Miles
PP. Horse, Jockey, ML Odds
1. Court the King (KY), Jose Valdivia, Jr., 20/1
2. Sam P. (KY), Ramon A. Dominguez, 4/1
3. Bwana Bull (KY), Russell A. Baze, 8/1
4. Boutrous (KY), Kent J. Desormeaux, 12/1
5. Liquidity (KY), Corey S. Nakatani, 5/2
6. Black Seventeen (FL), Clinton L. Potts, 15/1
7. Level Red (KY), Aaron T. Gryder, 5/1
8. King of the Roxy (OH), Richard Migliore, 3/1
9. Tiago (KY), Mike E. Smith, 20/1
10. Medici Code (GB), Jorge F. Chavez, 30/1
Each horse is assigned 122 pounds.