Louisiana Derby (gr. II) winner Wimbledon has been installed as the 5-2 morning line favorite for Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I).The Santa Anita Derby, the West Coast's major race for 3-year-olds leading up to the Kentucky Derby (gr. I), is contested at 1 1/8 miles.Bob Baffert, who has won the Santa Anita Derby four times in the last eight years, will saddle Wimbledon, owned by James McIngvale of Houston.
"He's training nice," Baffert said at the Santa Anita draw breakfast, which was sponsored by Powered by Dodge. "He's working well and there's really nothing to say about him. He's all set (for the Kentucky Derby on May 1). We've already punched our ticket. He just has to run well Saturday. All these preps are important because they let you know where you stand in the whole (Kentucky) Derby picture. Right now it's sort of wide open.
"When Wimbledon was losing his first four races he was mentally immature and a little timid. That's why we put blinkers on him. I kept trying different things."Wimbledon will be ridden by Javier Santiago and break from post position 3 in the seven-horse field.Santiago may have to make a choice for the Kentucky Derby between Wimbledon and Preachinatthbar, but the 26-year-old is focused on Wimbledon and the Santa Anita Derby at the moment. "The Louisiana Derby was a good win for us and he has worked well," Santiago said of Wimbledon. "But right now, if I had to make a decision on which horse to ride, I don't know which one it would be." Santiago rides San Felipe Stakes (gr. II) winner Preachinatthebar in the Toyota Blue Grass Stakes (gr. I) at Keeneland on April 10. Rock Hard Ten, making his stakes debut for trainer Jason Orman, starts from the sixth post as the 3-1 second choice. Undefeated in two starts, the strapping son of Kris S. is ridden by David Flores.Orman originally planned to have Gary Stevens, winner of nine previous Santa Anita derbies, Ride Rock Hard Ten, but had to switch to Flores because of Stevens' committment to riding in Europe under contract to trainer Andre Fabre."We thought David would suit the horse," the 35-year-old trainer said. "He's had experience in big races."Steve Taub's San Rafael (gr. II) winner Imperialism, breaking from the rail, and Santa Catalina (gr. II) victor St Averil, who starts from the extreme outside, are both 7-2 on the morning line.St Averil galloped about a mile and a half on the training track Wednesday morning. "I feel more confident about his chances now," trainer Rafael Beccera said. "All the signs from the horse are telling me to go for it. You have to know your horse and if he's not happy, there's no point in running, because this is going to be a good race, a tough race, too. How does he show me he's happy? He knocked me right on my nose (with his head) this morning. He's feeling real good."With the defection of Lion Heart to the Blue Grass, there's not much early speed signed on for this year's Santa Anita Derby. Even so, trainer Mike Mitchell declined to say if Quintons Gold Rush would be on the front end early."I don't want to get into instructions with Corey (Nakatani)," Mitchell said. "He knows the horse and I'd like to leave him clear. We wanted him a little closer in the San Rafael but with all the speed in that race it didn't evolve. I like to kind of leave it to the jockey since he knows the horse. There's nothing I can really tell him except don't take him back."There was no hesitation from Clifford Sise, who trains longshot Lucky Pulpit."Looks like we got the two hole, so we'll put him on the lead and see what happens," Sise said. $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (gr. I, Race 8, 3:44 p.m. PST), 3-year-olds, 1 1/8 mile
PP. Horse, Jocky, ML Odds
1. Imperialism, Victor Espinoza, 7-2
2. Lucky Pulpit, Jon Court, 12-1
3. Wimbledon, Javier Santiago Jr., 5-2
4. Castledale, Jose Valdivia Jr., 20-1
5. Quintons Gold Rush, Corey Nakatani, 5-1
6. Rock Hard Ten, David Flores, 3-1
7. St Averil, Tyler Baze, 7-2
All carry 122 pounds.