Showdown at Santa Anita

By Dick Downey

The final local showdown for the Grade I Santa Anita Derby unfolds Sunday as some of the most well-known names in West Coast racing contest the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at 1 1/16 mile. This race is populated with, among others, trainers Bob Baffert, Rafael Becarra, Richard Mandella, Kristin Mulhall, Doug O'Neill and Laura De Seroux; and jockeys Mike Smith, David Flores, Alex Solis, Corey Nakatani and Gary Stevens.

But at, it's about the horses, and we believe the horse to beat is ST AVERIL. He should be in behind some early speed, overtake that, and come home in good time. If he repeats his 1:41 3/5 from January's Santa Catalina, it's hard to see anything else touching him.

We see ACTION THIS DAY moving up from his fourth place finish in the Sham Stakes. He covered the final ground in that race very well, and it can't hurt that he now has that race in him after the layoff from his win on Oct. 25 in the Grade I Bessemer Trust Breeders' Cup Juvenile.

PREACHINATTHEBAR, who was third in the Sham behind MASTER DAVID and Louisiana Derby place horse BORREGO, can hardly be separated from ACTION THIS DAY at this point, but we give the edge to the latter because he stands to improve more on Sunday from his prior effort. PREACHINATTHEBAR has raced every month of his career, beginning last October.

We consider the wild card in this race to be ODDS ON. He's always run on the lead, except when he was pulled up in the Grade II Norfolk last fall. However, his most recent workout was six furlongs in 1:13 3/5 handily, which indicates to us that Baffert may have succeeded in teaching him how to slow down. He'll need to do that to win here, not run a half-mile in 44 seconds as he did in his last race.

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