The Kentucky Derby won’t take place until the first Saturday in May but we may already have a favorite in ‘The Run for the Roses’. California Chrome entered this weekend full of Derby prep races as the presumptive favorite for the Kentucky Derby and he sure didn’t do anything to detract from his case. California Chrome won Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby with ease, finishing 5 3/4 lengths ahead of runner up Hoppertunity.
Heading in to race weekend the question was whether another horse would do anything impressive enough in one of the other Derby prep races to supplant California Chrome from his perch and that didn’t happen. At the same time, there was a good deal of pressure on California Chrome to at the very least ‘hold serve’ by winning the Santa Anita Derby. He did more than that by winning in such impressive fashion that he’s actually enhanced his case as the Kentucky Derby favorite at this stage of the game.
Candy Boy entered the weekend in second place in the top 3 year old poll and held on to finish in third place. He was followed by Dublin Up, Big Tire, Rprettyboyfloyd, Friendswith K Mill, and Schoolofhardrocks. Hoppertunity won the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park last month while Candy Boy won the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February. Both horses are likely qualified for the Kentucky Derby field if that’s the way their connections want to take them. In the case of Candy Boy, there’s every reason to think that his connection will be looking at entering him in the Kentucky Derby barring any sort of injury or other mishap. Hopportunity is more of a question mark–there were suggestions heading into this race that he was overmatched against this level of competition and if his connections concur with that assessment they may want to look elsewhere besides the tough challenge of the Kentucky Derby.
The prep races of the previous two weekends–primarily the Florida Derby, Louisiana Derby, the Santa Anita Derby and Wood Memorial–will go a long way toward shaping the Kentucky Derby field. An impressive showing by an entrant in these races could easily surpass California Chrome for status of Kentucky Derby favorite.