Three major Kentucky Derby prep races are set for Saturday and none more keenly anticipated than the Grade 1, $1 Million Santa Anita Derby. This was the race that vaulted California Chrome to Kentucky Derby favorite status in 2015. Dortmund won this race last year and was considered by many to be the horse to beat in the Kentucky Derby. And while Nyquist will likely be the morning line favorite heading into the Kentucky Derby with some books listing Mor Spirit as the second favorite for the race he could possibly change that with an emphatic win here.
Mor Spirit, trained by Bob Baffert, was installed as the race favorite atop a very competitive field for Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby. Mor Spirit opened at 8-5 with Danzing Candy at 9-5 and Exaggerator at 4-1. These three horses comprised the top three finishers at last month’s San Felipe Stakes with Danzing Candy getting the better of second place Mor Spirit on that day. Bob Baffert’s comments after the San Felipe seemed to suggest that Mor Spirit had something left in the tank–the hall of fame trainer was oddly pleased with a second place finish. Mor Spirit won the Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February to go along with his second place run in the San Felipe. he also has a Grade 1 victory to his credit with his win in the Los Alamitos Futurity as a two year old.
It would seem that Baffert is holding all of the cards here. Mor Spirit is very likely already in the Kentucky Derby field–it would take a very strange turn of events for him to ‘miss the cut’ currently ranking #9 in the points standings with 44 points. He’s also got jockey Gary Stevens aboard–Stevens has won the Santa Anita Derby a record nine times and while he suggests that he’s not thinking about the record as he shoots for his tenth victory he’s very excited about the horse he’s riding:
Mor Spirit returns to Santa Anita after winning the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes here in February and finishing second behind Danzing Candy in the Grade 2 San “Bob’s stepped the horse’s training up a notch, he’s had four great workouts, I just saw him come back to the barn and he looks great. All we have to do now is lead him over there on Saturday and get the job done.”
The Santa Anita Derby will award 100 points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.