Southern California is known for it’s beautiful weather. That’s one of the primary reasons that people move there. Not surprisingly, the weather has usually been beautiful for the Santa Anita Derby but the 2016 race might be an exception. Although there’s only been five previous Santa Anita Derbys run on an ‘off’ track it’s almost certain that Saturday’s race will be the sixth following two days of rain and a forecast of a 90+% chance of more for race day.
The first Santa Anita Derby was run in 1935 and there have only been five horses to win on an ‘off’ track with none in the past fifteen years: He Did (1936), Porter’s Cap (1941), Sir William (1957) and Point Given (2001). Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby could have weather more commonly associated with the Pacific Northwest (ironically, they’ll have great weather on Saturday–Portland is forecasting partly cloudy skies and temperatures in the mid 70′s). Southern California has already experienced two days of rain and could be getting even more for the race. Depending on your source, the chances of rain for Saturday is somewhere between 90% and 100%.
Rising three year old horses very seldom have experience in bad weather and the field for the Santa Anita Derby is no exception. Race favorite Mor Spirit does have experience on an off track as he finished second on a sloppy, sealed track at Churchill Downs last Fall as he finished second in the Kentucky Jockey’s Club. The second favorite in Saturday’s race is Danzing Candy who has never faced an ‘off’ track. But he has a pedigree that suggests he’d fare well and his trainer, Cliff Sise Jr.,sure doesn’t sound nervous: “I hope it’s sloppy. I hope it’s raining when the race is run, because you can get to the bottom [of the surface] better. … He might not even like the slop, but I think he would.”
The Santa Anita Derby is one of three major Kentucky Derby qualification events slated for Saturday. The Grade 1, $1 Million Wood Memorial will be run at Aqueduct while the Grade 1 $1 Million Blue Grass Stakes will take place at Kentucky’s Keeneland Race Course. These races share the same points format with the Santa Anita Derby awarding 100 points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.