Iliad Set as 7-2 ML Favorite
By Dick Downey
If the 2017 edition of the Santa Anita Derby is viewed as low on high-level talent, it is certainly not without a high quantity of competition as 13 were entered for the 1 1/8-mile Kentucky Derby prep on Saturday.
The quality of the race will have to be judged by the outcome, but going in it looks like anything could happen.
Iliad and Term of Art lead a team of four entered by trainer Doug O'Neill.
Iliad, a son of Ghostzapper, has credentials that include a victory in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes and a second-place finish to Mastery in the San Felipe Stakes. The latter race lost its luster when Mastery came up injured seconds after passing the finish line. Meanwhile, Iliad was soundly beaten, 6 3/4 lengths behind at the finish.
Term of Art is one of several Calumet Farm horses on the Kentucky Derby Trail. He's made all the big races at Santa Anita this year but didn't impact the Sham and Robert B. Lewis Stakes. He was beaten less than two lengths by Iliad in the San Felipe after lagging back in the early going and seeks improvement in the longer Santa Anita Derby.
Lesser lights on paper in the O'Neill barn going into the race are So Conflated, off the board in the Gotham Stakes, and Milton Freewater, second in a recent one-turn allowance race at the track.
Bob Baffert has three in the race, and all of them need break-through performances to make the grade.
American Anthem was 10th as the favorite in the Rebel Stakes after running second to Gormley in the Sham Stakes over a sloppy track.
Reach the World has never raced less than two turns and exits a narrow loss in a March 9 allowance optional claimer at the track. Mike Smith, who rode American Anthem in the Rebel, will be on board Reach the World.
Irish Freedom finished fifth, beaten 9 1/2 lengths, in that allowance race with Reach the World.
Battle of Midway, trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, ran a disappointing third to Iliad in the San Vicente before stretching out to beat Reach the World and Irish Freedom in the March 9 allowance.
John Shirreffs will give Gormley and Royal Mo a last chance to make the Kentucky Derby.
Gormley, as noted above, won the Sham Stakes, but in the San Felipe he was well-beaten after fading to finish fourth.
Royal Mo won the Robert B. Lewis against a small field. When shipped to Oaklawn Park for the Rebel Stakes, he finished ninth, beaten 11 1/2 lengths.
Kimbear was entered by trainer Eric Kruljac. Last time out, he impressivley broke his maiden on Feb. 25 at Santa Anita in a seven-furlong maiden special weight. The late-running Sonneteer, who went on to run second in the Rebel Stakes, finished second. Kimbear was later entered in the Sunland Derby, but he was scratched in favor of this race.
Midnight Pleasure, fourth in the FrontRunner Stakes last year, makes his second start of 2017 in the Santa Anita Derby. From the barn of Shelbe Ruis, last time out he finished third in a 6 1/2-furlong allowance race at the track after Kent Desormeaux dropped his whip. Milton Freewater was second in that race.
Comma Sister rounds out the field. He broke his maiden at the track in his third career start on Feb. 20 going 1 1/8 mile on the turf for trainer George Papaprodromou.
The Santa Anita Derby is race 8 with an estimated post time of 6:30 ET according to Equibase. It will be part of a telecast on NBC Sports Network from 5:30 to 7:30 ET that will also feature the Wood Memorial and Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
Kentucky Derby points
Term of Art 11
Royal Mo 10
American Anthem 4
Midnight Pleasure 1
Remaining entries 0
Santa Anita Derby entries
1 Term of Art, T Baze, 12-1
2 Reach the World, M Smith, 5-1
3 Battle of Midway, C Nakatani, 5-1
4 Comma Sister, I Ocampo, 50-1
5 So Conflated, M Gutierrez, 15-1
6 American Anthem, M Garcia, 5-1
7 Kimbear, J Talamo, 12-1
8 Gormley, V Espinoza, 9-2
9 Iliad, F Prat, 7-2
10 Milton Freewater, T Pereiria, 30-1
11 Irish Freedom, R Bejarano, 20-1
12 Midnight Pleasure, J Theriot, 30-1
13 Royal Mo, G Stevens, 10-1
All carry 124 pounds