His Second Start of 2019
By Dick Downey
A winner of a record eight Santa Anita Derbies, including last year with eventual Triple Crown winner Justify, Bob Baffert could be the favorite in Kentucky Derby day with any of three different horses. Two of them are entered to run on Saturday at Santa Anita.
Baffert will send out the presumptive favorite, Game Winner, along with Roadster a Jerry Hollendorfer’s Instagrand and John Sadler’s Nolo Contesto are their main contenders.
Game Winner, owned by Gary and Mary West, was the undefeated winner of the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. As the 1-2 favorite in the second division of the Rebel Stakes on March 16 at Oaklawn Park, he came up a nose short to Omaha Beach after a furious stretch run to lose for the first time.
Game Winner has only one prior start at Santa Anita, and it resulted in a 4 1/2-length score in the American Pharoah Stakes on Sept. 29. He's a winner of four of five career starts with earnings of $1,646,000.
Instagrand won his first two starts, both sprints last summer, by a combined 20 1/4 lengths. He was taken out of racing for months, returning in the Gotham Stakes last month. He flattened out late to finish third, beaten 1 1/2 length as the even money favorite.
Currently based at Los Alamitos, Instagrand worked a bullet five furlongs in 59.40 on March 30, best of 17 at the distance. Favored in all three of his starts, he’ll be partnered with Flavien Prat.
Baffert's "other horse" is Roadster, a sharp 4 1/4-length first-out maiden winner going six furlongs on July 29 at Del Mar. Next out, he was third, beaten two lengths, by Game Winner in the seven furlong Del Mar Futurity pon Sept. 3. Off as the 3-5 favorite in the Futurity, he was given time off and a minor procedure to fix a breathing problme.
He returned to the races with an impressive 2 1/2-length allowance win going one mile at the track on March 1. Roadster, who drilled six furlongs in a bullet 1:12.60 on March 31, will be ridden for the fourth consecutive time by Mike Smith. He belongs to Speedway Stable, LLC.
A half-length one mile maiden winner two starts back on Jan. 4, Nolo Contesto was second, beaten 2 1/2 lengths by Roadster in that March 1 allowance race after appearing a little uncomfortable running inside of horses in a short field. The John Sadler trainee will be making his first stakes appearance in his fourth career start. Ridden by Joel Rosario in his first three outs, Joe Talamo has the call on Saturday. Hronis Racing, LLC owns Nolo Contesto.
More Ice is the other horse for Hollendorfer and switches to dirt after winning a Del Mar allowance going a mile on turf; finishing third in the Eddie Logan Stakes going a mile on turf at Santa Anita on Dec. 28; and third, beaten 9 1/2 lengths by Anothertwistafate in the El Camino Real Derby. He was mentioned as probable for the Transylvania Stakes on Friday at Keeneland but didn't make the trip east. Hollendorfer owns More Ice with Kenwood Racing Inc. and Richard Robertson.
Synthesis, a recent purchase for Rustin Kretz, John Decker and Jay Selby, is trained by George Papaprodromou. Last time out, he was a well-beaten fourth in the seven-furlong San Vicente Stakes. He has a two-turn win that came in his sixth start on Oct. 20, a 1 1/16-mile maiden special weight at Keeneland.
At stake is a $1 million purse and a total of 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points, with 100 to the winner, 40 to second, 20 to third and 10 to the fourth place finisher.
The Santa Anita Derby is scheduled as race 8 with a post time of 6:30 ET.
The field from the rail out:
1 Roadster, Mike Smith
2 More Ice, Geovanni Franco
3 Nolo Contesto, Joe Talamo
4 Synthesis, Rafael Bejarano
5 Instagrand, Flavien Prat
6 Game Winner, Joel Rosario
All will carry 124 pounds.