July 15, 2024

Game Winner faces five in Santa Anita Derby

Game Winner and jockey Joel Rosario win the American Pharoah Stakes (G1) on September 29, 2018, at Santa Anita Park © BENOIT PHOTO

Champion juvenile Game Winner will seek to make amends for his first career defeat in a division of last month’s Rebel (G2) when he heads a field of six in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Derby (G1) over 1 1/8 miles.

The Road to the Kentucky Derby series prep will offer qualifying points of 100-40-20-10 to the top four finishers, though Game Winner himself is safely in with a current total of 45 accrued from earlier wins in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) and American Pharoah (G1).

An intended starter in the San Felipe (G2) prior to its cancellation, Game Winner instead made his seasonal return in the split Rebel, where he just missed to Omaha Beach in a dramatic and thrilling photo finish.

Joining him in the Santa Anita Derby lineup is Roadster, who was beaten only two lengths by Game Winner in the Del Mar Futurity (G1) last September. In his only interim appearance, the son of Quality Road defeated Nolo Contesto by 2 1/2 lengths in a one-mile allowance on March 1.

One of the more precocious juveniles of last season, Instagrand makes his two-turn debut in the Santa Anita Derby. Winner of his first two starts by a combined margin of more than 20 lengths, including the Best Pal (G2), the Jerry Hollendorfer trainee was perhaps in need of a race when an even-money third in the March 9 Gotham (G3) at Aqueduct following a seven-month absence.

More Ice and Synthesis, both of whom are stakes-placed, are a longshot duo that complete the compact field.