June 24, 2024

Imagination, Stronghold among eight in Santa Anita Derby; Kinza tops five in Oaks

Imagination (outside), with Frankie Dettori aboard, edges stablemate Wine Me Up in the San Felipe S. (G2) at Santa Anita (Photo by Horsephotos.com)

San Felipe (G2) winner Imagination and Sunland Derby (G3) victor Stronghold highlight eight sophomores in Saturday’s $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1). The 1 1/8-mile race has proved to be an important prep for the Kentucky Derby (G1), producing 20 winners in the first leg of the Triple Crown.

As part of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series, the Santa Anita Derby will offer points on a 100-50-25-15-10 scale to the top five finishers, but Imagination and stablemate Wynstock are not eligible since trainer Bob Baffert is suspended by Churchill Downs.

Saturday’s 12-race program also features the $300,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G1), a major qualifier in the Road to the Kentucky Oaks series.

Imagination broke his maiden the third time out in early January, and following a neck second to well-regarded stablemate Maymun in an entry-level allowance, the Into Mischief colt captured his stakes debut in the March 3 San Felipe, overcoming a rough early trip to prevail by a head. Frankie Dettori retains the assignment on the frontrunner.

Baffert has captured a record nine editions of the race, and Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) winner Wynstock will seek to rebound for the Hall of Fame conditioner following a disappointing seasonal opener in the Southwest (G3). The New York-bred son of Solomini concluded his juvenile campaign with consecutive wins over fast tracks, but the chestnut colt didn’t appear to like the muddy conditions at Oaklawn, weakening to last in the Southwest. Juan Hernandez retakes the mount.

Stronghold is a major player following a 2 1/2-length score in the Feb. 18 Sunland Derby. A close second in the Los Alamitos Futurity, the Ghostzapper colt has registered formidable Brisnet Speed ratings in the last two starts, and Antonio Fresu guides the early/presser for Phil d’Amato.

Other runners include Tapalo, a clear second behind Endlessly in the Feb. 10 El Camino Real Derby; Mc Vay, winless from four starts but a decent third in the San Felipe; Turf Paradise Derby winner E J Won the Cup; and last-out maiden romper Tessuto.

In the Santa Anita Oaks, Kinza will seek to continue her dominance out west in the three-year-old filly ranks. The New York-bred daughter of Carpe Diem won first out by 7 1/2 lengths in late December and followed with a two-length decision in the Las Virgenes (G3) seven weeks later, displaying high speed in both appearances. And Kinza continued to impress in the March 9 Santa Ysabel (G3), drawing away to score by five easy lengths.

The chestnut will bypass the Kentucky Oaks (G1) since she’s trained by Baffert, and Kinza figures to be an odds-on favorite against four challengers in the 1 1/16-mile Santa Anita Oaks. Hernandez will be up.

After skipping the Santa Ysabel, Las Virgenes runner-up Kopion will seek a measure of revenge Saturday. The Omaha Beach filly recorded runaway victories in her first two outings, including the Santa Ynez (G3) in early January, and Mike Smith takes over the reins for Richard Mandella.