Santa Anita Park hosted back-to-back stakes on Saturday, and each race shares a connection with Triple Crown champion American Pharoah.
The $200,750 Twilight Derby (G2) featured Om, who handed American Pharoah the first of his only two losses, while the $75,580 Big Bear S. saw the return of Santa Anita Derby (G1) hero Dortmund, who happens to be trained by Bob Baffert just like American Pharoah.
First up in the Twilight Derby, Om took command of the Twilight Derby and never looked back en route to a 2 1/4-length victory under jockey Gary Stevens. The duo set splits of :23.15, :46.55, 1:10.49 and 1:34.40 before finishing 1 1/8 miles over the firm turf in 1:45.90.
Trained by Dan Hendricks for Sareen Family Trust, Om was sent off the 1-2 favorite and returned $3 for his second straight stakes score. The Munnings three-year-old captured his first black-type victory when taking the Del Mar Derby (G2) last out. That September 6 contest was preceded by a runner-up effort in the La Jolla H. (G3) and a third placing in the Affirmed S. (G3).
One race later in the Big Bear, Dortmund was making his first start since finishing a well-beaten fourth behind American Pharoah in the May 16 Preakness S. (G1). Prior to that, he suffered his first loss when third to his stablemate in the Kentucky Derby (G1), which followed an unbeaten skein of six races including the Santa Anita Derby.
Dortmund kept in close contact with Big Bear pacesetter Soi Phet through fractions of :23.58 and :47.27. The Kaleem Shah colorbearer kept the pressure on the leader while running just off his flank on the outside under jockey Martin Garcia.
Dortmund began his move and drew even with Soi Phet entering the final turn. Meanwhile, Motown Men, who saved ground throughout on the inside just behind in third, scooted up the rail to join the fray.
Soi Phet backed up in the lane and Point Piper took up the fight, but no one was reeling in Dortmund, who pulled off to be 1 3/4 lengths in front on the wire. The Big Brown chestnut ran a mile over the fast main track in 1:36.42 as the 1-5 favorite.
Dortmund is on track to continue his comeback in the fall at Churchill Downs, as Baffert mentioned the November 27 Clark H. (G1) under the Twin Spires as the colt’s likely next start.
Om and Dortmund photos courtesy of Benoit Photos
TWILIGHT DERBY QUOTES
Dan Hendricks (trainer of winner Om): “The race set up just like Del Mar Derby. It just looked like he did it easier than Del Mar. He seemed to mature a little more and he’s coming into his own at the right time of year.
It looks like we’re headed to the Hollywood Derby, a Grade 1 at Del Mar (on November 14 going 1 1/8 miles on turf for three-year-olds).”
Gary Stevens (jockey of winner Om): “I was actually worried about (Eric) Guillot’s horse, Boone Docks. He worried me because he has won wire-to-wire so I figured they were going to try and lay up close and I didn’t want any unexpected company. The first eighth of a mile I didn’t want to shake him up to make the lead. I took a look over at Corey (Nakatani on Boone Docks) and he didn’t look like he wanted to get into a dog fight with me. I let (my horse) out a little notch going into the first turn and he was able to get the lead and was going very comfortably underneath me until the head of the stretch where he gave me a tremendous burst.
“When we got to the three-eighths pole it was pretty much a replay of the Del Mar Derby. This was probably a little more difficult mile and an eighth than the Del Mar Derby because of the configuration there. You run out there and at barely an eighth of a mile you’ve got a sharp hook to the left, and that forces everybody’s hand a little bit. Here, you’ve got a huge run into the first turn so it doesn’t force riders.”
James Graham (jockey of runner-up Mister Brightside): “I got a beautiful trip just didn’t have enough but he ran his rear end off.”