Ever since Kentucky Derby (G1) contenders Authentic and Honor A. P. ran one-two in the San Felipe (G2) on March 7, their rematch has been eagerly anticipated.
The COVID-19 clampdown prolonged that waiting period for a couple of months, but at last, the pair will square off in Saturday’s rescheduled $400,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1).
Postponed from its original date of April 4, the 1 1/8-mile prize still offers Kentucky Derby points on the 100-40-20-10 scale to the respective top four finishers.
Horses pointed to the Santa Anita Derby
Part of the intrigue surrounding the Authentic-Honor A. P. clash is their contrasting profiles. The Bob Baffert-trained Authentic is all about speed, in keeping with his pedigree as a son of Into Mischief and a Mr. Greeley mare. Unbeaten in three starts so far, he stretched out from a 5 1/2-furlong sprint maiden to wire the Sham (G3) over a mile and the 1 1/16-mile San Felipe (G2).
Honor A. P. is a different type brought along carefully by John Shirreffs. By champion older dirt male Honor Code and out of multiple Grade 1-winning millionaire Hollywood Story, Honor A. P. is bred to excel with maturity over a route. He accordingly turned heads with a fast-finishing second on debut at Del Mar last summer, followed by a commanding maiden win when promptly upped in trip to a mile.
Given that background, Honor A. P. was always likely to find Authentic too tough to catch in a race like the San Felipe. But there was another reason to appreciate his runner-up effort: Honor A. P. had a setback over the winter, and he wasn’t primed for the first Saturday in March. His San Felipe thus had all the earmarks of a fitness-building comeback, setting the stage for a substantial move forward in the Santa Anita Derby.
Others expected in the Santa Anita Derby are Breeders’ Cup Juvenile (G1) near-misser Anneau d’Or, who’s hoping that a return to Arcadia will help him regain form; Baffert’s El Camino Real Derby winner Azul Coast; the speedy Shooters Shoot, scratched from his intended stakes debut in the first division of the Arkansas Derby (G1); and Rushie, who like Shooters Shoot comes off an Oaklawn allowance score.
The Santa Anita Derby anchors a blockbuster 11-race card, including seven stakes.
For the first time since the demise of Hollywood Park, the 1 1/4-mile test once known as the Hollywood Gold Cup (G1) will be contested under its historic name, rather than its transferred moniker of the “Gold Cup at Santa Anita.” Another Baffert-Shirreffs showdown is on tap with Improbable and Midcourt among the probables in the $300,000 affair.
Kentucky Oaks (G1) points leader Swiss Skydiver seeks to pad her total in the $200,000 Santa Anita Oaks (G2), also worth points on the 100-40-20-10 scale. The remaining four stakes on Saturday are on turf – the $150,000 Cinema along with a trio for the Cal-restricted set, the $100,000 Crystal Water, $100,000 Fran’s Valentine, and $75,000 Desert Code.
The Santa Anita stakes action spills over to Sunday, with the $200,000 Triple Bend (G2) penciled in for the return of multiple Grade 1 star McKinzie.