Recent trends in the Santa Anita Derby

April 4th, 2022

The last quarter-century of the Santa Anita Derby (G1), which will be renewed on Saturday with a purse of $750,000, has been impacted to a great degree, win or lose, by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert.

Although his direct impact is lessened in the upcoming edition as he begins serving a lengthy suspension this week, trends in the race since 2010 have been largely dictated by his star-studded stable.

Odds-on favorites have underachieved

Of the 12 post-time favorites in the Santa Anita Derby since 2010, eight have left the gate as odds-on choices. However, only three have won: California Chrome (2014), Dortmund (2015), and Justify (2018). 

In fact, odds-on favorites have lost the last three editions of the race. Game Winner, Authentic, and Medina Spirit (all trained by Baffert) were beaten by the second or third choices in the wagering.

San Felipe is the key prep

Given that the Southern California circuit is sort of on its own racing island, it should come as no surprise the San Felipe (G2) has been the key prep for Santa Anita Derby winners during the span in question. Eight of its last 12 winners prepped in the 1 1/16-mile feature

However, winners aren't necessarily the ones to bet back. Among those that rebounded from losses in the San Felipe were Goldencents (4th, 2013), Exaggerator (3rd, 2016), Gormley (4th, 2017), and Honor A. P. (2nd, 2020).

Prior stakes success helpful

Previous stakes success, no matter the grade or surface, has been a common thread with eight of the past 12 winners of the Santa Anita Derby. Bucking that trend were three Baffert trainees: last-out maiden winner Midnight Interlude (2011) and allowance winners Justify and Roadster (2019). The other was the aforementioned Honor A. P.