Santa Anita Derby | Race Profile

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Santa Anita Derby Race History

The grade I Santa Anita Derby is held annually every April at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. It’s for three-year-olds and has been running almost every year since 1935. World War III brought a brief pause as the Santa Anita Derby did not run from 1942 to 1944. The Kentucky Derby prep is run on a dirt surface as horses follow left-handed around the track. The SA Derby has run at 1 1/8 miles (nine furlongs) every year except the first three years when the distance was 1 1/16 miles, and 1 ¼ miles in 1947. It was designated as a grade one race in 1973.

There have been numerous surfaces the Santa Anita Derby has been contested on. Until 2008, the racing surface consisted of natural dirt and then switched to a synthetic Cushion Track in 2008, Pro-Ride artificial surface in 2009 and 2010, before finally returning to a dirt surface in 2011.

Every year since 2013, the Santa Anita Derby is considered a major prep race on the Road to the Kentucky Derby, and is typically the second-to-last most important race on the prep circuit. The Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park precedes the California stakes.

In the history of the Santa Anita Derby, 10 horses have won both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby in the same year. In the last 10 years, only two horses have accomplished the feat in the same year: I’ll Have Another (2012) and California Chrome (2014).

To date, the only filly to win both the Santa Anita Derby and Kentucky Derby is Hall of Famer Winning Colors, who accomplished the rare feat in 1988. Only one Triple Crown winner has won all three American Classic races and the Santa Anita Derby in the same year: Affirmed (1978).

The 1 1/8-mile contest carries a $1 million purse and is one of the final 100-40-20-10 points races in the “Championship” portion of the Road to the Kentucky Derby series.

Santa Anita Derby Records

The record for fastest time at the Santa Anita Derby since it was run at a distance of 1 1/8 miles is 1:47.00 flat. The record is jointly held by three horses: Lucky Debonair who first accomplished the feat in 1965, and Sham (1973) and Indian Charlie (1998). The fastest winning time in the last 10 years was 1:47.52, courtesy of California Chrome in 2014.

The record for most Arkansas Derby wins by a jockey is held by Hall of Famer Gary Stevens, who won the event an astonishing nine times. Stevens won the Santa Anita Derby three straight years, from 1993 to 1995. The legendary Bob Baffert holds the record for most Santa Anita Derby wins by a trainer with seven.

Rex C. Ellsworth with three titles holds the record for most Santa Anita Derby wins by an owner.

Notable Santa Anita Derby Winners

Many noteworthy and recognizable names have won the Santa Anita Derby during their career. A few of the highlights:

  • A.P Indy – 2000 United States Racing Hall of Fame inductee
  • Affirmed – 1978 Triple Crown winner
  • California Chrome – Two-time Horse of the Year winner
  • I’ll Have Another – Two-time Triple Crown race winner (2012 Kentucky Derby, 2012 Preakness Stakes)
  • Winning Colors -- 2000 United States Racing Hall of Fame inductee