Santa Anita Derby Handicapping

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Tips for Handicapping the Santa Anita Derby

The $1 Santa Anita Derby concludes a series of prep races at Santa Anita in Arcadia, California, that offer points toward a starting berth in the Kentucky Derby. Handicapping the race puts a premium on those lead-up events.

The Sham Stakes (early January), Robert B. Lewis (early February) and San Felipe (early March) take place before the 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby, four weeks prior to the Kentucky Derby on the first Saturday in May.

Unlike other Kentucky Derby feeder races across the country, which often feature multiple shippers from different regions, the overwhelming majority of Santa Anita Derby participants are based locally. Southern California is essentially on an island in this regard.  

Every once in a while the race will feature a rare cross-country invader, a horse that ships from East of the Mississippi. And Golden Gate Fields in Northern California is also eligible to provide a Santa Anita Derby runner sometimes.

But local form remains most important because Santa Anita Derby horses tend to have at least one previous start over the track, often in a stakes race. It’s rare to see a horse like Midnight Interlude (2011) win the Santa Anita Derby in their first stakes attempt.