Saturday's $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) has drawn a contentious group of 10 three-year-olds trying to stamp their tickets to the May 1 Kentucky Derby (G1) at Churchill Downs, but the reappearance of champion LOOKIN AT LUCKY (Smart Strike) could spoil those plans.
Trainer Bob Baffert shipped the bay colt to Oaklawn Park for the March 13 Rebel S. (G2), which was his dirt debut. Lookin at Lucky passed the main track test, but had to work to get the head victory in the 1 1/16-mile test following midrace trouble. His Hall of Fame conditioner opted to take his charge back to California for the Santa Anita Derby instead of staying at Oaklawn for the $1 million Arkansas Derby (G1) on April 10, and Lookin at Lucky will break from the 7 post as the 4-5 morning-line favorite.
Lookin at Lucky owns a 6-1-0 record from seven starts, with his only loss coming as head second following a troubled trip in the Breeders' Cup Juvenile (G1) last season. Regular rider Garrett Gomez has piloting duties once again.
Lookin at Lucky's biggest threat on Saturday should come from SIDNEY'S CANDY (Candy Ride [Arg]). The John Sadler trainee has captured his last two over Santa Anita's Pro-Ride, drawing off to an impressive 4 1/4-length victory in the San Vicente S. (G2) and posting a half-length score in the San Felipe S. (G2). The chestnut, who is the 3-1 second favorite on the morning-line, will break from the 4 post in this one, which should aid his front-running ways under Joe Talamo.
CARACORTADO (Cat Dreams) will be looking for revenge on Sidney's Candy following a third-place finish behind that one in the San Felipe. That was the Mike Machowsky runner's only loss from six starts to date and, like Lookin at Lucky, the chestnut will be trying to make it his only loss. He's the 5-1 third choice with Paul Atkinson in the saddle.
ALPHIE'S BET (Tribal Rule) is the only runner in the Santa Anita Derby who has actually won at the distance. That victory came on March 6 in the Sham S. (G3), where the Alexis Barba-conditioned bay pulled away late to secure the 2 1/4-length win over SETSUKO (Pleasantly Perfect), who was making his stakes bow in the Sham.
Other interesting Santa Anita Derby prospects include POSSE POWER (Posse), WHO'S UP (Graeme Hall) and CARDIFF GIANT (Yankee Gentleman). Posse Power will be trying Pro-Ride for the first time here after spending his prior six career starts on the Tapeta at Golden Gate Fields. He enters this race following a third in the El Camino Real Derby (G3) in his black-type bow. Who's Up will be making his first start since capturing the Generous S. (G3) at Hollywood Park last November, and will be saddled by new trainer Mike Puhich. Cardiff Giant will probably enjoy revisiting the Pro-Ride following a below-par fifth-place effort in the Rebel last out. He, too, will be running for Puhich, while returning to the site of his San Rafael S. (G3) second.
Allowance scorers THOMAS BAINES (Johannesburg) and SKIPSHOT (Skip Away) round out the Santa Anita Derby field.