On a picture-perfect Friday morning, dual Grade 3 star Goldencents had his final major drill for the Grade 1, $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on April 6 when going six furlongs on the fast main dirt at the Arcadia, California, track in a bullet 1:14.
It was the fastest of nine moves at the distance, the average time of which was 1:16 1/5. Exercise rider Jonny Garcia was aboard the bay son of Into Mischief, who looks to improve on his disappointing fourth-place finish last out in the Grade 2 San Felipe on March 9.
"Now all we have to do is stay injury-free and gallop into the big one," trainer Doug O'Neill said. "Jonny's been doing just a brilliant job of trying to slow him down. The horse has been running well enough that I didn't put a lot of energy into changing up the morning activities because he kept running good.
"But after the San Felipe, and how the race didn't unfold perfectly and we didn't get the results we wanted, I figured, you know what? I really need to start putting some energy into getting him to slow it down.
"If you're going to experiment, this is the best time to do it. That's why they call these races preps. We've got to learn something now. Hopefully, what we've implemented will get the results we want to see in the Santa Anita Derby. That's the goal."
With 29 points in the bank for the Kentucky Derby on May 4, Goldencents is well positioned to make the cut of 20 starters under the new qualifying system. The Santa Anita Derby offers 100 points to the winner, 40 for second, 20 for third and 10 for fourth.
"Being the first year, no one really knows what to make of it," said O'Neill, who was on the verge of possibly winning the Triple Crown in 2012 with I'll Have Another until a last-minute injury forced him to miss the Belmont Stakes and ultimately be retired.
"But I do think you can't rest on your laurels as a two-year-old nowadays," he added. "You've got to really be productive in these three-year-old preps. It makes it interesting, and I guess you hope a good horse doesn't have to scramble to try to get there."
Probable for the 76th Santa Anita Derby at 1 1/8 miles are Flashback, Garrett Gomez; Hear the Ghost, Corey Nakatani; Goldencents, Kevin Krigger; Super Ninety Nine, Martin Garcia; Power Broker, Rafael Bejarano; Tiz a Minister, Joe Talamo; Storm Fighter, Gary Stevens; and Dirty Swagg, no rider.
On Santa Anita Derby Day, ontrack fans will be offered a free Santa Anita Derby T-shirt with paid admission, while supplies last. There will be more than 50 microbrew/craft beer vendors, in addition to Premium Food Trucks, and KROQ will present Iration in concert. Also, the Daily Racing Form will present a $750,000 guaranteed Late Pick 4.