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Stevens looking to extend Santa Anita Derby record to 10
Hall of Fame jockey Gary Stevens hopes to add to his record of nine Santa Anita Derby victories when he rides 9-5 morning-line second choice Candy Boy in Saturday's much-anticipated Grade 1, $1 million race that awards 100 Kentucky Derby qualifying points to the winner.
Stevens was happy when he learned that Candy Boy drew post position 6, and Fashion Plate, his mount in the Grade 1, $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks earlier on the card, will break from the rail in the 1 1/16-mile race.
"(Agent) Craig (O'Bryan) sent me a text saying I drew the six of eight in the Derby and the one in the Oaks," Stevens said. "I sent him back a thumbs up and a smiley face.
"I'm real pleased with my draw. I drew the one hole with Candy Boy in the (Robert B.) Lewis, and it was OK. The trip turned out good (winning by a half-length), but this gives me more options.
"Obviously, California Chrome has more speed than I do, but I'll know where he's at. I was going to know where he's at anyway, but I like where I've drawn."
John Sadler, Candy Boy's trainer, agreed with Stevens on the post.
"It's a good draw," he said. "Going a mile and an eighth, I don't think the draw's that important for anybody. There's plenty of run to the first turn and it's a small field, so we're very happy with the draw.
"We're very excited. We should have a good crowd."
Just as Stevens is returning to the saddle after teaming up with Candy Boy to take the Lewis, fellow Hall of Fame rider Mike Smith will be back in the irons aboard Hoppertunity following a half-length score in Oaklawn Park's Rebel last month.
"He has a lot of ability, and what I like about him most is it looks like he's got room to grow," Smith remarked. "He hasn't peaked yet, which is good.
"You don't want him to peak last month; you want him to start getting ready now, and, of course, for the next one (May 3 Kentucky Derby). He also galloped out really strong (after the 8 1/2-furlong Rebel).
"He gave me the indication that distance wasn't going to be a problem, so all is good. He might be a horse coming around at the right time. I sure hope so. We'll see."
In other Santa Anita Derby news:
California Chrome galloped on Santa Anita's main track and schooled in the paddock Friday morning under the direction of trainer Art Sherman's son, Alan, a trainer in his own right.
"Chrome," as he is called around the barn, didn't turn a hair as he stood like a statue in stall No. 5 for a full five minutes outside the jockeys' room and behind the walking ring, with exercise rider Willie Delgado, brother of jockey Alberto Delgado, in the saddle.
Count Jerry Bailey among the believers in the son of Lucky Pulpit, at least going in to Saturday's Santa Anita Derby.
"I've seen his races and he's been very impressive," said the retired Hall of Fame great, on hand with NBC Sports which is televising the big race nationally from 2:30-4 p.m. (PDT).
"He's been clearly dominant in his (last three) races, and to me, it's all about progressing," Bailey continued. Each race seems to be better than the last. He has the ability to rate off horses, as he did two back (in the California Cup Derby).
"Last time (in the San Felipe), he just out-broke everybody sprinting to the lead. He'll probably be the controlling speed again (on Saturday), so there are a lot of good things to like."
In addition to NBC Sports' coverage, Horse Racing Radio Network (HRRN) will broadcast the Santa Anita Derby from 2-4 p.m. on Sirius channel 93 as well as select HRRN affiliates around the country, and streamed worldwide on its website horseracingradio.net.