Here are three Santa Anita Derby takeaways.
Rock Your World smokes rivals on front end
Rock Your World dictated terms from the break on a short lead and put the field away with a sharp turn of foot into the stretch, opening up a commanding advantage. After easily winning his first two starts on turf, he made a seamless transition to dirt and relished the added ground, recording a 4 1/2-length decision.
His 102 Brisnet Speed rating was impressive, tied for the top last-out figure (Essential Quality and Highly Motivated also earned a 102 in the Blue Grass Stakes [G2]) with only two qualifiers remaining before the May 1 Kentucky Derby.
Campaigned by Hronis Racing and Talla Racing, Rock Your World opened his racing career with a turf maiden special weight win at six furlongs, and the Candy Ride colt was exiting a 2 1/4-length victory in the Feb. 27 Pasadena S. over a grassy mile.
“You’re hoping, but it’s one of those things, you don’t know until you do it,” trainer John Sadler said of the surface switch. “We’re thrilled the way things worked out.”
The dark bay three-year-old hails from a classy female family loaded stamina influences – his multiple stakes-winning dam is a half-sister to Liam’s Charmer, a Grade 2 winner at 1 1/4 miles – and Rock Your World appears well-equipped to handle the 1 1/4-mile distance of the Kentucky Derby.
Speed added to Derby field
Umberto Rispoli hustled his mount to the lead from the innermost post on Saturday, and Rock Your World established solid splits (:22.42, :46.11 and 1:10.64) along the way to completing 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.17.
The unbeaten colt was prominent from the start in his first two outings, but Saturday marked his first wire-to-wire win.
Sadler conceded that the inside post led to the game plan for the Santa Anita Derby.
The “catch-me-if-you-can” strategy resulted in a breakout performance, and I think it laid the blueprints for Rock Your World’s best chance in the Kentucky Derby.
In the last 100+ years, only two horses have won the Kentucky Derby with only three lifetime starts – Justify and Big Brown. Both were heavily favored on the first Saturday in May.
Rock Your World won’t compete for favoritism on Derby Day, and it’s fair to question whether he’ll be good enough to overcome the inexperience.
Hall of Famer Curlin couldn’t win the Kentucky Derby in his third start, checking in third under the Twin Spires before coming back two weeks later to capture the Preakness (G1).
Rock Your World is a frontrunning type – he doesn’t project to be racing midpack like Curlin – and avoiding traffic trouble in a 20-horse field is theoretically advantageous to his chances. Justify and Big Brown both liked to be either on, or up close to the pace, as well.
But it’s still an imposing challenge for such a lightly-raced horse.