2023 Santa Anita Derby Results & Recap

Practical Move confirmed he was the best three-year-old to race in the West Coast classic preps when winning the Santa Anita Derby (G1) April 8 — but only just.

The Tim Yakteen trainee already had a Kentucky Derby (G1) start sewn up with victories in the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) and the San Felipe (G2), and was an even-money favorite to score his first Grade 1 victory here.

Racing close to the speed, Practical Move got a dream run along the rail and took over at the top of the stretch. But unlike the San Felipe, he had to fight hard, as first the rallying Skinner challenged, and then Japanese visitor Mandarin Hero charged between the pair.

Mandarin Hero gained ground ever so gradually as the post arrived, but didn’t have enough real estate to make up the margin, and at the line was a nose behind Practical Move.

The victory took Practical Move to 160 points on the Road to the 2023 Kentucky Derby table, placing him second on the overall standings behind Derby favorite Forte.

Mandarin Hero earned his first 40 points on the Derby Road for finishing second, while third-placed Skinner’s 30 points took him to 45 points. Under the new points system in place this year, both are narrowly outside the cutoff for a Derby start and will need defections if they are to run on the first Saturday in May.

National Treasure, now with Yakteen, earned his first 20 points in the series, while early leader One in Vermillion took 10 points for finishing fifth. Neither has enough points to race at Churchill Downs.

Practical Move is by Practical Joke out of an Afleet Alex mare, and there will be some who question if he has the stamina to succeed at 1 14 miles on Derby day.

Santa Anita Derby Previews and Related Stories:

Johnson: Study Guide: Santa Anita Derby

Rogers and Kerstein: Inside the Kentucky Derby Podcast: Final Major Championship Series Race Previews

Mucciolo: Expert Pick of the Week: 2023 Santa Anita Derby

Scully: Practical Move tops nine in Santa Anita Derby

What is the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita?

Inaugurated in 1935 shortly after its host track’s opening, the Santa Anita Derby (G1) has for more than eight decades served as the West Coast’s premier Kentucky Derby (G1) prep. Contested over 1 18 miles, it offers Road to the Kentucky Derby qualifying points of 100-40-30-20-10 to the top five finishers.

The first significant era in Santa Anita Derby history was the 1950s, when the race produced the Kentucky Derby winner three times in a four-year span with Hill Gail (1952), Determine (1954), and Swaps (1955). Other notable winners that decade included the Your Host, who sired five-time Horse of the Year Kelso; the famed stretch runner Silky Sullivan; and the filly Silver Spoon.

In the intervening six decades, the Santa Anita Derby has gone on to win the Kentucky Derby eight times. That group includes Triple Crown winners, Affirmed (1978) and Justify (2018), Hall of Fame runners Majestic Prince (1969) and Sunday Silence (1989), the filly Winning Colors (1988), and recent stars I’ll Have Another (2012) and California Chrome (2014).

The winner’s honor roll also includes various other Preakness (G1) and/or Belmont (G1) winners: Candy Spots, Codex, Snow Chief, A.P. Indy, Point Given, and Exaggerator.

Trainer Bob Baffert and jockey Gary Stevens hold the record for most Santa Anita Derby victories in their respective categories with nine wins apiece. However, Baffert’s first two Kentucky Derby winners – Silver Charm (1997) and Real Quiet (1998) – both finished second in the Santa Anita feature.

Indeed, a number of other champions fell short of victory in the Santa Anita Derby but went on to distinguished careers. The filly Horse of the Year Busher (1945) ran second in a renewal delayed until late June due to the end of World War II. Round Table, 1958 Horse of the Year and a three-time grass champion, was another who settled for a minor award in the race.

Ferdinand ran third in the 1986 Santa Anita Derby but bounced back a month later to wear the roses under the late Bill Shoemaker, an eight-time Santa Anita Derby winner who was the world’s winningest rider for nearly 30 years.