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Santa Anita Derby Picks to Win

2016 Santa Anita Derby Picks and Analysis

Mor Spirit, Exaggerator tough to separate in 79th Santa Anita Derby

2016 Santa Anita Derby-G1, Race 8, Santa Anita, Saturday, April 9, 2016

3-Year-Olds, 1 1/8-miles, Dirt, Purse: $1 million

Santa Anita Derby Predictions

1. Mor Spirit

2. Exaggerator

3. Rare Candy

4. Danzing Candy. Bet your picks at an online racebook where your credit card WILL work for deposits and where you'll receive a generous 50% bonus up to $250 in free cash! --> Bovada!

Santa Anita Derby Analysis

Mor Spirit makes his third start off the layoff in the 2016 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday after getting a bit of education in the San Felipe-G2 and this time the race should set up perfectly for him. Not to mention the fact that trainer Bob Baffert has won this race seven times and jockey Gary Stevens has won it nine times.

That's plenty of credentials, but what's a fair price? We think the morning line of 8/5 would be great if we can get it.

In Mor Spirit's last start in the San Felipe, fellow Santa Anita Derby entrant Danzing Candy was able to coast on a lonely lead and had lots left to win by a relatively comfortable two lengths over Mor Spirit. There's more speed in the Santa Anita Derby however, and Danzing Candy is unlikely to be alone up front this time.

But that's not the main reason we like Mor Spirit, rather it's the fact that at the end of the San Felipe when Stevens asked him for run he accelerated late to take second money from Exaggerator, the other entrant we like at a price in this year's Santa Anita Derby.

But it's almost like the Santa Anita Derby was the target all along for Mor Spirit, and they were just giving him a little test by asking him to run in deep stretch,  just to see if he was ready. He responded perfectly, even though he was never going to catch the winner.

Rain is predicted for Saturday at Santa Anita, but Mor Spirit proved he could handle the wet stuff last year at Churchill Downs when he finished second in the Kentucky Jockey Club-G2. And he has tactical speed, so he can sit close if need be.

Two things stood out in Mor Spirit's second place finish in the San Felipe. The first was the education he got when he was steadied mildly on the first turn and then hard held by Stevens to drop back off the pace. Making a steady advance on the final turn he came with a decent rally inside and looked like he was going to finish evenly late, but Stevens guided him outside and asked him for a little run and he responded with a nice bit of acceleration to take second money. That was the second thing that stood out. 

If Stevens can keep Mor Sprit in perfect position throughout in the longer Santa Anita Derby, he'll only have to ask Mor Spirit to step on the gas in the last 150 yards. And you just know Stevens knows that.

This year's Santa Anita Derby sets up with San Felipe winner Danzing Candy and Iron Rob trying for the early lead, with either one capable of taking it on their own. The more likely scenario is that they'll get in each other's way at some point. They could even be joined by California Cup Derby winner Smokey Image and R B Lewis runner up Uncle Lino. The latter finished a non-threatening fourth beaten 10 lengths in the San Felipe after sitting close to winner Danzing Candy for the first half of that race. He does however, get blinkers off this time, so an off the pace change of tactics may also be in the works.

Regardless, there should be enough pace to set the race up for both Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. The latter took a good run at Danzing Candy from the final turn home in the San Felipe and flattened out late to lose the place to Mor Spirit. It might just be that Exaggerator just needs a better a timed ride from jockey Kent Desormeaux.

Exaggerator has proven his class, having run second in his first start of the layoff this year to Florida Derby winner and  Kentucky Derby favorite Nyquist in the seven furlong San Vicente-G2 at Santa Anita. The Delta Downs Jackpot-G3 and Saratoga Special-G2 winner is also proven on wet tracks and he should like the added sixteenth of a mile in the Santa Anita Derby.

Both Mor Spirit and Exaggerator will be up against it if a horse like Danzing Candy slips away as the lone speed in the Santa Anita Derby, but we just can't see that happening. The tougher call between Mor Spirit and Exaggerator is which one will win, and it will probably depend on which one gets the better timed ride.

In a rare move we're going to bet both Mor Spirit and Exaggerator to win. We'll also box those two in the exacta and take them with all, in all three spots in the Santa Anita Derby trifectas. We'll also use those two as our keys in our Santa Anita Derby superfectas and hope that second choice Danzing Candy runs out of the top four, although we're not too confident about the latter scenario.

Looking for a longshot angle? There are lots to choose from in this year's Santa Anita Derby, most of which are the likely reasons the horses below were even entered in this race.

Denman's Call gets a rider switch to leading rider Bejarano, should like the distance and could improve. California-bred star Smokey Image was 6-for-6 before getting drilled by open company in the San Felipe and might rebound off that dull effort. Iron Rob is a back-to-back sprint stakes winner that will try to steal it. Triple turf stakes winner Dressed in Hermes might appreciate the wet going. 

Rare Candy is a first-time gelding whose jockey/trainer combo recently pulled a big upset in the Santa Anita Derby. Uncle Lino gets blinkers off after fading in the San Felipe. And Diplodocus is the only horse in the race to win at the 1 1/8-mile distance, albeit on the turf. That covers the whole field after second choice Danzing Candy and our two picks.

Mor Spirit and Exaggerator. To win!

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