Santa Anita Derby: O’Neill to saddle four, Baffert three

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Trainer Doug O’Neill will saddle four horses in the $1 million Santa Anita Derby, including 7-2 early favorite Illiad. Bob Baffert has three contenders, including two horses that are co-third choices at 5-1.

Baffert is taking aim at extending his record of seven wins in Saturday’s 1 1/8-mile race, the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby.

O’Neill has won the race two times. Besides Iliad, he entered Term of Art, So Conflated and Milton Freewater on Wednesday, when a total of 13 horses were entered for the 80th edition of the Grade 1 race.

Baffert’s trio is Reach the World, American Anthem and Irish Freedom. Reach the World and American Anthem are co-third choices with Battle of Midway, trained by fellow Hall of Famer Jerry Hollendorfer.

The winner earns 100 points on the Kentucky Derby leaderboard, which decides the field of 20 horses for the May 6 race. Second place is 40 points, with 20 to third place and 10 to fourth place.

John Shirreffs, who won the 2007 Santa Anita Derby, entered Gormley and Royal Mo, both owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. They won the 2005 Kentucky Derby with 50-1 shot Giacomo.

Trained by O’Neill, Illiad won the San Vicente by 3 1/2 lengths on Feb. 12 and finished second in the San Felipe on March 11. The colt has two wins in four career starts and earnings of $227,345.

Gormley won the Sham on Jan. 7 and finished fourth in the San Felipe. He has three wins in five career starts and earnings of $320,000.

Reach the World is stepping up in class to run in a stakes race for the first time in his fourth career start.

American Anthem is looking to rebound after finishing 10th in the Rebel at Oaklawn on March 18. Baffert said he lost a shoe while getting beat by 13 1/2 lengths. He then finished second in the Sham, losing by a head to Gormley.

The field in post position order with jockeys and odds (all carry 124 pounds): Term of Art, Tyler Baze, 124 pounds, 12-1; Reach the World, Mike Smith, 5-1; Battle of Midway, Corey Nakatani, 5-1; Comma Sister, Israel Ocampo, 50-1; So Conflated, Mario Gutierrez, 15-1; American Anthem, Martin Garcia, 124, 5-1; Kimbear, Joe Talamo, 124, 12-1; Gormley, Victor Espinoza, 124, 9-2; Iliad, Flavien Prat, 124, 7-2; Milton Freewater, Tiago Pereira, 124, 30-1; Irish Freedom, Rafael Bejarano, 124, 20-1; Midnight Pleasure, Jamie Theriot, 124, 30-1; Royal Mo, Gary Stevens, 124, 10-1.

369 horses nominated to compete in Triple Crown series

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. – A total of 369 3-year-olds were made eligible to compete in this year’s Triple Crown series during the early nomination period.

Each of the horses was nominated through a $600 payment to compete in the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont stakes. The Triple Crown opens May 6 with the Derby.

The number of nominated horses increased by 57 from last year’s total of 312. They include a record 37 horses based in Japan.

Among the notable horses is Forte, last year’s 2-year-old champion trained by Todd Pletcher.

Also among the predominantly male horses nominated was a filly named Hoosier Philly.

Brad Cox led all trainers with 38 horses nominated to the series. Pletcher was second with 36 horses, followed by Steve Asmussen and Ken McPeek with 13 each. Chad Brown and Hideyuki Mori had 12 each.

Others nominated include Arabian Knight, Cave Rock and Newgate, all trained by Bob Baffert. He is currently banned by Churchill Downs Inc. through this year’s Derby, although Baffert is challenging his two-year punishment in federal court.

For the Derby, horses under the care of any suspended trainer may be transferred to another trainer and become eligible to earn Derby qualifying points as long as the transfer is done by Feb. 28.

Last year, Baffert transferred two horses to another trainer and both ran in the Derby, although neither was highly placed.

Horses that were not nominated to the Triple Crown series by the early deadline of Jan. 28 can make a late payment of $6,000 through March 27 to become eligible.

Newgate wins Robert B. Lewis Stakes; Baffert runs 1-2-3-4

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ARCADIA, Calif. — Newgate won the $200,000 Robert B. Lewis Stakes by a neck, with Bob Baffert as the trainer of all four horses in the Kentucky Derby prep race at Santa Anita.

Ridden by Frankie Dettori, Newgate ran 1 1/16 miles in 1:43.11 and paid $4 and $2.60 as the even-money favorite. There was no show wagering because of the field size.

Hard to Figure returned $5.20 at 12-1 odds. Worcester was another 1 3/4 lengths back in third. Arabian Lion was fourth.

“So much improvement in all these horses,” Baffert said. “I was actually nervous before the race, worried that something weird might happen, but I can relax now.”

The Lewis was a Kentucky Derby prep race, but no points were awarded because Baffert has been banned for two years by Churchill Downs Inc. The Hall of Fame trainer was in Louisville to testify in federal court as he seeks a temporary injunction to end the suspension, which runs through the end of the upcoming spring meet. It was meted out following a failed drug test by Medina Spirit after the colt finished first in the 2021 Kentucky Derby.

Newgate earned his first graded stakes victory. The colt was second, beaten by a neck in the Sham Stakes last month in his previous start.

“Frankie Dettori has been teaching him how to just sit back, relax and come with a punch and that’s what he did today,” Baffert said.

The victory, worth $120,000, increased Newgate’s career earnings to $241,975, with two wins in six starts.