The most important West coast stepping stone to the Kentucky Derby, the Santa Anita Derby is held each April at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, California. First run in 1935, the Santa Anita Derby is a Grade 1 race for three year old horses run over a distance of a mile and 1/8. The race is currently run over dirt as it has been throughout its history with the exception of 2008-2010 when Santa Anita made a three year dalliance with synthetic track surfaces.


The race returned to dirt in 2011 and should remain on dirt going forward. The race wasn't run during the height of World War II—Santa Anita was closed in 1942 and used as an internment camp for Japanese American citizens for the remainder of the war. When the war ended, the track reopened and racing resumed. The Kentucky Derby prep races have taken on added significance in the past couple of years due to a new qualification format. The Santa Anita Derby has been one of the most important prep races for the Kentucky Derby for at least half a century along with the Blue Grass Stakes, Wood Memorial and the Florida Derby. These races have been known collectively as the 'Big 4' but that's starting to change somewhat due to recent trends in racing. The Wood Memorial, in particular, has really fallen off as a Kentucky Derby prep event—it's been over 10 years since a horse that finished in the top 3 of the Wood Memorial finished 'in the money' at the Kentucky Derby. The Santa Anita Derby has fared much better in recent years—9 horses have won both the Santa Anita Derby and the Kentucky Derby with the most recent being I'll Have Another in 2012.


Tentative Agreement Reached on Southern California Racing Dates&h=223&w=348&zc=1

Added on August 14, 2016 , in Santa Anita Derby Betting

Tentative Agreement Reached on Southern California Racing Dates

As the horse racing industry in California continues its inexorable downward spiral it’s apparent that one of the major reasons ...

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19.07.2016 , by Jim

Valenzuela Denied California’s Jockey License

It’s the end of the road–for now at least–in jockey Patrick Valenzuela’s effort to get licensed in California. ...

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11.07.2016 , by Jim

Betting Handle Down At Santa Anita

For all of the pagentry and excitement there’s one persistent reality about horse racing–it is a business. And like ...

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30.06.2016 , by Jim

Turf Renovations at Santa Anita Hurting Field Sizes

In the long term, the new renovations on the turf course at Santa Anita will definitely be a positive for the track. Before it ...

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Betting the Santa Anita Derby has many of the same challenges as the other high level Kentucky Derby prep races. Handicapping the race is made somewhat easier due to its significance—just getting into the race is an accomplishment which means that most of the horses entered are usually of a high competitive class. Like every other Kentucky Derby prep race, one problem in handicapping Santa Anita Derby bets is the fact that most of the entries don't have much formal racing experience. Santa Anita based horses typically have more formal racing experience than their counterparts at other tracks and will often face their first big test in lower graded races earlier in the season. Most all of the entries in the Santa Anita Derby will be based in California and very familiar with the track which negates any advantage of that sort.


One of the most famous horses in racing history first earned his stripes at Santa Anita including a record tying effort in the Santa Anita Derby. In 1973, Sham won the Santa Anita Derby and tied the stakes record winning time of 1:47 (he shares the record with Lucky Debonair and Indian Charlie). Sham would go on to be the competitive foil to the great Secretariat during 'Big Red's' run to the Triple Crown. Sham ran second in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness Stakes to the eventual Triple Crown winner before Secretariat dominated the Belmont in historic fashion to complete horse racing's elusive trifecta. Sham is considered to this day the best horse to ever come out of the Southern California racing circuit and has a stakes race at Santa Anita—the Sham Stakes—named in his honor.


Bob Baffert is the all time winningest trainer in the Santa Anita Derby having saddled six winners most recently winning in 2011 with Midnight Interlude. Doug O'Neill has trained two of the last three Santa Anita Derby winners taking victories in 2012 with I'll Have Another and 2013 with Goldencents. Gary Stevens is the all time winningest jockey in the Santa Anita Derby with 9 victories, one more than the eight achieved by the legendary Bill Shoemaker.