WINNER TO RECEIVE 100 QUALIFYING POINTS TO KENTUCKY DERBY ON MAY 7
ARCADIA, Calif. —Recently transferred from Bob Baffert to Tim Yakteen following a 15-length score on Feb. 6, Messier, never worse than second in five starts, heads a field of six sophomores going a mile and one eighth in Saturday’s Grade I Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.
The Santa Anita Derby, which has produced 19 Kentucky Derby winners, will reward the winner with 100 qualifying points to the Run for the Roses, with 40, 20 and 10 points going to the second through fourth place finishers.
Favored in all five of his races, Messier, who was ridden for the first time by John Velazquez, earned a career-best 103 Beyer Speed Figure in the Grade III Robert B. Lewis Stakes at 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 6. His 15-length victory was accomplished in gate to wire fashion and followed a second-place finish at the same distance in the Grade II Los Alamitos Futurity Dec.11.
An Ontario, Canadian-bred by Empire Maker out of the Smart Strike mare Checkered Past, Messier was purchased as a yearling for $470,000. A winner of Del Mar’s Grade III Bob Hope Stakes three starts back at seven furlongs on Nov. 14, Messier will be ridden for the second consecutive time by John Velazquez.
Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stable, LLC, et al, Messier, who is named for the NHL Hall of Fame Center, is 5-3-2-0 with earnings of $285,600.
A front-running winner of a pair of graded stakes, the Grade II San Vicente at seven furlongs and the Grade II San Felipe at 1 1/16 miles on March 5, Richard Mandella’s Forbidden Kingdom will get a big class test and will undoubtably ensure a fast pace on Saturday.
Second, beaten 3 ½ lengths by Messier in the seven furlong Bob Hope three starts back, Forbidden Kingdom was sensational in the San Felipe, which was his first two-turn assignment. By 2015 Triple Crown winner American Pharoah out of the Five Star Day mare Just Louise, Forbidden Kingdom is 5-3-1-1 and has been ridden throughout by Juan Hernandez.
A $300,000 yearling purchase, Forbidden Kingdom, who posted a 98 Beyer in the San Felipe, is owned by MyRacehorse and Spendthrift Farm, who teamed for victory in the 2020 Kentucky Derby with Authentic. The leading money earner in the field with $434,000, he’s 5-3-1-1 overall.
The biggest question mark in Saturday’s Derby is Taiba. A brilliant first-out maiden winner, scoring by 7 ½ lengths going six furlongs as the 1-2 favorite here on March 5, the chestnut colt by Gun Runner earned a huge 103 Beyer. Originally trained by Baffert, he’s owned by Zedan Racing Stables, Inc. and is one of three Derby entrants to be saddled by Tim Yakteen.
A $1.7 million 2-year-old in training sale purchase, Taiba is out of the Flatter mare Needmore Flattery. With John Velazquez sticking with Messier, Taiba will be handled by Mike Smith and could prove bothersome to Forbidden Kingdom early as he battles for a berth in the Kentucky Derby.
Yakteen’s third entrant is Baffert alum Armagnac, who broke his maiden impressively two starts back at a mile and one sixteenth, but was subsequently distanced by Forbidden Kingdom in the Grade II San Felipe March 5 at odds of 9-2. Owned by SF Racing, LLC, Starlight Racing, Madaket Stables, LLC, et al, Armagnac is a colt by Quality Road out of the Lemon Drop Kid mare Kitty Wine.
Doug O’Neill will be seeking his third win in America’s most important Kentucky Derby prep with Calumet Farm homebred Happy Jack, who was most recently third to Forbidden Kingdom in the San Felipe Stakes and Win the Day, a one mile maiden special weight winner here on March 6.
THE GRADE I SANTA ANITA DERBY WITH JOCKEYS, WEIGHTS & MORNING LINE IN POST ORDER Race 6 of 12 Approximate post time 2:30 p.m. PT
- Happy Jack—Abel Cedillo 124 – 20-1
- Armagnac—Drayden Van Dyke 124 – 20-1
- Forbidden Kingdom—Juan Hernandez—124 – 6-5
- Messier—John Velazquez—124 – Even
- Win the Day—Umberto Rispoli—124 – 20-1
- Taiba—Mike Smith—124 – 4-1
First post time for a 12-race card that will include a total of seven stakes on Saturday is at 12 noon. Admission gates open at 10 a.m. For additional information, please visit santaanita.com or call (626) 574-RACE.
Santa Anita Press Release