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Santa Anita schedule changes could impact Derby

This past weekend figured to be a relatively quiet one on the Kentucky Derby trail with only a couple of prep races on the slate but, in an indirect way, its events could have a larger impact than initially expected come the first Saturday of May.

For the second time this season, Santa Anita Park was forced to reschedule one of its Derby preps, the Grade III Sham Stakes, because of ongoing drainage problems with its synthetic Pro-Ride surface brought on by significant rainfall. The Grade II Robert B. Lewis, which was originally scheduled for Feb. 6, also had to be pushed back a week due to similar issues.

The 11⁄16-mile Sham is now scheduled for March 6, but the date change could pose some problems for trainers trying to plot out an ideal path for their Derby hopefuls.

"Every day matters with these young horses, and we want to have time in between races," trainer Mike Machowsky, who conditions Nextdoorneighbor, one of the horses entered to run in the Sham, told the San Bernardino County Sun.

"Now, with running next weekend, if you want to run (back) at Sunland (Park) or Louisiana, it gives you 21 or 22 days, or if you run here (Santa Anita Derby on April 3), it gives you a month. It's really a bad situation in that sense."


1. Lookin At Lucky: His pedestrian 6-furlong work in 1:15.40 last Monday understandably raised eyebrows but trainer Bob Baffert, at least publicly, seemed unconcerned. The son of Smart Strike is now being considered for the Grade II Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn on March 13 instead of the San Felipe at Santa Anita the same day. With all the woes Santa Anita has had because of rain, you can't blame Baffert for not wanting take a chance with his top charge.

2. Eskendereya: No Fountain of Youth Stakes winner has gone on to the take the Kentucky Derby since Thunder Gulch in 1995, but this chestnut son of Giant's Causeway certainly has credentials that could allow him to buck that trend. His combined margin of victory in his three wins, all on dirt, is 17 lengths.

3. Rule: Remember last year when jockey Garrett Gomez had to pick between Dunkirk and Pioneerof the Nile? Well John Velazquez could find himself in a similar spot this season as he rides both Rule and Eskendereya. For all his accomplishments, Velazquez is still seeking his first Kentucky Derby triumph, so it will be interesting to see whom he sticks with in the coming weeks.

4. Super Saver: After originally being considered for the Grade III Gotham on March 6 in Aqueduct, the son of Maria's Mon is now being pointed toward a possible showdown against Lookin At Lucky in the Rebel Stakes on March 13.

5. Caracortado: Had his first work since winning the Grade II Robert B. Lewis, covering 5 furlongs in 1:01.20 at Santa Anita Park on Friday in preparation for the Grade II San Felipe. "He came home in 22 and change the last quarter. He's doing great," trainer Mike Machowsky said.

6. Conveyance: The knock on him is that he is one dimensional, but the front-running son of Indian Charlie hasn't taken a wrong step yet in four career starts. Distance is still a bit of question mark.

7. Dublin: The runner-up in the Southwest Stakes was already back on the workout tab Sunday, firing off a bullet 4-furlong move in :48.40 for trainer D. Wayne Lukas.

8. Discreetly Mine: He's one of several horses on this year's Derby trail that appears to do his best work up front, but the seasoned colt has shown he can take the back if needed, as proven by his runner-up finish in Grade II Futurity last September when he hit the gate and rated in fourth before making his run.

9. Noble's Promise: The Grade I-winning son of Cuvee is another who is likely to turn up in the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn. He worked five furlongs in :59.80 on Saturday at Gulfstream Park.

10. Jackson Bend: The hard-trying colt could have his final Derby prep in the Grade I Wood Memorial at Aqueduct on April 3.

11. Buddy's Saint: The son of Saint Liam got virtually nothing out of his ninth-place finish in the Fountain of Youth and will also likely point toward the 11⁄8-mile Wood Memorial.

12. American Lion: The son of Tiznow worked 4 furlongs on the Pro-Ride at Santa Anita on Wednesday in :48.60. "I haven't decided what might be next," trainer Eoin Harty said. The Grade II San Felipe on March 13 or the Sunland Derby on March 28 are possible options.

The next dozen: Blind Luck, Drosselmeyer, Aikenite, Tempted to Tapit, Sidney's Candy, Odysseus, Ron the Greek, Connemara, Dave in Dixie, Peppi Knows, Uptowncharlybrown, Storming Saint

Alicia Wincze