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Goldencents Is Gold at Santa Anita Derby

Both Goldencents and jockey Kevin Krigger smile after winning the Santa Anita Derby. (Benoit Photography/used with permission)
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Louisville head coach Rick Pitino was quite a busy man on Saturday. You can almost understand why his team didn't look 100% sharp in their Final Four game against Witchita State in their 72-68.

It wasn't the absence of Kevin Ware on the floor. I suspect he had more than a passing interest in what was going on at Santa Anita. As RAP Racing, Pitino owns a small stake in the Doug O'Neill-trained Goldencents running in the $750,000 Grade I Santa Anita Derby.

Goldencents had a very disappointing fourth-place finish in the San Felipe Stakes last month. It was billed as a battle between O'Neill and Bob Baffert with Flashback. Goldencents broke out quickly and set the pace for most of the race. With Flashback nipping right behind him, it really did look like the matchup everybody predicted. Unfortunately in the final turn Goldencents ran out of gas and fell to fourth as Here A Ghost charged from the outside to win the race.

The money line reflected that dropping from 9-2 in the morning to 6-1 at race time.

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"After the last race I really blamed myself," O'Neill reflected. He talked about how he likes to keep things light-hearted in the paddock before the race. However before the San Felipe stakes, O'Neill got into jockey Kevin Krigger's ear about strategy before the race. Well, we saw the results.

"The errors last time were not Kevin or the horse," O'Neill continued. "I think it was more me and the human connections.

"This time I think we did it right."

Yes he did. In fact that O'Neill v. Baffert was all over this race as Super Ninety Nine set the pace inside. Goldencents stayed close keeping pace, and it looked like he would run out of gas again. As Super Ninety Nine fell back around the final turn, Flashback came to challenge Goldencents. But Goldencents didn't run out of gas and was able to hold off Flashback for the win.

"I felt like we had a lot of horse left," O'Neill said. "This time it worked out perfect."

O'Neill gave credit to the 29-year old Virgin Island native Krigger. "He didn't panic early when the pace was a little bit hot the first quarter," O'Neill said. "He was able to just chill and save horse. Credit to Kevin and the horse. They're a great team."

Krigger was through the roof on his first ride at the Derby. "Right here, right now, is the biggest moment of my life," he said. He's already looking forward to the Kentucky Derby. "It's only going to get better, the horse, me, the team."

Goldencents paid out $15.00, $5.40, $3.40 and ran 1-1/8 miles at 1:48.76.

Of course the biggest fantasy for these owners and trainers and jockeys is to be the first Derby winner to sweep the Triple Crown since Affirmed did it in 1978.

We can't forget about the ladies. In the fifth race was the $300,000 Grade I Santa Anita Oaks, the filly version of the Derby at 1-1/16 mile. Of course Beholder was the clear favorite, but my heart goes out to Fiftyshadesofhay for the sheer creativity of the name.

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As they charged down the stretch, there was no doubt the race was Beholder's to win. She broke from the outside gate cleanly taking the lead setting the pace all along the way. Fiftyshadesofhay kept up with Beholder for most of the race staying within a length.

"I knew [Fiftyshadesofhay] would be up on top of me somewhere along the way today, which she was early," Beholder rider Garrett Gomez said. "She kind of tried to keep up with me today so I think that probably cost her from running on."

It did. Beholder turned on the jets as Fiftyshadesofhay started falling back. Iotopa came three wide down the final stretch and stretched out a neck past Fiftyshadesofhay.

"I tried to keep my position, but I just couldn't catch the winner," Fiftyshadesofhay rider Rafael Bejarano. "My horse came running at the end, but it wasn't enough."

Iotopa at 16-1 paid out $7.80 for the place. This is why I should never play the horses and no one should ever trust my handicapping skills.

Beholder will next race at the 1-1/8 mile Kentucky Oaks next month. Trainer Richard Mandella is looking optimistic about his chances saying that she's right up there with the other champion fillies Phone Chatter and Halfbridled that he's trained. But he did temper expectations.

"With horse racing you don't want to expect it too much," Mandella said. "It will break your heart."

There was a lot of wonder about the horse Scully in the three-race. Obviously we all naturally wonder if he was named after Vin Scully. It turns out the Dottie Ingordo, sister of co-owner, did name him after Vin saying that she loved the way he told stories during the broadcast. She also noted that "Scully" in Irish means storyteller.

Scully spent most of the six-furlong sprint in the back of the pack. It looked like I was going to have to rib him once I got to Dodger Stadium. But coming down the final stretch, Scully made a charge on the outside to come in just behind Declassify and Drover Crazy paying $4.40.

The on-track attendance was 33,005.

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