A couple of West Coast horses — American Anthem and Royal Mo — will head the field of 11 in the $900,000 race over 1 1/16 miles.
A Derby favorite was likely established last Saturday but it lasted for less than a minute after Mastery’s dominating win in the San Felipe at Santa Anita. About 50 yards past the finish line, jockey Mike Smith pulled up the 3-year-old colt and he was vanned off the track. It was discovered he had a condylar fracture of his left front leg and he underwent successful surgery on Monday. It’s unclear if he will race again but it is clear he is out of any Triple Crown races.
Both Mastery and American Anthem are in the barn of Bob Baffert. Two years ago, Baffert was in a similar situation and decided to keep one of his colts, Dortmund, at home at Santa Anita and ship the other colt to Arkansas. That other horse was American Pharoah, who went on to win the Triple Crown.
American Anthem’s last race was the Sham Stakes at Santa Anita, where he lost by a nose to Gormley, from the John Shirreffs barn. Gormley finished a disappointing fourth in the San Felipe.
Baffert will not be in Arkansas for the race, instead he will be at LAX getting ready to board a flight to Dubai, where Arrogate and Hoppertunity are scheduled to run in the $10-million Dubai World Cup.
“Hopefully, we can have some luck and I’ll be able to enjoy my long trip better,” Baffert said in a release from the Oaklawn publicity department.
Jimmy Barnes, Baffert’s top assistant, will saddle American Anthem, then return to Santa Anita with the horse before joining Baffert in Dubai.
Royal Mo, trained by Shirreffs, is coming off a front-running win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita. He’s won his last two races but has not faced horses of the caliber of American Anthem.
The big question mark in the race is Malagacy, running for Todd Pletcher. He is unbeaten in two starts at Gulfstream, winning the first race by 15 lengths and the second by seven. He also has four-time Eclipse Award-winning jockey Javier Castellano on board.
American Anthem is listed at 2-1 odds, Malagacy at 4-1 and Royal Mo at 9-2.
The race is worth 50 points to the winner, assuring that horse a spot in the Kentucky Derby field.