Wednesday’s draw added no extra suspense to Saturday’s running of the Santa Anita Derby, with neither of the two stars in the seven-horse field receiving a disadvantaged post.
Bolt d’Oro, a two-time Grade 1 winner, drew the No. 3 spot; Justify, undefeated in two starts, is in the No. 6 slot.
Morning-line maker Jon White installed Justify as the 4-5 favorite with Bolt d’Oro at 6-5. The only other horse White believes will have any strong backing is Instilled Regard, who drew the worst post— No. 1.
The race was expected to be a rematch of Bolt d’Oro and McKinzie, who had a classic stretch duel in the San Felipe Stakes about a month ago. But McKinzie suffered a hock injury and has been all but officially taken off the Kentucky Derby trail.
“Even though he looks fine, I don’t want to do anything that jeopardizes his health,” trainer Bob Baffert said earlier in the week. “We’ll know more in probably a couple weeks. The Preakness would be a long shot, but the Derby, I just can’t see it happening.”
Justify became the talk of the track when he debuted on Feb. 18, winning by 9½ lengths. In his second race, he won easily by 6½ lengths.
However, with no stakes experience, he has no Kentucky Derby points. He will have to finish first or second on Saturday to got to Louisville. Justify was originally scheduled to go to the Arkansas Derby, until McKinzie had to opt out of Santa Anita.
Bolt d’Oro, trained by Mick Ruis, has already qualified for the Kentucky Derby with 64 points. A horse is virtually assured a spot with 40 points, although some get in with fewer.
Instilled Regard has 19 Derby points, so he can probably make the Kentucky Derby just by finishing third. The race awards 100-40-20-10 points to the first four places.
The remainder of the field includes maiden Orbit Rain, also trained by Ruis, at 50-1 starting from post No. 2; maiden Jimmy Chila, for Doug O’Neill, at 30-1 from post No. 4; Pepe Tono, who finished sixth in the Robert Lewis Stakes for trainer Victor Garcia, at 20-1 from post No. 5; and Core Beliefs, for Peter Eurton, at 20-1 from post No. 7.
The race is scheduled to go off as the ninth race at about 3:30 p.m.
Two other major Derby preps are scheduled Saturday, the Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland.