Santa Anita Derby: Practical Move Tops a Field of Nine Kentucky Derby Hopefuls

Written by: Brian Zipse
Updated April 6, 2023
8 min read

Santa Anita Derby Odds and Post Position

Check out our predictions and odds for the Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita!










M Gutierrez

D O’Neill





K Desormeaux

J K Desormeaux





F Prat

R Mandella





H Berrios

J Kruljac





R Vasquez

T Yakteen





J Velazquez

T Yakteen





V Espinoza

J Shirreffs





K Kimura

T Fujita





U Rispoli

A Garcia

*Odds provided by author Brian Zipse.

Santa Anita Derby Predictions and Best Bets

Here are my plays ($60 in total)

$10 Trifecta Part Wheel - Practical Move over Geaux Rocket Ride, National Treasure, and Skinner = $60

If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Practical Move (8/5).    

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Santa Anita Derby Predictions

In search of a third consecutive graded stakes victory, Practical Move tops a field of nine Kentucky Derby hopefuls entered in Saturday’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita Park.

A son of Practical Joke, he capitalized on the potential he had demonstrated in his early races with a 3 1/4-length win in the Grade 2 Los Alamitos Futurity to close out his juvenile season. 

Trained by Tim Yakteen, the bay colt looked even better in taking home his sophomore debut, winning the Grade 2 San Felipe at Santa Anita in convincing style five weeks ago.

Chief among his opposition in the 9-furlong Santa Anita Derby will be the Richard Mandella-trained Geaux Rocket Ride. 

An eye-catching debut winner of a  6-furlong maiden race at Santa Anita in late January, the son of Candy Ride was made the favorite in the San Felipe off only that win and was a game runner-up behind Practical Move

Japan’s Mandarin Hero will add a bit of foreign intrigue. The son of Shanghai Bobby will be making his American debut on Saturday and has won 4-of-5 career starts in his native country.

Skinner and National Treasure, both coming off third-place finishes in graded stakes races at Santa Anita, also merit serious consideration on Saturday.

As a Kentucky Derby trail race, the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby will offer qualifying points for the first Saturday in May on a scale of 100-40-30-20-10 to the first five finishers.

Santa Anita Derby Predictions and Race Analysis

Practical Move

After a series of solid efforts to begin his career last season as a juvenile, this son of Practical Joke has really blossomed into a potential star in the last two. 

Trained by Tim Yakteen, he has enough tactical speed to stay close, but also a swift turn of foot that can take over the race. He will need both if he is to make it three consecutive graded stakes wins in a row on Saturday as he meets up again with his new rival Geaux Rocket Ride. 

His Grade 2 wins in the Los Alamitos Futurity and San Felipe have me believing that he is one of the best 3-year-olds in the nation and I believe he will get the job done in the Santa Anita Derby. He is the top pick.

Geaux Rocket Ride

After a very impressive debut win over the track going 6 furlongs, this son of Candy Ride turned in a very good performance to be second last time behind Practical Move in the San Felipe. 

Given the experience, there is every reason to believe he can improve in his third-lifetime start. Last time he stalked the speed before running on gamely in the stretch. It will be interesting to see if he goes right to the lead here, but there is some other speed. 

He really could be any kind, and might just have the talent to win this, but he needs to prove he can handle Practical Move. He is the biggest threat to the top pick.

National Treasure

In desperate need of Kentucky Derby qualifying points, this son of Quality Road was formerly trained by Bob Baffert and is now trained by Tim Yakteen. 

He was a very good juvenile, having finished second in the Grade 1 American Pharoah and third in the Grade 1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. More was expected of this year, but his lone start was a bit disappointing, even though he was only beaten a length in the Grade 3 Sham Stakes. 

He missed the San Felipe with a foot bruise and is now really behind the eight ball. He’s talented and has good tactical speed, but I’m not sure he’s ready for a breakthrough win against this bunch.

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Coming off a third-place finish behind the top two in the San Felipe, this developing son of Curlin will hope to make the most out of the added distance of the Santa Anita Derby. 

A confirmed late-runner, he had a wide trip and was unable to make up much ground in the stretch run last time. Perhaps a more contested early pace could set the table for him here, but there is reason to believe that the top two could be still getting better as well. 

You cannot throw the John Shirreffs runner out here, but I believe he is more of a threat to fill out the exotics than to actually win this.

Mandarin Hero

The wildcard of the field, this Shanghai Bobby colt will be the first Japanese-based horse ever to run in the Santa Anita Derby. He arrives after a very good record in Japan, winning 4-of-5. 

All of his races came at Ooi Racecourse, where he was unbeaten in four starts last year before finishing second by a neck six weeks ago. 

There isn’t too much to go on here, but despite Japan’s recent successes on a world stage, I am likely going to take a wait-and-see approach as he faces off against some fast and talented U.S. horses on their home turf.

I Don’t Get It

This son of Cloud Computing has been well backed in his first three races, each of which came in maiden company. He has faced some good horses along the way but could do no better than fourth in his first two starts, although he had excuses in both. 

Last out, he was a game-winner over the track four weeks ago. He looks to be on the improve for trainer Doug O’Neill and could be ready for another move forward. 

Even so, it will probably not be enough as he moves from the maiden company all the way up to this Grade 1 test.

Low Expectations

This son of Nyquist comes in off his best performance yet when he finished second in the Grade 3 Sunland Park Derby. While he exceeded expectations in that one, he will need much more to effectively compete in the Santa Anita Derby. 

Before his good effort in New Mexico, he had won two straight at Santa Anita. Both came on the front end and against much cheaper competition than he will see on Saturday. 

He appears to have found a home on the main track, having switched from turf three starts back, but this race should prove a little bit out of his comfort zone.  

One in Vermillion

A three-time stakes winner at smaller tracks, this son of Army Mule has picked a tough spot for his first start in Southern California. 

He does bring good early speed to the affair but is a big question mark at the distance. In his first try at 9-furlongs, he never threatened in the Sunland Park Derby, but his chances were hurt by a poor start. 

Look for him to make his presence felt early in this one, but the class jump will likely do him in when the real running begins.


Trained by Keith Desormeaux, this one is still a maiden after two starts. A son of Tapwrit, he has finished third both times. 

His debut while sprinting was nothing to write home about, but he showed improvement last time as he was game and in between horses on the stretch out to 8 1/2 furlongs. 

Still, that maiden race four weeks ago is a far cry from what he will be facing on Saturday. He is a deserving longshot here.

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How to Watch the Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita Derby Race Information

  • What: Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1)

  • Location: Santa Anita

  • Time: Saturday, April 8 -- 5:30 pm Eastern time

  • How to Watch: NBC, FanDuel TV

  • Purse: $750,000

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Brian Zipse

Horse Racing Betting Analyst

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Taken to the races at a very young age, Brian has been a passionate fan of horse racing his entire life. Professionally, his work has been published on several leading industry sites. Brian served as the Editor of Horse Racing Nation from 2010-2017, where he still writes a regular column and hosts the popular weekly webcast HorseCenter.
Nationality: American
Education: Bachelor of Communications
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