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Image for Brian Zipse Brian Zipse - Updated October 14, 2022

Santa Anita Derby (Santa Anita Park) 2021 - Predictions, Picks & Betting Odds

Santa Anita
If you're playing only to win, go with my top pick Medina Spirit (9/5)

Brian Zipse

Post Position and Odds Santa Anita Derby

Check out our predictions and odds for the 2021 Santa Anita Derby at Santa Anita!

PP Horse Odds Jockey Trainer
J J Hernandez S Callaghan
F Prat P Eurton
U Rispoli J Sadler
E Maldonado J Shirreffs
T Baze J Sadler
M Gutierrez S Asmussen
J Velazquez B Baffert
K Desormeaux M McCarthy
A Cedillo D O’Neill
M Smith B Baffert

Best Bets for the Santa Anita Derby

Here are my plays ($56 in total)

$5 Exacta part wheel – Medina Spirit over Rock Your World, Ottothelegend, Roman Centurian, The Great One  = $20

$5 Exacta part wheel – Rock Your World, Ottothelegend, Roman Centurian, The Great One over Medina Spirit  = $20

$2 Exacta part wheel – Ottothelegend over Rock Your World, Dream Shake, Roman Centurian, The Great One  = $8

$2 Exacta part wheel – Rock Your World, Dream Shake, Roman Centurian, The Great One over Ottothelegend = $8

If you’re playing only to win, go with my top pick Medina Spirit (9/5).

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Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert will be looking for a record tenth victory when he sends out a pair, including the likely favorite Medina Spirit, in Saturday’s Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

Medina Spirit comes into the $750,000 feature off a second-place finish behind highly regarded stablemate Life is Good in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes last time at Santa Anita. Before that, the son of Protonico was a game-winner of the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes on January 30.

Joining the Baffert brigade will be Defunded, who will be making his third start and trying two turns for the first time.  Four weeks ago, he looked like a colt with a future, as he rallied from well back to break his maiden in impressive fashion.

Chief among the Baffert busters include a lightly raced pair in Dream Shake and Rock Your World. The former finished third behind Medina Spirit in his second career start for trainer Peter Eurton, while the latter has been a sharp winner of both career starts which each came on the grass.

The 1 1/8-mile Santa Anita Derby will offer the top four finishers Kentucky Derby qualifying points on a scale of 100-40-20-10.

How to watch the Santa Anita Derby

Santa Anita Derby Race Information
What Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1)
Where Santa Anita
When Saturday, April 3 — 3:30 pm Pacific time
How to Watch TVG & NBC Sports Network
Purse $750,000

Santa Anita Derby Race Analysis

Medina Spirit

A game graded stakes winner of the Grade 3 Robert B. Lewis two starts back, this Baffert runner was no match for his stablemate Life Is Good last time in the San Felipe. That’s the only horse to beat him in four solid lifetime starts, and perhaps the reported breathing issue that has been corrected by a procedure since the last race, was the reason he was a distant second. If he proves better after the procedure, it would be a bad sign for the rest of the field, many of whom he has already defeated. With good tactical speed and a real game attitude when the real running begins, he is a deserving favorite. The grandson of Giant’s Causeway is the horse to beat in the Santa Anita Derby and my top pick.

Dream Shake

After an eye-catching debut victory in which he came from well back to win a maiden sprint at Santa Anita going away for trainer Peter Eurton, this son of Twirling Candy came right back to test the deep waters against Life Is Good and Medina Spirit in the Grade 2 San Felipe. He made a nice inside move to get into contention on the turn, but could not sustain the momentum and checked in third, two lengths behind Medina Spirit. He is certainly eligible to move forward in his third career race, but the fact that he was out finished by the top pick while that one reportedly had a breathing issue, makes me wonder if he can expect better in the Santa Anita Derby.

Rock Your World

Trained by John Sadler, this son of Candy Ride looked awfully good in winning both a maiden sprint in January and then the Pasadena Stakes in February at Santa Anita. The question then becomes — can he successfully make the move from the grass, which he ran on in his first two starts, to the main track on Saturday? Both his pedigree and his workouts suggest that he can. He has talent and good tactical speed. Provided he can transfer his form from turf to dirt, he may present the biggest danger to the top pick, Medina Spirit.


The ‘other’ Baffert has not been bet like most from his stable, but he showed strong improvement in his second start, which came after a sizable layoff, to run right on by his competition in a 6-furlong maiden event. A son of Dialed In, he should appreciate the stretch out in distance, but having said that, this seems like a lot to ask of a colt coming out of a short sprint. He could develop into a good one, but I am going to pass on him here at likely single-digit odds.

Roman Centurian

He looked full of promise when he ranged up on the outside two starts back in the Robert B. Lewis. He never could get by but did run a strong race to split two very good horses in Medina Spirit and Hot Rod Charlie. The performance was not backed up, though, last time when he never threatened behind the raw speed of Life Is Good. He will need to turn things around, but there was enough potential demonstrated in the Lewis to believe he can do just that. He’ll need some pace to run at, but the Simon Callaghan trainee is an interesting alternative to the favorites.

The Great One

A romping winner of a maiden race two starts back, the son of Nyquist had little luck while chasing the fast Life Is Good last time in the San Felipe. From there, he wasn’t going to pass horses and checked in a well-beaten fifth. Without that big favorite in this one, he will have a better opportunity to use his natural speed. If he can make the lead in the Santa Anita Derby, he at least becomes a viable longshot. It’s still a tough spot, but he is in with a chance.

Law Professor

Trained by Mike McCarthy, this son of Constitution surprised a maiden event last time at Santa Anita at odds of 20/1. The victory came after showing very little in his career debut a month earlier. While the win over the track was a nice move forward, it still likely leaves him a little bit short against all the tough local horses he will face here. I like others better.


Like a few others in here, he has only started two times, but unlike Dream Shake and Rock Your World, he figures to have big odds. After running decently while sprinting in his debut, the son of Uncle Mo stretched out to 1 1/16-miles last time successfully. In that maiden win at Oaklawn Park, he overcame trouble to win going away. It will be a big jump up in class as he ships in for Saturday, but the Steve Asmussen-trained runner looks to have some real potential. Nominated to several big Derby preps, they chose a tough one, but I believe he has a chance. Of the real longshots, he is the one I like.


After breaking his maiden impressively three starts back, this son of Quality Road has been well beaten in two tries against the graded company. Without threatening in either, he finished well behind a number of horses in this field and would need a complete turnaround to have any real hope on Saturday. He is hard to recommend.

Back Ring Luck

Claimed two starts back, this one has come home on top in two straight, including an allowance race in March at Oaklawn Park for his new connections. While it looks like he is headed in the right direction, it would seem that the leap to Grade 1 company at Santa Anita will prove too much for this son of Malibu Moon, who ran against maiden claimers on three occasions.

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Brian Zipse

228 Articles

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.

Email: [email protected]

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