Road To The Kentucky Derby — Santa Anita Derby Preview And Top Win Contenders

Written By Fairway Jay on April 9, 2022 - Last Updated on April 4, 2023
Santa Anita Derby

The final weekend of major Championship Series races on the Road to the Kentucky Derby continues Saturday, April 9. The last three big prep races offer the last chance to qualify for the 2022 Kentucky Derby.

Here are the three key races for 3-year-olds on the Kentucky Derby Trail.

  • Santa Anita Derby — 1 1/8 miles at Santa Anita Park
  • Wood Memorial — 1 1/8 miles at Aqueduct
  • Blue Grass Stakes — 1 1/8 miles at Keeneland

Saturday’s 12-race card at Santa Anita Park outside Los Angeles features the $750,000 RUNHAPPY Santa Anita Derby. The Grade 1 event is race 6 at 5:45 p.m. EDT and drew six entries led by two prohibitive favorites, Messier (1-1) and Forbidden Kingdom (6-5). 

This year’s Santa Anita Derby has a very low payoff potential and thus is not a great wagering race. However, the winner of this race will likely arrive at the Kentucky Derby as the favorite. The California-based horses look better than their competitors to the east.

Santa Anita Derby field and odds 2022

1Happy Jack20-1Abel CedilloDoug O'Neill
2Armagnac20-1Drayden Van DykeTim Yakteen
3Forbidden Kingdom6-5Juan HernandezRichard Mandella
4Messier1-1John VelazquezTim Yakteen
5Win the Day20-1Umberto RispoliDoug O'Neill
6Taiba4-1Mike SmithTim Yakteen

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Santa Anita Derby top win contenders

Here are the top win contenders and other horse analyses as you determine your horse racing strategies, how to bet, and which horses will win. In addition, our partners at TVG and
HorseRacingNation have added insight into the race.

  • Messier
  • Forbidden Kingdom
  • Taiba


The Super Screener analysis by HorseRacingNation notes that Tim Yakteen, a former pupil of trainer Bob Baffert, is now conditioning and training Messier and two other runners in the Santa Anita Derby. Messier has moved forward in every one of his four starts following his debut while taking on more ground. It culminated in that devastatingly brilliant victory in the G3 Robert B. Lewis Stakes when he drew away by 15 lengths over four rivals.

Messier has faced light competition in winning a pair of graded stakes races. He’s posted some razor-sharp works in the morning and should be sitting on another considerable effort. Circa Sports in Las Vegas currently has +525 odds (Caesars +600) on Messier to win the Kentucky Derby. He’s the expected favorite to Run for the Roses on May 7 at Churchill Downs.

Forbidden Kingdom

The pace should be faster than par, with Forbidden Kingdom leading the way as he has done in his past five career starts. Forbidden Kingdom already has enough Derby points (50) to qualify for the Run for the Roses. The Super Screener believes this speedster trained by top horseman Richard Mandella has the best shot to become the next Kentucky Derby winner. A son of Triple Crown winner American Pharoah, Forbidden Kingdom has been powerful while getting stronger and better, with another move anticipated in the Santa Anita Derby. This year, his BRIS pace speed figures were off the charts (110 and 117) in his two graded stakes wins.

In a short field, the advantage goes to a pace dominator like Forbidden Kingdom. He won the San Felipe while cutting off blistering fast fractions. He should be able to throttle back and have more in reserve to hold off Messier, with his breeding and energy distribution profile providing plenty of positives for this regal colt. Circa Sports in Las Vegas currently has +1100 (11-1) odds on Forbidden Kingdom to win the Kentucky Derby, while Caesars Sportsbook shows +700.


Taiba is another Yakteen (Baffert) colt who made his second start of a 7-length maiden sprint win last month, posting superior BRIS Pace/Speed figures throughout the race. This son of the great Gun Runner was a $1.7 million purchase. Taiba is one to watch as a late entry on the Derby Trail who should develop into a top horse in the summer and fall. Circa Sports in Las Vegas currently is offering 30-1 odds on Taiba to win the Kentucky Derby. Those odds will drop sharply if he wins the Santa Anita Derby or finishes runner-up.

Santa Anita Oaks

Also, race 4 on Saturday is the $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks for 3-year-old fillies. The Grade 2 race drew just five entries, and Adare Manor (3-5) is the heavy favorite. She won February’s Las Virgenes Stakes but has not earned any Derby points. Previously, Adare Manor trained with Bob Baffert and is not eligible for qualifying points. That changes for the Santa Anita Oaks, as Baffert has handed her off to trainer Tim Yakeen. None of the horses in the Santa Anita Oaks have earned qualifying points for the Kentucky Oaks. The top two finishers in the Santa Anita Oaks will earn enough points to qualify for the Kentucky Oaks.

Recent Santa Anita Derby winners

2021Rock Your World5-1$12.401:49.17Front2nd
2020Honor A.P. 2-1$6.401:48.97Midpack, off pace2nd
2019Roadster3-1$8.201:51.28Midpack, off pace2nd
2016Exaggerator7-2$8.801:49.66Closer, far back2nd
2014California Chrome3-5$3.401:47.52Pressing1st
2012I'll Have Another4-1$10.201:47.88Stalking2nd
2011Midnight Interlude13-1$29.801:49.66Stalking4th

April Kentucky Derby Trail recap

Last weekend’s trio of major Derby preps drew double-digit fields and saw three more 3-year-olds earn 100 points and a spot in the starting gate for the May 7 Kentucky Derby. CyberKnife won the Arkansas Derby by nearly 3 lengths for his first graded stakes win. White Abarrio won the Florida Derby for his fourth win in five starts and second straight graded stakes triumph. Tiz the Bomb was the only post-time favorite to win, with a 2-length victory over the synthetic surface at Turfway Park in the Jeff Ruby Steaks. Tiz the Bomb now has four stakes wins, including two graded and a runner-up finish in last November’s Breeders’ Cup Juvenile.

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Fairway Jay

FairwayJay is a leading national sports and betting analyst and provides insight and information you can bet on to engage and assist the avid fan. His tee-to-green coverage and racing contributions have been provided to Churchill Downs, Twinspires, TVG, Forbes, TheLines, numberFire and PlayUSA platforms. Follow on Twitter: @FairwayJay

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