ARCADIA, Calif. – Rock Your World won the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby by 4 1/4 lengths on Saturday over 4-5 favorite Medina Spirit, preventing Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert from earning his 10th win in the West Coast’s prep for the Kentucky Derby.
Ridden by Umberto Rispoli, Rock Your World ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:49.17 and paid $12.40, $4.60 and $3.40 at 5-1 odds. It was the 3-year-old colt’s dirt debut; he won his first two starts on turf for trainer John Sadler.
“There’s a lot of different ways to hunt and I chose to lay in the weeds,” Sadler said. “We started this horse off on turf. It’s a nice way to kind of develop a horse a little bit. Everybody’s got a different plan. This is my plan this year and it worked, so I look smart for about an hour. See me tomorrow.”
Medina Spirit returned $2.80 and $2.20. Dream Shake was another 2 1/4 lengths back in third and paid $2.80 to show.
Baffert's other entry, Defunded, finished fourth. Sadler's other entry, Back Ring Luck, was eighth in the nine-horse field.
Baffert had been planning to run Life Is Good, who was the early favorite for the Kentucky Derby but has been sidelined by injury.
Rock Your World earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby and moved into sixth on the leaderboard. The top 20 earn spots in the May 1 race.
“If you want to go to the Derby you've got to get the points, so this is the time to take a shot in your own backyard," Sadler said. “You know if you ran 1-2, you’d have enough points to get in.”
Rock Your World ran on the lead most of the way in front of limited fans, who created the kind of noise that had been missing at Santa Anita for a year because of the coronavirus pandemic. Medina Spirit moved into second approaching the final turn, but couldn't threaten the leader in the stretch.
A spirited Rispoli yelled as he crossed the finish line, and the Italian jockey later did a flying dismount in the winner's circle. He earned his first Grade 1 dirt victory in the U.S.
The victory, worth $450,000, increased Rock Your World's career earnings to $546,600.
In other Kentucky Derby preps:
— Undefeated Essential Quality won the $800,000 Blue Grass Stakes by a neck at Keeneland. The gray colt, last year's Breeders' Cup Juvenile champion, held off Highly Motivated to earn 100 qualifying points for the Derby. Ridden by Luis Saez, Essential Quality ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.50 and paid $3 to win. Rombauer was third.
— At New York's Aqueduct, 72-1 longshot Bourbonic staged a furious rally on the outside to edge 15-1 stablemate Dynamic One by a head in the $750,000 Wood Memorial. Both colts are trained by Todd Pletcher, whose 55 Kentucky Derby starters are a record. Bourbonic ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:54.49 to earn 100 Derby qualifying points.
AP Sports Writer Gary B. Graves in Kentucky contributed to this report.
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