Game Winner should garner Kentucky Derby auto-bid in Santa Anita Derby

The Grade I, $1 million Santa Anita Derby drew just six runners, but it’s a quality field. The 1 1/8-mile heat attracted the likes of GAME WINNER, ROADSTER, and INSTAGRAND. Going as Race 8 on an 11-race card that also includes the prestigious Santa Anita Handicap, estimated post time for the Santa Anita Derby is 7:14 p.m. EST. The race is worth 100 Kentucky Derby points to the winner, down to 10 for running fourth.

#6 GAME WINNER (4-5, morning-line favorite) put forth a determined rally in his seasonal debut, the Grade II Rebel, but was nosed out by Omaha Beach. He was far from disgraced in that first career defeat. GAME WINNER projects to get an ideal setup sitting just behind the speed of INSTAGRAND and ROADSTER. He should also appreciate the extra 1/16th of a mile based on pedigree. Joel Rosario will fly in from Keeneland for the call.

#1 ROADSTER (5-2) beat NOLO CONTESTO convincingly last month in his first start since September. He’s improved steadily in each start under the care of Bob Baffert, who also saddles GAME WINNER. Mike Smith may have to send ROADSTER to avoid getting hemmed in at the rail, but he should still give a good account of himself in the Santa Anita Derby.

#5 INSTAGRAND (3-1) may have been a little rusty in the Gotham, his first start since winning the Best Pal by 10 lengths in August, but he also may have demonstrated some distance limitations. His pedigree suggests that one mile may be as far as he can go. INSTAGRAND and Flavien Prat will almost certainly try to wire this group. Unless GAME WINNER misfires, that seems unlikely. However, his best effort should almost certainly net him a share.

The play: $5 trifecta 6/1,5/1,5 ($10)

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