If it wasn’t the performance on the track that upstaged last year’s magic, another Team Doug O'Neill post-race celebration that spilled out of the winner’s circle following Goldencents’ victory in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (Grade 1) surely did.
Disrespected as the 6-to-1 fifth choice after tiring to finish fourth in the San Felipe Stakes (G2) on March 9, Goldencents was able to relax and track pace-setter Super Ninety Nine under unheralded jockey Kevin Krigger before bursting away when they straightened for home and holding off even-money favorite Flashback by 1 1/4-lengths.
“I had him relaxed and that’s the key to him. Although it looked like I was fighting him, I really wasn’t. I just kept him at that pace,” said Krigger, who follows in the footsteps of a similar rise from obscurity experienced by Mario Guttierez last year.
“Right here, right now, it’s only going to get better!”
Goldencents had previously won a pair of Grade 3 events and added $450,000 to his earnings that stood at a field-high $800,000 prior to the race. The three-year-old son of Into Mischief earned 100 points on the Road to the Kentucky Derby and now sits in third with a total of 129 points.
“As a trainer, you always have a false sense of hope every time you run one, but I felt like we had a lot of horse left,” said O’Neill, who won both his first Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby last year with I’ll Have Another. “To win two years in a row is a huge honor.”
I’ll Have Another continued with an exciting win in the Preakness Stakes (G1) before being scratched the day before going for Triple Crown glory in the Belmont Stakes (G1).
As Goldencents hit the wire, co-owner Rick Pitino was in the midst of a Final Four battle in Atlanta against the Wichita St. Shockers with his Louisville Cardinals, who eventually prevailed to win 72-68 after trailing by double digits in the second half.
Flashback had to settle for second in consecutive races after missing by half a length in the San Felipe Stakes when he dueled with Goldencents on the lead and put him away before being run down by Hear the Ghost, who was scratched due to injury two days before the Santa Anita Derby.
In search of his seventh Santa Anita Derby win, Bob Baffert settled for minor honors with Flashback in second and 9-to-2 second choice Super Ninety Nine 8 1/2-lengths behind his stable mate in third. Baffert's Power Broker settled for fifth at 5-to-1 behind Tiz a Minister, who was also 5-to-1.
The 40 points earned by Flashback leave him in seventh with 70 total points and Super Ninety Nine added 20 points to stand in 16th place with a total of 30.
Tiz a Minister is outside the preferred Top-20 in 24th after doubling his total to 20 points.
Marc Doche is a Contributor for Bleacher Report. Unless otherwise noted, all quotes were obtained firsthand.
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