Roadster’s late surge earns victory in Santa Anita Derby


Through the far turn of Saturday's Grade 1, US$1 million Santa Anita Derby, Roadster appeared out of contention not just on the day, but for any shot at the 2019 Kentucky Derby as well.
But then a colt who trainer Bob Baffert has hyped since Triple Crown winner Justify retired then kicked back into gear.
Roadster reversed his fortunes, uncorking a huge rally down the centre of the track to nab stablemate Game Winner and send them both on to Churchill Downs.
"Too bad it couldn't have been a dead heat," Baffert quipped. "I'm excited about both of them."
Behind the Baffert duo was Instagrand, another highly regarded colt from the crop who may have put himself in contention to run on the first Saturday in May, too.
Instagrand did the work up front, pressed through opening fractions of 23.34 and 47.84 before caught late in the 1 1/8-miler -- also his two-turn debut.
Roadster finished up 1:51.28, and no surprise: Mike Smith rode the winner.
"Mike Smith -- he knows the horse really well, and he rode him with a lot of confidence," Baffert said.
That's even when the Top 4 opened up by more than five lengths on Roadster leaving the turn. Showing a top turn of foot, the Speedway Stables runner revved up to win it.
"When Game Winner turned for home, I thought for sure Game Winner was going to win because he likes company," Baffert said. "But then when (Instagrand) was getting tired, (Game Winner) made the lead by himself.
"I saw a horse coming. I thought, 'Man, I hope that's my other horse,' and it was. Those are two really good horses."
Baffert has another bullet to fire next week in Improbable, who will be among the top choices in the Arkansas Derby (G1) at Oaklawn Park. This 1-2 might have meant a bit more, with Santa Anita running its card Saturday under the cloud of safety issues, equine fatalities and debate about the industry's future in Southern California.
"You know what makes this the best?" Baffert asked. "What we've been through this last month, and you see all these fans showed up here today. It's the best therapy that anybody can get, because everybody knows we love our horses, and we love our game."


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