10/24/2015 7:51PM

Easy Twilight Derby win gets Om primed for Hollywood Derby

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Benoit & Associates
Om scores a front-running victory under Gary Stevens in the Twilight Derby.

ARCADIA, Calif. - Om confirmed his status as the leading 3-year-old on turf in California with a comfortable win in Saturday’s $200,750 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita.

But the race was overshadowed by the tragic death on Wednesday of Taj Sareen, the son of owner K.B. Sareen. Marine Major Taj Sareen was killed when his fighter jet crashed in the English countryside. Taj Sareen was transporting the plane from England to a base in Southern California.

His death was on the mind of trainer Dan Hendricks after Om’s win.

“I felt more pressure in this race than any other,” Hendricks said. “The timing was wrong.”

K.B. Sareen did not attend the race, but members of the family were in attendance.

Ridden by Gary Stevens, Om ($3) led throughout the Grade 2 Twilight Derby, run at 1 1/8 miles on turf. Stevens had Om in front by a half-length over 44-1 Boone Docks through an opening quarter-mile in 23.15 seconds, and led by at least 1 1/2 lengths for the remainder of the race.

“I didn’t want unexpected company, but I didn’t want to shake him up to make the lead,” Stevens said. “When he made the lead, I was confident.”

Stevens said the win reminded him of Om’s victory in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby on Sept. 6 when the colt led throughout and won by 2 1/4 lengths.

“When I got to do what I wanted, it was very much like the Del Mar Derby,” he said.

Om won the Twilight Derby in 1:45.90. Mister Brightside, an English import making his American debut, finished second. Mister Brightside was third early and got within two lengths of Om with a furlong to go.

“The winner was too good for him,” said Walter Swinburn, who owns Mister Brightside. “I thought for two or three strides he’d give him a run, but he was going away.”

Royal Albert Hall finished third, followed by Hunt, Soul Driver, Second Summer, Boone Docks, and Verraco. Daddy D T and Ground Rules were scratched.

Hendricks said Om has changed in recent starts. By Munnings, Om was second as the 7-5 favorite in the Grade 3 La Jolla Handicap at Del Mar in August before winning the Del Mar Derby in a 6-1 upset.

“He’s coming around a little bit more,” Hendricks said. “He didn’t have to be asked.”

Om has won 4 of 8 starts and earned $394,500. He will be pointed to the $300,000 Hollywood Derby on turf at Del Mar on Nov. 28.

“I couldn’t be in a better spot going into the Hollywood Derby,” Hendricks said. “It’s a Grade 1 at a mile and an eighth on a track he’s already won.”