04/01/2014 2:41PM

Santa Anita Derby: Big Tire aims for top four finish

Shigeki Kikkawa
Big Tire, winner of a one-mile maiden race, will step way up the class ladder for Saturday's Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby.

When Big Tire starts in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Derby, the colt will be trainer Mark Glatt’s second runner in a seven-figure race.

Back in 2006, New Joysey Jeff finished 12th behind Lawyer Ron in the $1 million Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park.

“It’s only fun if you do halfway decent,” Glatt said. “Otherwise, it doesn’t mean diddly.”

[ROAD TO THE KENTUCKY DERBY: Prep races, point standings, replays]

Big Tire will make his stakes debut in the Grade 1 Santa Anita Derby over 1 1/8 miles. Glatt has said repeatedly that he wants to try Big Tire, a son of Candy Ride who won his maiden going a mile, at longer distances.

At the same time, Glatt is realistic in his expectations, stating Big Tire needs considerable improvement to compete against the stakes winners California Chrome, Candy Boy, and Hoppertunity, who will be the first three choices in the betting.

“Obviously, fourth or better would be a victory of some kind,” Glatt said. “Going into it, I feel like my horse is fourth best in the race.

“It depends on how much he improves. If we run third on Saturday, we need one of the top three not to run their top races. Third or fourth would be good for us.”

Many owners and trainers with runners in the Santa Anita Derby are dreaming of the Kentucky Derby on May 3. Glatt wonders if the Belmont Stakes over 1 1/2 miles on June 7 may be a better goal for Big Tire.

“How he runs Saturday will dictate a lot of what we do,” he said. “He could be a mile and a half in the Belmont, potentially. I think he could run that far.”

The Santa Anita Derby has a field of eight probable starters. Schoolofhardrocks, making his first start since August, was fourth behind California Chrome in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 8. Friendswith K Mill was second in an allowance to The Admiral on March 16. Rprettyboyfloyd and Dublin Up, second and third behind Big Tire on March 7, are the other candidates.

Four stakes on undercard

The Santa Anita Derby is the top race on a program that features five stakes. First post time is noon Pacific.

Saturday’s $400,000 Santa Anita Oaks is expected to have a small field, including Arethusa, Artemis, Fashion Plate, Honey Ride, and Ria Antonia.

The other stakes on Saturday are the $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies on turf, and two $200,000 races for California-bred 3-year-olds over 6 1/2 furlongs – the Echo Eddie Stakes and Evening Jewel Stakes for fillies.