04/04/2011 2:35PM

Santa Anita Derby a crucial test for Anthony's Cross

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Benoit & Associates
Anthony's Cross (right) with Joel Rosario up, wins the Robert Lewis, putting him in the hunt for the Preakness 5.5 bonus.

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – More than likely, Anthony’s Cross must finish in the first three in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Derby to have sufficient earnings to earn a berth in the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 7.

SANTA ANITA DERBY DAY: See Brad Free’s video previews and watch full card live on DRF.com

The style of his workout at Hollywood Park on Monday – five furlongs in 59.80 seconds – left trainer Eoin Harty confident that a win, or placing, can be achieved. At the least, Harty has no concern about the Santa Anita Derby distance of 1 1/8 miles, the same trip as Anthony’s Cross’s most recent race, a win in the Grade 2 Robert Lewis Stakes at Santa Anita on Feb. 12.

“He’s been working like that since the Bob Lewis,” Harty said. “I’ve yet to see him take a deep breath, so I don’t think he has distance limitations.

Anthony’s Cross has $162,000 in graded stakes earnings. With several lucrative preps to be run around the nation in coming weeks, it is difficult to predict the amount of graded stakes earnings that will be needed to secure a berth in the Kentucky Derby, if the race draws more than 20 entrants. Currently, Anthony’s Cross ranks 23rd on the graded stakes earnings list.

Despite his recent win, Anthony’s Cross is not at the forefront of the Kentucky Derby, or even Santa Anita Derby, hopefuls. In the third pool of the Kentucky Derby Future Wager that closed on Sunday, Anthony’s Cross closed at 43-1. Four other Santa Anita Derby hopefuls were also listed as individual horses in the pool and three of them were shorter prices, led by Premier Pegasus at 9-1.

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Premier Pegasus, the winner of the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes over 1 1/16 miles on March 12, will be favored in the Santa Anita Derby, which is expected to draw a field of 11. Trainer Bob Baffert said on Monday that Midnight Interlude, the winner of maiden special weight race over a mile by 8 1/2 lengths at Santa Anita on March 20 will start in the Santa Anita Derby.

“He won pretty impressively the other day,” Baffert said.

Owned by Arnold Zetcher, Midnight Interlude, who has started three times, worked six furlongs in 1:10.60 on Monday, the fastest of 26 recorded works at the distance. He is likely to play an important role in the Santa Anita Derby as a pacesetter.

The other probable starters for the Santa Anita Derby are Bench Points, Celestic Night, Comma to the Top, Indian Winter, Jaycito, Mr. Commons, Offlee Wild Boys, and Silver Medallion.

With Premier Pegasus and Jaycito, second in the San Felipe, expected to dominate the betting, Anthony’s Cross could be an attractive price, at about 6-1.

“I believe I fit right there with them,” Harty said. “We haven’t seen a real standout so far. Premier Pegasus was quite outstanding in his last race.”

Comma to the Top, fourth in the San Felipe, worked five furlongs in 1:02.60 at Hollywood Park on Monday, although trainer Peter Miller timed the work in 1:01.80.

Comma to the Top has $471,000 in graded stakes earnings, but Miller reiterated on Monday that the gelding is unlikely for the Kentucky Derby regardless of the Santa Anita Derby outcome, thoughts he expressed last week.

“I don’t think he wants a mile and a quarter,” he said. “I don’t want to ruin the horse to satisfy my ego.”

Miller said the Preakness Stakes on May 21, at 1 3/16 miles, is “a possibility,” but so is a vacation for a gelding who has started 12 times. “Right now, we’re going to give him a break” after the Santa Anita Derby, he said.

Indian Winter has just $22,500 in graded stakes earnings, from a third in the Grade 1 Del Mar Futurity last summer. The Santa Anita Derby will be his first start in a graded stakes around two turns. Trained by Jerry Hollendorfer, Indian Winter was third in the Turf Paradise Derby over 1 1/16 miles on Feb. 26, and later promoted to second when a rival was disqualified for causing interference.

Monday at Santa Anita, Indian Winter worked a half-mile in 48.40 seconds. Patrick Valenzuela will ride Indian Winter for the first time in the Santa Anita Derby.

Game On Dude gets in work

Game On Dude, the winner of the Santa Anita Handicap on March 5, worked six furlongs in 1:10.60 on Monday, and is being strongly considered for the $1 million Charles Town Classic in West Virginia on April 16.

Game On Dude will have another workout before a decision is finalized, Baffert said.

The Factor, the winner of the Rebel Stakes at Oaklawn Park on March 19, worked six furlongs in 1:11.40 on Monday, galloping out in 1:24, according to Baffert. The Factor is expected to be favored in the Arkansas Derby at Oaklawn Park on April 16.

The Baffert-trained Misremembered, the winner of the 2010 Santa Anita Handicap, worked five furlongs in 1:02.80 and will be favored in Saturday’s Oaklawn Handicap in Arkansas.

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