03/29/2013 3:01PM

Santa Anita Derby: Goldencents learning to pace himself

Shigeki Kikkawa
Two-time stakes winner Goldencents is learning to conserve energy ahead of next Saturday's Santa Anita Derby, trainer Doug O'Neill said.

ARCADIA, Calif. – In the three weeks since Goldencents finished fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita on March 9, trainer Doug O’Neill has focused on teaching the two-time stakes winner to reserve his speed.

If Goldencents has any chance of winning his next race, the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby next Saturday, he must show more patience than he did in the San Felipe, where he fought for the lead and faded to finish 2 1/4 lengths behind Hear the Ghost.

On Friday, Goldencents worked six furlongs in 1:14, the fastest of nine works at the distance. Ridden by exercise rider Jonny Garcia, Goldencents worked alone, starting at the half-mile pole, continuing past the finish line, and finishing at the six-furlong marker at the beginning of the backstretch.

According to O’Neill’s stopwatch, Goldencents worked the first three furlongs in 38.20 seconds and finished in 1:14.20, going the final three furlongs in 36 seconds.

“Not too shabby,” O’Neill said. “We’ve been trying to slow him down. The last race didn’t unfold perfectly, and we didn’t get the right trip. Our plan has been to slow him down.”

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

Goldencents, by Into Mischief, has won 3 of 5 starts and $800,000. The San Felipe was the first time he finished outside the first two. Goldencents won the Grade 3 Delta Downs Jackpot last November and the Grade 3 Sham Stakes here over a mile Jan. 5.

Goldencents, who will be ridden in the Santa Anita Derby by Kevin Krigger, has worked twice since the San Felipe, including six furlongs in 1:16 on March 21. The two works give O’Neill an indication that Goldencents now has more patience.

“To come back with a 1:16 and a 1:14, we couldn’t do that before the Sham,” he said.

The Santa Anita Derby has a projected field of eight, including Hear the Ghost, Flashback and Tiz a Minister, the first three finishers in the San Felipe.

Bob Baffert trains Flashback, who is likely to be favored, and will have two other starters – Super Ninety Nine, who won the Grade 3 Southwest Stakes at Oaklawn Park on Feb. 18 but was fifth in the Grade 2 Rebel Stakes there March 16, and Power Broker, the winner of the Grade 1 FrontRunner Stakes last September who has not started since finishing fifth in the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile here last November.

Other candidates are the maiden race winner Storm Fighter and Dirty Swagg, who finished fifth in the Sham Stakes in his most recent start.

Dirty Swagg, owned and trained by Myung Kwon Cho, worked five furlongs in 1:00.40 at Santa Anita on Friday under exercise rider Manny Rutela.

Cho’s assistant, Maria Ayala, said the workout was actually a mile in 1:47.20, but with a slow, galloping start. Dirty Swagg worked the final three furlongs in 35.78 seconds, she said.