04/02/2014 2:59PM

Santa Anita Derby worth a shot for Schoolofhardrocks

Shigeki Kikkawa
Trainer David Hofmans and jockey Joe Talamo expect Schoolofhardrocks to improve off his fourth in the San Felipe.

ARCADIA, Calif. – Schoolofhardrocks had finished a well-beaten fourth in the Grade 2 San Felipe Stakes on March 8 when jockey Joe Talamo immediately began campaigning for a start in Saturday’s $1 million Santa Anita Derby.

The San Felipe Stakes was the second career start for Schoolofhardrocks, who beat maidens impressively at Del Mar last summer. Concern over an ankle kept him from racing for six months, but Talamo saw enough in the San Felipe to argue for the Santa Anita Derby.

“He said, ‘Please run this horse in the Santa Anita Derby,’ ” trainer David Hofmans recalled Wednesday.

[Santa Anita Derby Day: Get PPs, watch Saturday's card live]

Schoolofhardrocks will get a stern test in the Santa Anita Derby over 1 1/8 miles, a key prep for the Kentucky Derby at Churchill Downs on May 3. California Chrome, the easy winner of the San Felipe, is in the field, along with Candy Boy, who won the Grade 2 Robert B. Lewis Stakes in February.

California Chrome led throughout the San Felipe over 1 1/16 miles, finishing in a quick 1:40.59.

“I expected the race to go a full second slower all the way around,” Hofmans said.

Hofmans described Schoolofhardrocks’s performance in the San Felipe as “just okay.”

“He can’t perform on that kind of track,” Hofmans said. “It was so speed-biased.”

The ankle injury detected last summer did not require surgery, only rest, Hofmans said.

“He had a problem with a hind ankle,” Hofmans said. “I kept him in the barn and started back training him lightly. He was so immature, he had to catch up to himself.”

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

Similar to the other runners in the Santa Anita Derby, Saturday’s race will determine how Schoolofhardrocks is campaigned this spring.

Hofmans said Schoolofhardrocks would need an upset win Saturday for a start in the Kentucky Derby to be considered. Otherwise, the Preakness Stakes on May 17 or the Belmont Stakes on June 7 could be possibilities.

“We’re hoping to get a better race,” Hofmans said. “We hope to get a good race and see if he fits with these kind of horses, or we can start over.”

Owned by John and Jerry Amerman, Schoolofhardrocks is by Rock Hard Ten.

The Santa Anita Derby drew a field of eight, including Big Tire, Dublin Up, Friendswith K Mill, Hoppertunity, and Rprettyboyfloyd.