Out Of The Weeds: Rock Your World Wins Santa Anita Derby In Main Track Debut

Although he was two for two on grass, Rock Your World had one big question to answer on Saturday at Santa Anita in Arcadia, Calif.:  Would he run as well on dirt?  Question answered, as he dominated nine rivals en route to a rousing 4 ¼-length win in the 84th running of the Grade 1, $750,000 Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.  Ridden by Umberto Rispoli and trained by John Sadler, the 3-year-old colt by Candy Ride, who was bred by Hall of Fame trainer Ron McAnally and his wife Debbie, got a mile and one eighth in 1:49.17.

With longshot Parnelli and favored Medina Spirit gunning for the early lead as expected, Rispoli appeared to take his measure of the competition heading into the clubhouse turn, allowing his mount  to get into stride, which he did, taking command into the turn and from there, dictating terms throughout.

With a three-quarter-length advantage on both Parnelli and Medina Spirit at the half mile pole, Rock Your World got stronger as the race progressed, chugging through splits of :22.42, :46.11, 1:10.64 and 1:36.27.  Although both Parnelli and Medina Spirit were “all-in” a quarter mile out, the Derby was essentially over as none of the others could make up any ground through the lane.

“We have been laying in the weeds,” said Sadler, who bagged his second Runhappy Santa Anita Derby.  “I thought it would be good to start this horse off on the turf, much like Omaha Beach, and develop.  The plan was to run him a couple of times on the turf and now it was time to get the points.  We gotta get the points to get to Kentucky.

“…The post (position) dictated our strategy.  I saw Umberto in the paddock this morning at 8 a.m. and I told him ‘Go big or go home.’  We had to get out of there with the scratch inside (of number one Roman Centurian) of us.  It worked out great and I’m very excited.”

A handy winner of the ungraded Pasadena Stakes going a mile on turf Feb. 27, Rock Your World was off at 5-1 and paid $12.40, $4.60 and $3.40.

Owned by Hronis Racing, LLC or Talla Racing, LLC, Rock Your World is out of the McAnally’s Empire Maker mare Charm the Maker.  With the winner’s share of $450,000, Rock Your World increased his earnings to $546,600 and is now unbeaten in three starts.

Favored at 4-5, Medina Spirit appeared to have a perfect trip while second-best, finishing 2 ¼ lengths in front of Medina Spirit.  Ridden by John Velazquez, Medina Spirit paid $2.80 and $2.20.

“The horse ran well, but the winner took the lead on a fast track and kept running,” said Velazquez. “My horse kept coming and kept coming but couldn’t catch up. He did have some left in the tank at the end and he kept coming, but the other horse got away pretty well and opened up again. It was too hard to catch up.”

Ridden by Flavien Prat, Dream Shake was forwardly placed throughout, but never threatened for the win.  Off at 9-2, he paid $2.80 to show.

“We had a good trip and it was a bit, you know, drawing gate side was not the best spot but the horse was travelling well and the race went well,” said Prat.

With 170 Kentucky Derby qualifying points at stake, Rock Your World will receive 100, with 40, 20 and 10 points awarded to the second, third and fourth place finishers.

Updated Kentucky Derby leaderboard.

“It (nerves) kind of started Wednesday at the draw and it gets harder to sleep at night,” said co-owner Kosta Hronis. “I finally decided to put my iPad down and not read anything, then I’m watching the TV yesterday and I got excited again and didn’t sleep. Things came together and thank God, John Sadler has done a great job, Juan Leyva and Alex Bisono, everybody on the backside they made all this happen. They did a great job with the horse. We told Umberto to be aggressive, but if somebody was going to go let them go. But I think he just felt comfortable, it was just kind of the thing you had to come out and compete right off the bat and he did. He rode a great race, think he knew he had the horse to do it.

“We get to go to the Kentucky Derby, that’s going to be a fun day,” Hronis added. “We’re going to try to enjoy this for today and with three year olds, he’s only had three starts, making his fourth start in his career in the Kentucky Derby, I guess we really have nothing to lose. Just go in there and enjoy it.”


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