Previous Santa Anita Park Winners Who Also Won The Kentucky Derby

Written By Dave Bontempo on May 1, 2023 - Last Updated on May 2, 2023
Santa Anita Park winners to race at Kentucky Derby, from

Each year, the Kentucky Derby analysis always contains one burning question: Who represents the California circuit?

Eleven times in Kentucky Derby history, the champion also graced the winner’s circle at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia. That includes Justify, who followed his 2018 Santa Anita triumph with the industry’s most recent Triple Crown sweep of the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes.

Horse race betting in California is alive and well, so before this year’s Run for the Roses, let’s take a look back at Kentucky Derby winning horses that also won at Santa Anita.

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California legacy on horse racing

Justify, of course, was guided by Hall of Fame trainer Bob Baffert. The California-based Baffert also directed American Pharoah, whose 2015 Triple Crown sweep erased the historic 37-year drought dating back to Affirmed in 1978. Affirmed, by the way, won the Santa Anita Derby too.

Baffert is tied for the most Kentucky Derby training victories with six. He initially made it seven with Medina Spirit in 2021, but Medina Spirit failed a post-race drug test. The Derby was given to second-place Mandaloun and Baffert is suspended from the 2023 Run for the Roses.

Suspensions are temporary, however. The California legacy on horse racing is permanent. And so is the impact of the Santa Anita Derby.

Justify is the latest in a breed of stellar Santa Anita Derby graduates at the Kentucky Derby. Here’s a look the Elite 11.

Hill Gail (1952)

After losing in the San Felipe, he rebounded to capture the Santa Anita Derby. Hill Gail then became the fifth and final Kentucky Derby winner for Eddie Arcaro, who shares the distinction of most Derby victories with Bill Hartack.

Determine (1954)

Aptly named. Lost his first four races but eventually rounded into form and took the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby races. If at first you don’t succeed…

MORE: Bet On Horse Races In California With FanDuel Racing

Swaps (1955)

He was 4-0 at Santa Anita. He provided the first Kentucky Derby victory for Bill Shoemaker. And remember the name Art Sherman? We will re-visit him later in the piece.

Lucky Debonair (1965)

His Santa Anita victory grows more impressive with time. He set the track record of 1:47 for 1 1-8 miles in 1965. It was equaled by Sham in 1973 and Indian Charlie in 1998, but still hasn’t been overtaken 58 years later.

Throw in the Kentucky Derby to boot and this was one impressive campaign.

ALSO READ: Without Sports Betting, Kentucky Derby Biggest Gambling Event In CA

Majestic Prince (1969)

Johnny Longden notched his first victory as a trainer in the Santa Anita Derby. That went with five wins as a jockey. He became the first winner of the Santa Anita Derby as a jockey and trainer.

He gained the same distinction in the Kentucky Derby. Longden had ridden Count Fleet to victory in the 1943 Kentucky Derby and thus, with Majestic Prince, became the first person to win the Run for the Roses as a jockey and trainer.

Affirmed (1978)

Racing had gone 25 years without a Triple Crown before Secretariat prevailed in 1973 and Seattle Slew triumphed in 1977. Affirmed would make it three Triple Crowns in six years with his brilliant 1978 campaign.

Affirmed and Alydar were considered the early Kentucky Derby favorites in the spring and they were set out, like fighters in training camps, to train in a specific region before facing off.

Affirmed prevailed in the California circuit, winning the San Felipe and dominating the Santa Anita Derby by eight lengths. Alydar won the Florida Derby, and then Affirmed captured the Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes. Alydar was second all three times.

Winning Colors (1988)

The filly did it. Santa Anita connects with one of only three fillies to win the Kentucky Derby. Winning Colors joined the exclusive club including Regret (1915) and Genuine Risk (1980) as Derby horses that beat the boys.

At Santa Anita, she triumphed by 7 1-2 lengths in allowance. Winning Colors then captured a high-level filly race, the Santa Anita Oaks. She became the first filly since Silver Spoon in 1959 to capture both the Santa Anita Oaks and Santa Anita Derby.

She then brought it all home in the Kentucky Derby.

Sunday Silence (1989)

Here’s the only horse ever to win the Kentucky Derby, Santa Anita Derby, the Preakness and the Breeders’ Cup Classic in one year.

His 1989 Santa Anita Derby run was memorialized by race caller Trevor Denman’s phrase “I think the Derby’s over,” when Sunday Silence took over around the far turn. Denman was prophetic as Sunday Silence romped.

These were high times for trainer Charlie Whittingham, who had guided Ferdinand to victory in the 1986 Kentucky Derby.

I’ll Have Another (2012)

Despite winning the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby races, I’ll Have Another was never a pre-race favorite in his seven career starts.

However, he prevailed at odds of 15-1 in the Kentucky Derby. He also won the Preakness Stakes in a thrilling rally to nip Bodemeister by a neck at the wire. He had the racing world electrified at the prospect of vying for the elusive Triple Crown, which had not been won since Affirmed in 1978.

Unfortunately, he developed a freakish injury, the onset of tendonitis. He was then scratched from the Belmont, and retired.

California Chrome (2014)

Remember that reference to Art Sherman? He trained California Chrome to victory in the Santa Anita and Kentucky Derby races. It was the first time a California bred had taken both events since Swaps in 1955.

Nobody had to tell Sherman. He had been an exercise rider for Swaps and thus this was an especially gratifying moment.

Justify (2018)

Justify did not race as a two-year-old and thus became the first horse since Apollo in 1882 to win the Kentucky Derby without running as a juvenile.

Justify paved his path to Kentucky with an allowance victory by 9 1-2 lengths at Santa Anita and then brought home the Santa Anita Derby, Kentucky Derby, Preakness and Belmont Stakes in one year.

This is the group Practical Move will try to join on May 6.

Always a California threat in the Derby

There is always a viable California threat, marked this year by Practical Move, Reincarnate and Skinner at the starting gate. In addition, there is always the issue of whether speed figures delivered at Santa Anita during the spring prep races is an omen for the Kentucky Derby.

That’s because Santa Anita horses own seven of the top nine Beyer Speed figures in the industry this year. The Beyer figure is an index matching a horse’s performance on a given day with the track surface and the track record for the distance.

California horses, who run on speed-favoring surfaces, are always among the leaders in this category. In some years, the figures won’t convert to a major race in Kentucky, but sometimes, it means the horse is that good.

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Dave Bontempo

Dave Bontempo is a writer for PlayCA, and has covered the horse racing and boxing industry extensively since the 1980s. He was an award-winning writer at the Press of Atlantic City. As a broadcaster, he has won the Sam Taub Award for Excellence in Boxing Broadcasting, issued by the Boxing Writers Association of America. He has called major fights for HBO, ESPN, Showtime, and other networks since the 1980s. He is in the New Jersey and Atlantic City Boxing Halls of Fame. Dave shifted gears to cover the emerging legalized sports-betting industry in 2018. He now serves as the go-to authority on horse race betting across multiple websites, including PlayCA and California Casinos.

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