Santa Anita Derby 1-2 Finishers Headed To Kentucky

Written By Andrew Champagne on April 13, 2022

The Santa Anita Derby has long been one of the most important Kentucky Derby prep races on the calendar. The 2022 renewal lived up to that billing, and the race’s top two finishers will head to the Blue Grass State this May.

Winner Taiba and runner-up Messier both earned enough points Saturday to clinch spots in the Kentucky Derby starting gate. Taiba’s victory gave him 100 points, while Messier earned 40 for finishing second.

While sports betting is currently illegal in California, wagering on horse racing is not. Californians can gamble on-track at any of the state’s thoroughbred, standardbred, or quarter horse venues. They can also use advance deposit wagering platforms such as TVG.

The journeys of Taiba and Messier

Both 3-year-olds were initially trained by Bob Baffert. Horses conditioned by the Hall of Famer, however, are ineligible to earn Kentucky Derby points this year.

That stems from the Medina Spirit saga. The initial 2021 Derby winner was disqualified due to an overage of betamethasone, which was confirmed in a second test.

This meant Messier earned no points from his win in the Robert B. Lewis Stakes or his second-place finish in last year’s Los Alamitos Futurity. Taiba, meanwhile, didn’t make his debut until earlier this season.

Both horses were sent to former Baffert assistant Tim Yakteen before the Santa Anita Derby. Messier was the more fancied of the two runners, but Taiba passed him in the stretch to pull off the mild upset.

Can Taiba or Messier win the Kentucky Derby?

Both runners are seen as serious contenders for this year’s Run for the Roses. Messier won the Lewis by 15 lengths, and he was 10 lengths clear of third-place finisher Happy Jack on Saturday.

Taiba is drawing comparisons to 2018 Triple Crown winner Justify, who was also trained by Baffert. Like Justify, Taiba did not run as a 2-year-old. Both horses won the Santa Anita Derby to punch their tickets to Kentucky.

Prior to Justify, no 3-year-old had won the Kentucky Derby without running at two since Apollo in 1882. Justify and Apollo each ran just three times before that race. Taiba has just two efforts to date.

Other California runners of note

Neither Taiba nor Messier were favored in the Santa Anita Derby. That distinction went to Forbidden Kingdom, who won the San Felipe Stakes in March.

Sent away at even-money, Forbidden Kingdom set the early pace but faltered on the far turn. He faded to finish last in the six-horse field. An epiglottis issue was discovered after the race, and he’ll miss the Kentucky Derby.

Another horse familiar to California fans that won’t run in Kentucky is Blackadder. Another former Baffert trainee, Blackadder won February’s El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields.

With that win, Blackadder earned a fees-paid berth to the Preakness Stakes two weeks after the Derby. However, he finished ninth of 11 runners in Saturday’s Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland and lacks the Kentucky Derby points necessary to make that field.

Photo by Associated Press / Mark J. Terrill
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Andrew Champagne

Andrew Champagne is a former content manager at Catena Media, as well as an award-winning writer and producer. A passionate storyteller, Andrew boasts a career that has included stints at The Daily Racing Form, TVG Network, and HRTV. Born and raised in upstate New York, Andrew now resides in Northern California's Bay Area. You can often find him handicapping horse races, planning his next trip to Las Vegas, bowling reasonably well, and golfing incredibly poorly.

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