ARCADIA, Calif. - Twenty-five fillies have challenged males in the Santa Anita Derby. Three have won.
Sweet Catomine will attempt to become the fourth when she takes on 10 males in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday at Santa Anita Park near Los Angeles.
Yesterday, she drew post No. 2 and was named the 7-5 favorite in the 1 1/8 -mile race with a Kentucky Derby berth on the line.
The Santa Anita Derby will feature the first meeting of winners of the Breeders' Cup Juvenile and Breeders' Cup Juvenile Fillies in the 21-year history of the Breeders' Cup.
Wilko, who won last year's Juvenile after racing on turf in Europe, will break from post 11 as the 9-2 third choice in the morning line.
Sweet Catomine captured last year's Juvenile Fillies with an effort racing fans still talk about. Trapped on the rail turning for home, she lost momentum and looked beaten.
But then Corey Nakatani, her jockey, jerked her to the outside, from where she swooped down the stretch and won easily - by 3 3/4 lengths.
Since then, Sweet Catomine has won two more stakes, padding her record to five wins in six races - all against fillies.
Martin Wygod, her owner, said that if she runs well in the Santa Anita Derby, then he will send her to Louisville for the Kentucky Derby on May 7.
If she doesn't run well Saturday, he said, he will keep her home and pass not only on the Kentucky Derby but also on the Kentucky Oaks.
Wygod's reasoning, he said, is that Sweet Catomine is good enough to win the Santa Anita Derby. If she doesn't, then something's wrong, and he wouldn't send her to Kentucky, he said.
Sweet Catomine's record of five graded-stakes victories, including three Grade I's, towers over the records of her male challengers. Their combined record in graded stakes this year is 0-for-10. In all stakes this year, it's 2-for-14.
Still, the challengers turned out in force. If all 11 start, then it will be the largest Santa Anita Derby field since 13 ran in 1981.
"I don't even know half these horses, to tell you the truth," said Ron Ellis, trainer of Don't Get Mad, the 7-2 second choice in the morning line. "One of the symptoms of Derby fever is that people get delusional."
Ellis hoped to run in the Santa Anita Derby with Declan's Moon, the undefeated Maryland-bred.
But when the gelding injured his left front leg last month and underwent surgery for removal of a bone chip, Ellis substituted Don't Get Mad, a cleverly named son of Stephen Got Even.
Ellis said he's not afraid of Sweet Catomine. She could join Ciencia (1939), Silver Spoon (1959) and Winning Colors (1988) as the only fillies to win the Santa Anita Derby.
"I'm not as impressed with her 3-year-old races as I was with her 2-year-old races," he said. "She's going to have to kick it up a couple of notches to get involved with the colts."
Ellis said Declan's Moon recovered quickly from the surgery and is walking daily at his barn at Hollywood Park.
He said the gelding should return to the track for training in about two months with the goal of returning to racing in October.
Field for Santa Anita Derby
PP Horse Trainer Jockey Odds
1. Giacomo John Shirreffs Mike Smith 5-1
2. Sweet Catomine Julio Canani Corey Nakatani 7-5
3. Don't Get Mad Ron Ellis Tyler Baze 7-2
4. Allright Nick Hines Tammi Piermarini 30-1*
5. Go Coyote Joe Warren Stute Martin Pedroza 30-1
6. Customer Nick Hines Rene Douglas 30-1*
7. General John B Roger Stein Jon Court 20-1
8. A.P. Arrow D. Wayne Lukas Jose Valdivia Jr. 20-1
9. Wannawinemall Kristin Mulhall Alex Solis 15-1
10. Buzzards Bay Jeff Mullins Mark Guidry 12-1
11. Wilko Craig Dollase Frankie Dettori 9-2
*Coupled entry - common ownership
At a glance
What: Santa Anita Derby
Where: Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, Calif.
Distance: 1 1/8 miles
TV: 4 p.m.-6 p.m., Ch. 11
Post time: 5:43 p.m.