Denk on Horses Derby contender profiles
Santiva training at Churchill Downs. (Eclipse Sportswire)
Santiva, a smallish, feisty colt by Giant’s Causeway, has a good 2-year-old foundation, highlighted by a win in the Grade 2 Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes at Churchill Downs on November 27.
A win at Churchill going two turns is a nice thing to put on a Derby horse’s resume (last year’s Derby winner, Super Saver, won the same race in 2009), but Santiva is a difficult read coming off of a troubled ninth-place finish as the favorite in the Grade 1 Toyota Blue Grass Stakes.
Santiva was rank early in the Blue Grass as he got trapped on the rail in the second flight behind a wall of horses. He was bumping and leaning on opponents in the stretch and never got room to run. The race is a throwout.
Santiva’s only other race at three was a good effort in the Grade 2 Risen Star Stakes on February 19 at Fair Grounds. Racing close up behind a slow pace, Santiva got caught very wide on the turns and showed good competitive grit to finish second behind Mucho Macho Man. The final five-sixteenths of this race was run in 30.33 seconds, a good closing time. In addition to being wide, Santiva carried six more pounds than Mucho Macho Man, a significant amount going 1 1/16 miles.
Although Santiva’s 2-year-old form was solid, none of his juvenile races were very fast. He beat a second-tier group in the Kentucky Jockey Club. His first race at age 3, the Risen Star, was by far Santiva’s fastest race. That effort might have set him back; he was off eight weeks until the Blue Grass.
In order to hit the board in the Derby, Santiva needs to run back to his effort in the Risen Star while stretching out to 1 1/4 miles. His pedigree is OK for the Derby distance, but the Blue Grass was less than an ideal prep. Santiva is a long shot to rebound in Louisville.