US RACING: Honor A. P. wins Santa Anita Derby

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In a photo provided by Benoit Photo, C R K Stable's Honor A.P. and jockey Mike Smith win the Grade I $400,000 RUNHAPPY Santa Anita Derby Saturday, June 6, 2020 at Santa Anita Park in Arcadia, Calif.(Benoit Photo via AP)

ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) — Honor A. P. won the US$400,000 Santa Anita Derby by 2 3/4 lengths Saturday to move into the Kentucky Derby picture.

Honor A. P ridden by Mike Smith ran 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.97 to give Smith’s his third straight win and fourth overall in the West Coast’s major prep for the Kentucky Derby. The Grade 1 race was run without spectators or media at Santa Anita because of the coronavirus pandemic.

“I miss the fans, but I just got to pump myself up,” Smith said.

Authentic was second while Rushie was another 1 1/4 lengths back in third.

Trained by John Shirreffs, who oversaw superstar Zenyatta, Honor A.P. was purchased for $850,000 as a yearling. He is a ridgling, a male horse in which one or both testicles do not descend.

“We knew that he has tactical speed and Mike can put him pretty much where he wants,” Shirreffs said. “On the backside, we hoped he would get comfortable and to have a nice kick in the end, and it all worked out well.”

Honor A. P. earned 100 qualifying points for the Kentucky Derby, which has been rescheduled to Sept. 5 because of COVID-19. That moved him into second, two points behind leader Tiz the Law, on the Derby leaderboard which determines the 20-horse field for the race.

“It’s up to him whether we run him again before the big dance,” Shirreffs said. “We have to see how the horse comes out and how he feels, but you’d always prefer to run. Running is probably the best option rather than training up to it, but we’ll wait and see how it all happens.”

The victory, worth US$240,000, increased Honor A. P.’s career earnings to US$362,200.

Authentic, trained by Bob Baffert, earned 40 points and is now fourth on the Derby leaderboard. Rushie earned 20 points. Anneau d’Or finished fourth and earned 10 points.

Unbeaten in three previous starts, Authentic broke outwards leaving the gate but was less than a length off the lead from his outside post position heading into the first turn. From there, he pressed the pace while three-deep, was in a good position while second at the top of the lane, but couldn’t catch Honor A. P.