Stronghold to Run for the Roses After Santa Anita Derby Win

What a day for Phil D’Amato.

Not only did the trainer win the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) for the first time, he’s also Kentucky Derby (G1) bound for the first time.

Stronghold is Kentucky Derby-bound

Thank you, Stronghold, who outdueled even-money favorite Imagination by a neck in Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby to qualify for the Kentucky Derby on May 4.

“We thought we needed a top three performance to get to the Kentucky Derby,” D’Amato said. “We were definitely hoping to get on the winning end here. I think this was a great education for him, and a nice test that he’s going to need to win a race like the Kentucky Derby.”

Stronghold ($6.40 for a $2 win bet), who came into the 1 1/8-mile race with 25 qualifying points, needed a top 4 finish for a Derby shot. The victory over a pair of Baffert colts, Imagination and Wynstock, and four others, vaulted the son of Ghostzapper to 125 points – near the top of the Derby leaderboard.

Kentucky Derby Hopes for California: Stronghold’s Triumph amidst Baffert’s Suspension

Since Baffert remains suspended by Churchill Downs, Inc., following the DQ of his 2021 first-place Derby finisher Medina Spirit for a medication overage on race day, none of his horses are eligible for Derby points.

With Stronghold, ridden by Antonio Fresu, coming through, it gives at least one California-based 3-year-old a Derby chance.

“I love the way he was in his last two works, just getting a lot of confidence,” Fresu told “I have loved this horse since I first sat on him in his breezes and his races, watching him getting so much better.”

Imagination came into the race off a strong victory in the San Felipe (G2) and duked it out with Stronghold through the stretch. It was the fourth time in six starts Imagination finished second (he won his other two starts).

Stronghold upped his record to 6-3-3-0. Winning time was 1:49.98

Wood Memorial and Blue Grass Stakes winners

In the other two Derby preps on Saturday, Resilience won the $750,000 Wood Memorial at Aqueduct and Sierra Leone won the $1 million Blue Grass Stakes (G1) at Keeneland.

The three preps likely will produce six Derby starters – Sierra Leone, Just a Touch, Dornoch, Resilience, Society Man, and Stronghold.

The final Derby preps is the Lexington Stakes (G3) at Keeneland next weekend, offering 20-10-6-4-2 points to the top five finishers.


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