Rock Your World rocked the Santa Anita Derby, which rocked bettors into producing Santa Anita Park’s largest all-sources pari-mutuel Santa Anita Derby handle in 14 years.

Rock Your World-Derby bound
Rock Your World rocked Santa Anita Park’s marquee race on Saturday, winning the Santa Anita Derby by more than four lengths. Jockey Umberto Rispoli earned his first Grade 1 victory along the way. (Image: Benoit Photography)

On a day where fans returned to the Southern California track for the first time in more than a year, the 8,246 attendees on a sun-drenched day contributed to a $24,282,400 handle.

What they saw – and what they wagered on – was a 12-race card headlined by Rock Your World taking the 84th Santa Anita Derby. The John Sadler-trained colt turned his first start on dirt into a 4 ¼-length victory over 4/5 favorite Medina Spirit.

“We have been laying in the weeds,” Sadler said after Saturday’s race. “I thought it would be good to start this horse off on the turf, much like Omaha Beach, and develop. “The plan was to run him a couple of times on the turf and now it was time to get the points. We gotta get the points to get to Kentucky.”

Out of the weeds and into the Derby starting gate

Along with paying $12.40, Rock Your World’s gate-to-wire victory at 5/1 earned him those 100 Kentucky Derby points. This takes Sadler to the Derby for the first time since 2014 and keeps the Candy Ride progeny unbeaten in three races. It also gives jockey Umberto Rispoli his first Grade 1 victory. Somehow, the talented Italian rider lacked this on his resume.

“Umberto has been a great addition to our jockey colony,” Sadler told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden. “I was kind of shocked hearing this was his first Grade 1 win here. He did so well last year I thought he would have picked up one already.”

It’s mildly surprising that a trainer of Sadler’s stature hasn’t picked up a Derby victory. That illustrates how difficult winning America’s preeminent race is on all levels. Granted, he generally trains older horses, such as Breeders’ Cup Classic champion Accelerate. But Sadler is 0-for-4 running for the roses.

Rock Your World definitely belongs here

“I’ve never won the Derby, but last time I was there (at Churchill Downs), we won the Breeders’ Cup Classic. So I’m looking forward to going back to Louisville,” Sadler said.

Rock Your World carded a 100 Beyer Speed Figure, which puts him in the mix on that front vis-à-vis his fellow 3-year-olds. By comparison, Essential Quality clocked a 97 for his thrilling victory over Highly Motivated in the Blue Grass Stakes at Keeneland. And at Aqueduct, Bourbonic turned in an 89 Beyer for the biggest upset on the Derby trail to date – his 72/1 Wood Memorial win.

Meanwhile, Rock Your World’s Derby futures odds dropped to 8/1 at both Circa Sports and William Hill Nevada.

The victory also denied Bob Baffert a share of the record for most Grade 1 wins by a North American trainer. With Medina Spirit’s runner-up finish and Defunded placing fourth, Baffert remains one win behind D. Wayne Lukas’s mark of 219 Grade 1s. Alas, Lukas may hold that mark solo only for another week, since Baffert sends likely favorite Concert Tour and Hozier into Saturday’s Grade 1 Arkansas Derby.

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