First, Rock Your World tore up the turf. Then, he tore up the dirt – for one race. Now, the 3-year-old returns to the turf in Sunday’s Grade 2 Twilight Derby at Santa Anita Park.

Rock Your World-Twilight
The last time Rock Your World ran on grass, he won the Listed Pasadena Stakes in February. The sophomore colt returns to turf for the first time in five starts in Sunday’s Grade 2 Twilight Stakes at Santa Anita. (Image: Benoit Photography/Santa Anita)

The 1 1/8-mile Twilight and its deep, 11-horses field is the featured event on Santa Anita’s Autumn Meet closing day. That means mandatory payouts of all exotic horizontal wagers. And that means the 20-cent Rainbow Pick Six Jackpot could reach upwards of $5 million if it’s not solved Saturday.

As for Rock Your World, his connections – starting with trainer John Sadler – would love solving the form puzzle the Candy Ride colt created. This past winter, he won his first two starts, both on Santa Anita’s turf. Moved to the main dirt track, Rock Your World parlayed that into a resounding 4 ¼-length romp in the Santa Anita Derby April 3.

This sent Sadler and his colt to the Kentucky Derby as one of the “in” horses. Bettors sent him off as the 4.70/1 second favorite, behind Essential Quality. But after a horrible start, Rock Your World never fired. He was no better than 10th at any call, finishing 17th of 19, 24 ¼ lengths behind Medina Spirit. The same Medina Spirit he dominated in the Santa Anita Derby four weeks earlier.

A puzzle that rocked Sadler’s world

Sadler was mystified by this, along with Rock Your World’s career-worst 78 Equibase Speed Figure. Figuring the extra distance and smaller field would work to his advantage, Sadler sent Rock Your World to Belmont Park five weeks later for the Belmont Stakes. Through a mile, it worked. Rock Your World was second, only a head behind the blistering pace Hot Rod Charlie set.

And that’s where it ended. By the top of the stretch, that pace wiped out Rock Your World. He eventually finished sixth of eight – 22 lengths behind Essential Quality.

Sadler took him back to California and shut him down for the next two-plus months. After pondering a Pacific Classic start, Sadler brought him back for the Listed Shared Belief Stakes at Del Mar Aug. 29. There, Sadler pleasantly watched him finish only 1 ¼ lengths behind Medina Spirit as the 1.60/1 second favorite. Yes, the Shared Belief was only a mile, but unlike the two Triple Crown races, this time, Rock Your World closed strong.

Rock Your World responds to Rispoli

That Umberto Rispoli returned to the saddle probably wasn’t a coincidence. The pair combined for all three of Rock Your World’s victories, including the Santa Anita Derby. After that race, Sadler made the controversial decision to replace Rispoli with Joel Rosario for the Derby and subsequently, the Belmont.

“We want to put him back on turf for this race; he’s trained really well,” Sadler told Santa Anita’s Ed Golden. “There have been no blips, Rispoli stays on him and we’re looking forward to it.”

The last time these two were on grass, in February’s Listed Pasadena Stakes, Rispoli skillfully stalked the leader entering the stretch. He then pulled Rock Your World out and kicked clear in mid-stretch. This relaxed versatility should bode well in the Twilight.

Much of Rock Your World’s competition should come from underrated California-bred None Above the Law. He comes in off a rail-stealing victory in the Grade 2 Del Mar Derby Sept. 4. Trainer Peter Miller kept the gelded son of Karakontie busy this year. He’s 5-2-0 in 10 races this year, with four of the five wins coming in stakes events.

None Above the Law’s versatility produced those four stakes wins over three different surfaces: dirt, turf and the two on Golden Gate Fields’ synthetic track. He missed the board only once in his last six races, an uncharacteristic ninth in the Black-Type Oceanside Stakes on Del Mar’s opening weekend in July.