Horse Racing Odds: 2024 Santa Anita Derby Bets On Road To The Kentucky Derby

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Written By Dave Bontempo | Last Updated
santa anita derby bets

On one level, Saturday’s 87th running of the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby is a matchup between graded-stakes winners Imagination and Stronghold. On another, it’s a Kentucky Derby invitation for eligible horses who need points to crack the leaderboard in order to reach the Run for the Roses at Churchill Downs on May 4. That’s the backdrop for our Santa Anita Derby bets this year.

There’s much on the line for most of the eight-horse field in this 1 1/8-mile affair. Post time is approximately 7:30 p.m. ET.

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2024 Santa Anita Derby Morning Line Odds

Here’s a look at the field with morning-line odds assigned from Wednesday’s draw. Odds won’t become official until post time, per pari-mutuel regulations. Join free sports betting Discord channel to talk horse racing. Your odds after placing a bet will fluctuate until post time, per pari-mutuel rules.

1Curlin’s Kaos20-1Antonio GarciaDiego Herrera
2Tapalo5-1John SadlerUmberto Rispoli
3Stronghold5-2Phillip D’AmatoAntonio Fresu
4Imagination8-5Bob BaffertFrankie Dettori
5Wynstock8-1Bob BaffertJuan Hernandez
6Tessuto10-1G. PapaprodromouKazushi Kimura
7McVay5-1John Shirreffs Hector Berrios
8E J Won the Cup15-1Doug 0″NeillMike Smith

Road To Kentucky Derby Standings

For most of this field, first place garners a guaranteed invitation and second a probable berth in the first leg of the Triple Crown. The exception is Bob Baffert-trained horses (Imagination and Wynstock), who won’t be included in 2024 Kentucky Derby odds for the $5 million race because Baffert is under suspension at Churchill Downs, home of the Kentucky Derby.

We’ll see if that holds up, after the owner of one of his other horses, Muth, filed a lawsuit in Louisville this week against Churchill Downs to get into the Derby.

This race offers Kentucky Derby qualifying points to eligible horses who finish in the top five on a scale of 100-50-25-15-10. The Kentucky Derby is limited to 20 starters.

Stronghold has 25 points, which ranks 21st on the Derby leaderboard, with still three additional prep races to be run over the next two weekends. McVay has 19 points and has every chance to crack the top five here.

Santa Anita Derby Past Performances

1. Curlin’s Kaos (20-1)

Ran a respectable fourth to Stronghold in the Sunland Park Derby and was in the hunt until the final couple of hundred yards. Would benefit in the exotics if having run the distance becomes an edge over many horses stretching out from 1 1/16 miles.

2. Tapolo (5-1)

Has a race at the distance, on synthetic. Finished second in the $100,000 El Camino Real Derby at Golden Gate Fields in February. Stalked adeptly and took over the lead approaching the far turn but was outgunned down the lane by Endlessly. That effort looked more impressive after Endlessly romped in the $700,000 Jeff Ruby Steaks. Game effort. The question is the conversion from synthetic to dirt and the move up in class.

3. Stronghold (5-2)

Showed nice trajectory after being nipped at the wire by Wynstock in the Los Alamitos Futurity. Shipped to Sunland Park and captured the $400,000 Sunland Park Derby at 6-5, nabbing 20 Kentucky Derby qualifying points. Two angles in his favor are the improvement from one race to the next and the ability to come off the pace. Would need the speed to break down a bit. If it does, he could be the pace beneficiary.

Has a win at the distance. Needs a big effort to ensure a Kentucky Derby berth. He reaches the Derby for sure with a first or second-place finish. Even a third-place effort worth 25 points would probably get him there.

4. Imagination (8-5)

A thrilling duel with Wine Me Up and a big ride from Frankie Dettori gave him the $300,000 San Felipe Stakes. Won it in a photo in what had become a match race from the start. Only a field of four that day, so positioning was not a problem. Much bigger group of competitors here and will have to be placed in the right spot and run his race. Major threat. Gets Dettori back in the irons.

5. Wynstock (8-1)

Back to where he fits. Scored a nice upset at 12-1 in the $200,000 Los Alamitos Futurity, topping Stronghold, who he faces here. Had the front end in that race. Could not get the lead in the $800,000 Southwest Stakes. Held a stalking fourth after five furlongs and spit the bit. Finished a disappointing ninth at 9-2. The track was sloppy, and he shipped that day. Comes back to his home surface, where he figures to run better. The question is how much better. Can win on his best day. If he’s in top form,  8-1 is terrific value for him.

6. Tessuto (10-1)

Scored handily at 1 mile here back in February. Stalked nicely and won, but that was at maiden special weights for $65,000. Big step up.

7. McVay (5-1)

He was a not-really-in-it third in the San Felipe. Ran fairly well in the homestretch but must find some improvement to make up the difference with the horses who have been steadily beating him.

8. E J Won the Cup (15-1)

Yes, he did win the Turf Paradise Derby at 1-9 in his last outing. Got to the lead early, indicating he could be a pace factor here. The purse was small, $60,000, compared to what he will be running against here. Potential pace factor, nonetheless.

Pace Scenario

Speed is always valued at Santa Anita. That gives an early advantage to Wynstock and EJ Won the Cup if past form holds. Imagination and Stronghold figure to be within striking distance early.

My Santa Anita Derby Bets

I’ll take the position that Stronghold and Imagination hit the board. The key to making any money is finding the right horse with them in a $1 trifecta box, and that horse hopefully splits or beats them. That will be Wynstock for me.

So I’ll take a small win bet on No. 3 Stronghold and a $1 trifecta box 3-4-5. Cost is $6.

There’s just enough value in a cover ticket for a $1 trifecta box 3-4-2. Endlessly has elevated the stock of No. 2 Tapalo.

Good luck with your Santa Anita Derby bets. I hope you bring a winner home.