34-1 shot Lucky Pulpit and 7-1 Quintons Gold Rush battled on the front end early on, through a hotly contested pace of 22.87, 46.84, and 1:11.11, as Rock Hard Ten stayed in close contention in third. Turning for home, 5-1 shot Imperialism, who trailed the field early, moved up strongly in his bid for the lead, as did 30-1 outsider Castledale who was widest of all. Down the lane, Castledale rallied well, and in deep stretch, collared Rock Hard Ten to win by a head in 1:49.24 for the 1 1/8 miles. It was 2 lengths back to the late closing Imperialism. Favored St Averil finished sixth. Rock Hard Ten drifted in on Imperialism causing the latter to check at the 1/16 pole, so the stewards disqualified him from second and placed him third. Jockey David Flores aboard Rock Hard Ten claimed foul against Castledale and Jose Valdivia Jr. but that claim was disallowed.
Winning jockey Jose Valdivia Jr. said, "It was amazing. I saw him run the last time in the San Rafael, I thought he was very impressive, I just thought he got tired. You have to ride him like a turf horse." Asked about the inquiry, "My horse is about fourteen hands tall, compared to Rock Hard Ten who's about sixteen hands tall. So I just followed David Flores down the lane, and I know David started coming down on people, but my horse is so small I didn't come into contact with anyone. I just kind of followed him in there. I would hate to be in the stewards' shoes to make decisions like this. When the money's on the line the riders are going to be more aggressive than usual, especially in a race of this magnitude."
Winning trainer Jeff Mullins said, "We'll let the horse come out of the race and we'll make a decision (on the Kentucky Derby). Nothing's etched in stone right now so we'll see how the horse comes out and let him tell us whether he's ready to go."
Victor Espinoza, aboard Imperialism, finished third but placed second, said, "Unfortunately the other horses came into me and I just got stuck. There was nothing I could do about it. I was just thinking about getting there right at the wire but sometimes it doesn't work out that way. Everything was nice and smooth (at first). I was cutting the corners sharp and everything it was great, but then we turned for home and there was no way I was going to compete. I tried to get to the right to have a chance, but I got stuck pretty quick. But I think this horse has a good chance to win the Kentucky Derby."
David Flores aboard Rock Hard Ten said, "Well, with the stewards, you don't know what they're going to do. My horse he ran a great race and I think that's going to move him up a lot. This was the first time he had competition and he fought and fought all the way. A mile and an eighth his third time out is a lot, but this horse is capable of doing it, (Trainer) Jason (Orman)'s just got to keep trying him. He feels like a quality horse and he's going to get better."
Tyler Baze, aboard beaten favorite St Averil, said, "He just wasn't the same horse today. To tell you the truth I think he was sick or something. I was after him at the 5/8 pole and he wouldn't go. He's never been that bad before. He's always needed to be ridden hard but there was definitely something wrong." Trainer Rafael Becerra added, "I'm going to find out (why he ran so poorly). I'm going to scope him and see if he bled. He (Tyler Baze) was whipping him; he was after him all the way, I could see that. From the 5/8 to the 3/8 pole he didn't have it."
Santa Anita Derby photos courtesy of Tina Hines.