ARCADIA, Calif., April 9 -- In a heart-pounding stunner, 30-1 long shot Buzzards Bay upset heavily favored filly Sweet Catomine in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby on Saturday, handing trainer Jeff Mullins an unprecedented third straight victory in the last major West Coast prep race before the May 7 Kentucky Derby and ending the filly's run for the roses before it ever got started.
With all eyes focused on Sweet Catomine's bold move to take on the boys for the first time after manhandling fillies in five straight victories, it was a very quiet week around the Fog City Stables barn. But the lack of attention didn't bother Florida-bred Buzzard's Bay, who muscled his way out of the cramped field of 11 but hung on to take the 1 1/8-mile race by just half a length in a plodding 1 minute 49.18 seconds.
"It was a rush, man, because I knew they were coming at me from both sides, and he's a fighter," said Mark Guidry, who negotiated Buzzards Bay through the largest field to run the Santa Anita Derby since 1981.
General John B, a 60-1 shot, finished second, triggering an exacta payoff of $751.40, beating Breeders' Cup Juvenile winner Wilko by a nose.
Unbeaten in three Santa Anita starts, the 4-5 favorite Sweet Catomine broke from the No. 2 post and got trapped in heavy traffic in the inside. As jockey Corey Nakatani moved her to the outside, she came out flat and finished a disappointing fifth behind Giacomo.
"I thought we were in a good spot. When I need to call on her, she was empty. That wasn't her," said Nakatani. "She's better than that."
The uninspired loss means the end of the Derby trail for Sweet Catomine, said owner Marty Wygod.
"She's not going to the [Kentucky] Oaks or the Derby," said Wygod. "I can't say what's next for her."
Buzzard's Bay's long shot victory is a repeat for Mullins, who took the Santa Anita Derby with 30-1 shot Castledale last year. In 2003 he won with 6-1 shot Buddy Gil. He is the only trainer to win three in a row.
"Our horse ran well today, but he's going to really have to step it up [in the Derby]," said Mullins, who will decide whether to take Buzzards Bay to the Kentucky Derby.
The most experienced horse in the field with 13 starts, Kentucky-bred Wilko has been plagued by persistent quarter cracks since making the transition to harder tracks after being trained on the turf tracks of England. He came in strong under the guide of jockey Frankie Dettori, who flew in from Europe to ride the Breeders' Cup champ.
Derby hopeful and Saturday's second choice Don't Get Mad, trained by Ron Ellis, also turned in a lackluster performance, finishing sixth behind the filly. Buzzard's Bay's unexpected win was redemption for Bianco and co-owner Dave Shimmon, who suffered a tough blow earlier this year when Roman Ruler, once thought to be in the thick of the Derby race, was hurt and finished last in the San Felipe Stakes March 19. Roman Ruler could be back on the track by July, said Bianco.
"She probably didn't like eating all that dirt," said General John B. trainer Roger Stein of Sweet Catomine. "These 3-year-olds change every week and every week you never know who's going to be better or worse."
ILLINOIS DERBY: Greeley's Galaxy charged hard down the stretch to win the $500,000 race by 10 lengths at Hawthorne Race Course. The 9-5 favorite, ridden by Kent Desormeaux, broke away from the pack after the final turn.