ARCADIA, Calif., April 3 (UPI) -- Buddy Gil runs for the third time for trainer Jeff Mullins Saturday in the $750,000 race at Santa Anita Park.
It is one of the preludes to the Kentucky Derby over the next two weekends.
The unheralded colt posted a two-length win at the Baldwin Stakes earlier this year as a 26-1 choice. He then won the Grade II San Felipe Stakes at Santa Anita at 10-1, edging Atswhatimtalknbout by a razor-thin margin.
Even then, the horse was not even installed as the morning-line favorite for the 1 1/8-mile event Saturday. That honor went to Atswhatimtalknbout, a 9-5 choice who will break from the No. 6 post in the 10-horse field.
Buddy Gil, who was not officially nominated for the Triple Crown races until this week, is the 5-2 second choice and breaks from the fourth post. Both wins came after Mullins took over as trainer.
Buddy Gil is named for 63-year-old Tom Gilmer, a California resident who was nicknamed "Buddy Gil" by a group of friends that include Donnie McFadden, the breeder and one of the colt's owners.
Gilmer and his wife, however, have other plans for the weekend.
"We're big fans of the Final Four, we go every year," Gilmer said.
Those in attendance Saturday will include Gary Stevens, who has won the Santa Anita Derby a record-tying eight times and will be aboard Buddy Gil.
"It's not as important to me as the Kentucky Derby, but it's right below that," Stevens said of the premier West Coast derby prep. "To me, it's a very prestigious race."
Fourteen Santa Anita Derby winners have won the Kentucky Derby, including two that Stevens rode at both Arcadia and Louisville, Winning Colors (1988) and Silver Charm (1997).
The celebrities in attendance Saturday should include Steven Spielberg and Gary Ross, the producer and director of the movie based on the best-seller "Seabiscuit." The duo are part-owners of Atswhatimtalknbout, the long-striding son of A.P. Indy, who will have David Flores aboard.
The Santa Anita Derby provides several chances for Bob Baffert to emerge with a viable Kentucky Derby candidate. Baffert, who won the first two legs of the Triple Crown last year with War Emblem, has won the Santa Anita Derby four times, most recently with Point Given in 2001.
The third choice is Baffert's Kafwain (4-1 from post 8), who was a distant second in the Louisiana Derby, and later disqualified for an excessive level of the drug clenbuterol.
Baffert's other notable entry is Domestic Dispute, who lost as the favorite in the San Felipe Stakes and drew the outside post this week at 15-1. Baffert also will saddle Indian Express, a 30-1 long shot from the second post.
Ocean Terrace (6-1) will break from the rail and seeks his fourth win in as many starts. The winner of the El Camino Real Derby also will face that race's runner-up, Ministers Wild Cat, a 10-1 shot from the fifth post.
Another notable prep is the $500,000 Illinois Derby, which has moved to Hawthorne Race Course following the close of Sportsman Park. The Grade II race last year was won by War Emblem, whose strong performance led to his private purchase by the Thoroughbred Corporation and wins in the Kentucky Derby and Preakness.
Gone this year is a $1 million bonus that goes to a horse that can win the Illinois and Kentucky Derby. As a result, no top-flight Kentucky Derby contenders are entered. The class of the field is Alysweep, the winner of the Grade III Gotham Stakes in his last start.
Saturday's schedule also includes the $250,000 Aventura Park at Gulfstream.
Empire Maker, considered the leading contender for the Kentucky Derby, will run in the Wood Memorial on April 12 at Aqueduct in New York.