Practical Move held off Japan’s Mandarin Hero (JPN) by a nose to take down top prize in the $750,000 Santa Anita Derby (G1) at Santa Anita Park on Saturday, April 8 to move into second-place on the Road to the Kentucky Derby Leaderboard.

Ridden by Ramon Vazquez, Practical Move took command at the head of the lane and fended off a charging Mandarin Hero to prevail at the wire. Practical Move covered the 1 1/8 miles in 1:48.69. The win marked the third straight graded stakes win for Practical Move, who won the Los Alamitos Futurity (G2) last year at two and opened his sophomore season with a facile 2 ½-length score in Santa Anita’s San Felipe Stakes (G2) in March.

“I made the move a little early because I saw (Hector) Berrios look at me from the inside,” said winning rider Ramon Vazquez. “I knew he wanted to put me inside a little bit tight, so I just moved my horse to the outside to take a new position. When I asked him the last quarter, he responded really well. The other horse (Mandarin Hero) is a nice horse, too, and ran really well. I’m feeling amazing. When you ride a good horse like that, that’s your dream (to) always go to the Kentucky Derby.”

Bred in Kentucky by Chad Brown and Head of Plains Partners, Practical Move, a son of Practical Joke, was a $230,000 graduate of the OBS Spring Sale a year ago. He is campaigned by Jean Pierre Amestoy Jr., Leslie Amestoy, and Roger Beasley, and is conditioned by Tim Yakteen, who also saddled last year’s Santa Anita Derby (G1) winner Taiba.

“It’s a great feeling to go back-to-back in this race,” Yakteen said. “The rush you get—that’s why you get in the game. You’re calling wire when you’re on the lead, and you’re looking for more when you’re closing ground.”

Co-owner Jean Pierre Amestoy Jr. said of the win, “We were a little worried that he didn’t get through early enough, but he finally made it through. He opened up a little bit, but those are good horses. They came up to him in the end, but he was tough enough. Got his head in front and won the race. I think we are confident. I think we will catch the distance and he’s proven he’s a fighter, he’s a winner, so we’re going to go to Kentucky with our heads high and hope to bring the trophy back to this side of the country.”