Kentucky Derby Contender Profiles – Rock Your World

PHOTO: Benoit Photography


“I’d been thinking, when this winter started, there’s a lot of different ways to hunt,” he said. “And I chose to lay in the weeds.” – John Sadler quoted in an America’s Best Racing article by Tracy Gantz.

More like he chose to romp on the turf, as Rock Your World’s path to the Derby gate was certainly a road less traveled by breaking his maiden in a turf sprint on New Years Day, and then made the jump to stakes on turf going long in The Pasadena Stakes before winning the Santa Anita Derby in his first start on dirt.

From the same article by Gantz, Kosta Hronis of the ownership group of Rock Your World stated; “The first one on the turf was just a matter of he was ready to go”. “It just depended on what race would fill and be available to us. It happened to be the six on the turf. Once we did that though, he (Sadler) immediately said, ‘We’re going to run in the Pasadena, and if we do well, we’re going to run in the Santa Anita Derby here.”

For the Santa Anita Derby, Rock Your World drew an inside post, with many potential early pace contenders drawn outside. With this, Sadler and Umberto decided to send early, and ensure Rock Your World did not have to deal with being pinned inside. In the replay, you will see the aggressive ride from Umberto to get his horse to the front with Parnelli, and after taking the first turn sharper than Parnelli was able to sit with a ¾ length lead to the back stretch where he was not headed again. Parnelli’s slight drift in the first turn also caused both Medina Spirit and The Great One, other expected pace contenders to be wide, and stayed wide on the back stretch, while Rock Your World stayed close to the rail and saved ground while on the lead. The early pace was quick, 22.4/ 46.1 for the nine-furlong race, but he got a breather on the third split while beginning to widen the lead. From there, he pulled away, and then the most impressive part, the gallop out. That gallop out was incredible, with no others in the picture and with Rispoli standing straight up celebrating from the wire to the start of the turn. Yes, he saved ground, but there is clearly more here.

The Santa Anita Derby win was good for 100 points, cementing his chances for the run for the roses and also gave jockey, Umberto Rispoli his first Grade 1 win.



Rock Your World seems to be a polarizing horse with a large base of supporters who see an improving horse with more reason to further improve going longer and the lone triple digit Beyer speed figure in the field. Then another camp that is against the horse, whether that be due to the positive trip in the Santa Anita Derby, the lack of dirt experience and possible “bounce” in his second dirt effort, or that some feel the field he beat in the Santa Anita Derby was not one of great quality.

He will be second or third choice in the pools, and in my opinion, certainly fits as a main contender in this field. The big debate with Rock Your World is, “Does he need the lead?” or “Can he rate?”. He has shown the ability to rate on turf in The Pasadena Stakes, but will need to do so on dirt as well. Regardless, the strategy will likely be for Umberto to have Rock Your World close and get in position to stay in the clear. If his gallop outs are an indicator of potential distance, the mile and a quarter should not be a concern. However, as is the case with all Derby entrants getting the right trip is crucial, whether that is on the lead, or the more likely scenario, sitting off a contested pace where he can make first run at the pace setters on the far turn and use that large gas tank to his advantage.


What is really cool about the story here is not in the normal connections (owner, trainer, jockey) but with the breeder Ron McAnally who was the trainer of both the sire (Candy Ride) and dam (Charm the Maker) of Rock Your World. Ron also trains the full sibling She’s Our Charm who he bought back as a yearling for $600k. Rock Your World sold for a similar figure, $650k in the Keeneland Yearling Sale to Sapphire Stable, a group mainly comprised of Bloodstock Agent David Ingordo and trainer John Sadler. With the high price tag, Sadler teamed up his top owner, Hronis Racing, and Michael Talla (owned for graded stakes winners More Chocolate, Crisp, and Mona de Momma) of Talla Racing LLC on the purchase. “I don’t know that Ron [McAnally] really wanted to sell Rock Your World,” said David Ingordo, and the fact that McAnally bought back his full sister for $600,000 as a yearling is probably an indication that he was firm on a stiff price (Thoroughbred Daily News)

Rock Your World’s sire, Candy Ride, has produced six Kentucky Derby runners, including Gun Runner, Game Winner, and Vekoma of recent years, but has yet to have a winner in the run for the roses. He has ranked as the 11th ranked sire in the country by Blood horse in 2020 and currently in 2021. Candy Ride is also the sire of Twirling Candy who also stands stud at Lane’s End Farm with his daddy. In this years Derby field, we have two potential runners by Twirling Candy, Rombauer and Dream Shake, both waiting to see if enough defections get them to the gate.

Rock Your World’s Dam, Charm the Maker was 19:3-2-3 in her career. A $400k purchase as a yearling herself from Empire Maker and out of a Giant’s Causeway mare Charm the Giant who won 3 stakes including one graded stakes victory. Charm the Giant was also conditioned by McAnally. Charm the Maker won on debut at Del Mar by 4.5 lengths on the poly track in 2011 and then jumped right into Grade 1 competition in her second start finishing third going long on dirt. She returned to the winner’s circle in her third start and return to poly at Hollywood Park. She went on to run 19 times, with three wins, two second place finishes and three thirds with sixteen of those starts in black type stakes or better.

John Sadler has sent four runners to The Kentucky Derby in his career, with sixth place being his best finish way back in 1993 with Corby. He has not saddled a horse for this big race since 2013, when Candy Boy ran 13th well behind the winner, California Chrome. You can tell getting back to the Derby means a lot to Sadler, especially with this ownership group that included Kosta Hronis, whose vast majority of their 1865 career starts have been with Sadler. Hronis Racing is a perennial contender for owner’s titles on the SoCal racing circuit. Jockey, Umberto Rispoli who burst onto the SoCal scene in 2019 will be making his first Kentucky Derby start fresh off his first Grade 1 victory that got him there.



Much of this comes down to a few questions that don’t have a black and white answer, but how you answer these will determine if you feel Rock Your World has a legit chance to win this big race and if you are getting value in the eventual price. First, how good was the Santa Anita Derby field in comparison to the rest of the preps? I personally think Medina Spirit is the real deal, and a true contender in the Santa Anita Derby, and both The Great One and Dream Shake got less than ideal trips, neither of which complemented their preferred running styles. Second, is the question addressed in the earlier section, “Can Rock Your World rate on dirt in fast fractions going longer?”

I give Rock Your World a big chance, but price is everything. I am curious to see what impact the lone triple digit Beyer combined with being undefeated will do to his odds with public money likely to go his way. I think we will hear a lot of Sadler’s Derby woes and lack of success in big races outside of California and personally, that noise means nothing to me here. We will see what the post draw offers, as where other speed is positioned amongst the make up of this field will matter, but at this point would put fair odds ~4/1 for this runner.



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