ARCADIA, Calif. (AP) _ Pioneerof the Nile is still learning how to run, and it showed halfway down the backstretch of the Santa Anita Derby.

That's where the colt tugged his way to the lead, gave it up and then went to the front in the stretch, holding on for a 1-length victory Saturday.

Now, it's on to the Kentucky Derby for trainer Bob Baffert, a three-time Derby winner who hasn't had a starter since 2006.

"I'm glad to be back in the show," he said after claiming his record fifth Santa Anita Derby.

Pioneerof the Nile ran 1 1-8 miles on the artificial surface in 1:49.17. He was sent off as the 4-5 wagering favorite after main rival The Pamplemousse was scratched hours before because of a soft tissue injury in one of his legs.

Chocolate Candy was second, followed by Mr. Hot Stuff and Take the Points. Feisty Suances was fifth, Unbridled Roman sixth and Gallant Son last.

Chocolate Candy, owned by diet maven Jenny Craig, may be moving on to the Kentucky Derby too.

Ridden by Garrett Gomez, Pioneerof the Nile paid $3.60, $2.40 and $2.10. Chocolate Candy returned $3.20 and $2.60, while Mr. Hot Stuff was another length back in third and paid $3.40 to show in front of an announced crowd of 50,915.

The on-track handle of $5,606,698 represented a 10 percent increase over the amount wagered on last year’s Santa Anita Derby Day. The total handle was $20,855,055, which declined 6 percent from one year previous.

Winning owner Ahmed Zayat scratched his other horse, Z Day, who was entered to serve as a rabbit for The Pamplemousse, who has a front-running style. Cape Truth also was scratched from the $750,000 race.

Alex Solis II, one of The Pamplemousse's co-owners, said his colt was scratched because there was concern about the soft tissue in one leg. He did not say which one.

"The tendon had a little heat and as a result, (trainer) Julio

(Canani) decided to scratch him," Solis said. "We'll scan the tendon and evaluate it and go from there. We're not going to take any chances with him."

Both Baffert and Zayat expressed regret that The Pamplemousse, who has won three in a row, wasn't able to take on their colt.

"Bob and I were looking forward to the match race everyone believed it to be, but unfortunately, we didn't have The Pamplemousse," Zayat said.

Based on Baffert's confidence level, it might not have mattered.

The trainer, who is nominated for racing's Hall of Fame this spring, was so sure Pioneerof the Nile was going to win that he had the superstitious Zayat worried.

"Bob called my 16-year-old son at 11:30 at night and said, 'He's not going to get beat,'" Zayat said. "Bob was super-confident. I've never seen him like that."

Pioneerof the Nile earned his fourth consecutive victory Saturday, but his stock had fallen in some quarters because he hasn't won his preps in eye-catching fashion.

"We wanted an honest pace," Baffert said. "This horse has been taken out of his game the last two races."

Pioneerof the Nile, whose name is a nod to Zayat's Egyptian roots, was fourth in the early going before charging to the front on the backside. Gomez took a strong hold and the colt dropped back to second before regaining the advantage into the stretch.

"With all the scratches, it just jeopardized the pace for us," Gomez said. "I tried to get in behind and settle early on. He was OK for a while, but then as they kept slowing down in front of him, I tried to take hold and get him back a couple times."

Gomez wanted Pioneerof the Nile to run more like he did in winning the Robert Lewis Stakes on Feb. 7, when the colt was sixth most of the way before coming with his patented late charge.

Instead, he ran like he did in his last start, the San Felipe Stakes on March 14, when Pioneerof the Nile was fifth before moving up to second and then going on to win.

"I wouldn't say it's a missed opportunity; I was just a little disappointed I wasn't able to get it done the way we wanted to," said Gomez, who won the race for the first time. "You're always happy to win the Santa Anita Derby, but just knowing the next step for him, I was trying to get a little more preparation for the next step."

But Pioneerof the Nile is still learning.

He was a May foal, so he isn't yet 3 years old, although racing rules dictate that all thoroughbreds' birthdays are Jan. 1. He ran Saturday with two teeth dangling after they came loose Saturday night.

"I'm going to sell them on eBay," Baffert cracked.

The white-haired trainer didn't announce when Pioneerof the Nile will ship to Louisville for the May 2 Run for the Roses.

And Zayat did his best to resist catching that fabled Derby fever.

"Let's take it one day at a time," he said.

Tell that to Baffert's 4-year-old son Bode, who clearly has his father's confidence.

"Pioneerof the Nile," he said when his daddy asked him who will win the Kentucky Derby.

With jockey Tyler Baze finding a path along the rail through the stretch, 4-year-old Dixie Chatter rallied to defeat 18-1 shot Mr Napper Tandy by three-quarters of a length in the Grade II, $150,000 Arcadia Handicap while covering one mile on turf in 1:34.12

The Dixie Union colt, trained by Richard Mandella, thereby atoned for a three-quarter length setback when third last month in the Grade I Frank E. Kilroe Mile after losing the lead in deep stretch.

“It was perfect,” Baze said after dismounting following the Arcadia. “The last couple of races he gives me the whole bit, but not quite enough. Today, he gave me 100 percent.”

The fourth choice at odds of 7-2 in a field of eight, Dixie Chatter paid $9.80 for his victory. Mr Napper Tandy, with Rosario in the irons, finished a neck ahead of 17-10 choice Madeo with Gomez aboard.

In capturing his first graded stakes since taking Oak Tree’s Grade I Norfolk Stakes as a 2-year-od, Dixie Chatter earned $90,000 for the partnership of Herman Sarkowsky, the breeder, and Martin and Pam Wygod. His record became 4-0-4 in 12 starts for career earnings of $458,196.

Claimed by trainer Jack Carava for $50,000 on behalf of La Canada Stables four races previous in February, Soul City Slew scored his first stakes victory in his 36th career start when registering an 11-1 upset in the Grade II, $150,000 Potrero Grande Handicap at 6 ½ furlongs.

Ridden by Michael Baze, the 6-year-old gelding rallied strongly to overtake 3-2 favorite Halo Najib by one-half length with Paul’s Hope another head back in third among the seven entrants. Soul City Slew was timed in 1:14.79 and paid $25.

“He’s a big, old, long-striding horse, and for an older horse, he’s a really good feeling horse,” commented Carava. “He’s a fun horse to be around – easy to train. I’m more happy for him than I am myself.”

The biggest win of Soul City Slew’s career was worth $90,000, which increased his career earnings to $450,002 from a record of 9-4-7 in 36 starts.

A pair of longshots duked it out in the afternoon’s third Grade II event, the $150,000 Providencia Stakes for 3-year-old fillies, when 20-1 shot Acting Lady outfought 16-1 Mrs Kipling in the closing strides to take the one-mile turf competition by one-half length. The winning time was 1:34.20.

The winner, ridden by Victor Espinoza, gained but her second victory in seven races while getting the better of Irish-bred European import Mrs Kipling, who was making her United States debut with David Flores in the saddle. Pasar Silbano finished third 1 ¾ lengths further back under Rosario.

Returning a win mutuel of $43.60 for the stunner, Acting Lady provided the partnership of Britishers Andy Bell and Stephen Russell with $90,000, nearly double her total earnings of $51,320 in six prior starts that began last August with a fruitless maiden race in England.

“Anytime they win and they’re 20-1, you’re a little surprised,” winning trainer Doug O’Neill said after the Providencia. “But we’ve been so proud of the fact that this filly tries hard ever time. Victor (Espinoza) rode her brilliantly.”

Rail Trip, a 4-year-old gelding trained by Ron Ellis for Jay Em Ess Stable who earlier had been considered a candidate for last month’s $1 million Santa Anita Handicap, extended his unbeaten record to five when cruising to victory in the $86,877 Santana Mile.

Jockey Jose Valdivia Jr., however, left little margin for error while never encouraging the glistening bay to run. Dakota Phone, ridden by Rafael Bejarano, closed swiftly to just miss by a nose of separating Rail Trip from perfection.

In gaining his first stakes victory in a field of four, the son of Jump Start completed his seeming gallop in 1:35.71 and paid $2.40 to win. Purchased for $200,000 as a yearling, Rail Trip earned $53,190 to bring his career total to $167,790 with graded stakes company in his sights at the upcoming Hollywood Park meet.

“He (Valdivia) was just trying to take it as easy as he could, and he said he didn’t think the other horse (Dakota Phone) was coming that fast,” Ellis said in explaining the breathtaking conclusion. “That was cutting it close, and even Jose said when he came back, ‘Sorry about that.’”

Santa Anita presents a nine-race program on Sunday headed by the Grade III, $100,000 Las Flores Handicap for fillies and mares at 6 ½ furlongs. First post is at 12:30 p.m.