Specifically designed for the rolling exotic player, Jeff Siegel’s Daily Santa Anita Handicapping Analysis, Wagering Strategies, and Workout Commentary identify those horses that should be included in daily doubles, pick-3s, pick-4s, pick-5s, and the pick-6.
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Grade A=Highest degree of confidence
Grade B=Solid Play.
Grade C=Least preferred or pass
Grade X=probable winner but likely at odds too short to play
RACE 1: Post: 12:30 PT Grade: C+
Main ticket: (in order of preference): 5-Elegance Code; 8-Shocking Grey
Backups/savers: 4-Candy On Top
Forecast: There are three main players in this mile grass maiden affair for older fillies and mares and none are what you’d call trustworthy. Elegance Code showed a bit of ability in a pair of starts last year before being turned out and returns for trainer Carla Gaines with a steady if not spectacular series of dirt workout that should have her fit enough. While her recent work tab lacks spark, it’s possible that she’s not much of a worker (she was 32-1 in her debut) but better on grass and more willing in the afternoon. With Flavian Prat taking the call, you’d have to think she’s a live item in her first outing since April. Shocking Grey didn’t get the best of runs when second at 50 cents on the dollar in a similar maiden turf miler at Del Mar last time out. She lacks tactical speed and always will be susceptible to trouble, but if she can negotiate a reasonable trip and get some help up front the daughter of Grazen should make her presence felt late. Candy On Top is likely to get a piece of it, as she his hit the board in five of nine career outings. But she doesn’t seem to provide much punch late when put to pressure.
RACE 2: Post: 1:00 PT Grade: C+
Main ticket: (in order of preference): 2-Nolo Contesto ; 5-Brutto
Forecast: Restricted (nw-2) $16,000 older sprinters compete in today’s second race, with Nolo Contesto seeking his first victory in nearly four years. And he’s a main contender! The 7-year-old ridgling makes his first start since being claimed for this price just two weeks ago and shortens to six furlongs, a distance that he has shown to be competitive at. On pure numbers, he’s a fit and with excellent speed jockey Edwin Maldonado taking the call, it would not be surprising if the Doug O’Neill-trained gelding finds himself on or near the lead throughout. The one to fear most is the Bob Baffert-trained class dropper Brutto, away since May and showing up in a seller for the first time after once being fairly well regarded. Hard to believe he finished second to Flightline in his racing debut (okay, he was beaten nearly 14 lengths) and in his younger days he earned speed figures that would bury this field, so with the son of Nyquist the only consideration is his current health and condition, which is suspect. These are the two we’ll be using in rolling exotic play, but best advice is to tread lightly.
RACE 3: Post: 1:30 PT Grade: B-
Main ticket (in order of preference): 2-Topolina; 4-Majestic Steps; 6-Runninwiththeboyz
Forecast: Topolina left her previous form behind when returning from a six month vacation to beat maidens in good style at Del Mar last time out while on the pace throughout, and similar tactics surely will be employed today in this starter optional claimer over six furlongs on that flat turf course that she’s run well over in the past. The workouts since that mid-November victory have been nothing short of sizzling at San Luis Rey Downs, so we’re expecting the Doug O’Neill-trained daughter of Goldencents to produce a forward move and be tough to catch right back. Majestic Steps is just 1-for-16 in her career but at least that one win was accomplished over this course and distance. Aways most comfortable as a late-running sprinter, she turns back in trip after finishing fourth over a mile in her first outing in nine months, an effort that should have her primed for a major effort today. Her work tab is healthy and the switch to Flavian Prat won’t hurt. Runninwiththeboyz beat maiden claimers under these conditions during the fall meeting and returns protected in a sign of confidence. She’s a little shy in the speed figure department but is lightly raced with room to improve and if the front runners collapse she’ll likely be heard from late.
RACE 4: Post: 2:00 PT Grade: C+
Main ticket (in order of preference): Distorted Match; 2-Famous Star
Forecast: Distorted Math finished a respectable second in a straight maiden print at Los Alamitos in his debut last month but returns in a maiden $40,000, not exactly a ring endorsement or a sign of confidence from the Bob Baffert stable. A $190,000 yearling purchase now into his four year old season, the son of Distorted Humor clearly isn’t viewed as a long term prospect by his connections, but if he has at least one good one left he should be able to handle this soft assignment, assuming he actually starts. Famous Star has speed figures that are good enough to win at this level, but he’s been a beaten favorite in three of his last four starts, most recently when finishing second at 50 cents on the dollar in a similar fair over this track and distance during the fall meeting. In a race that offers little wagering value with no other viable candidates, we’ll include both in our rolling exotics but otherwise pass the race.
RACE 5: Post: 2:30 PT Grade: B-
Main ticket (in order of preference): 8-Hembree; 2-Kandarel
Forecast: Here’s a messy grass grab bag sprint for older $50,000 claimers that requires coverage in rolling exotic play. Depending upon your budget, we suggest you include as many as you can afford, including the three we’ve listed above. Hembree takes a logical class drop in his first outing in nearly two years, but for this price he’s hardly being given away. The Peter Miller barn has solid stats with layoff runners and always has had good luck when using Flavian Pratt, so we suspect the son of Proud Citizen is live and well-meant. The San Luis Rey Downs work tab doesn’t look flashy but is solid and healthy and should have the winner of nine races (with 10 additional runner-up efforts) ready to resume where he left off. Kanderel was winless in 2022 so now at age six he is being realistically dropped in class to a level that should be within his range. The Richard Mandella-trained gelding is a three-time winner over the Santa Anita lawn and, when he’s on his game, can produce a dangerous late kick. Commander went zero-for-eight last year but usually clunks up and gets at least a part. He’ll be running on late, so you should use him somewhere, perhaps as a back-up, just in case there’s a meltdown up front.
RACE 6: Post: 3:00 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 6-Feeling Grazeful
Backups/savers: 1-Big Shamrock
Forecast: Feeling Grazeful has been away for 11 months but finds a suitable spot for a successful return in this allowance optional claiming sprint for state-bred fillies and mares. Drawn nicely outside in the six-runner field, the lightly raced five-year-old mare has run her best over a mile on grass but has performed well enough around one corner on the main track to expect she’s set a winning effort. In a race that should have soft early splits, the daughter of Grazen can be placed just about wherever her connections. Big Shamrock can be very dangerous if our top pick fails to show up with her best stuff. Her lack of tactical speed in somewhat problematic from the rail but a repeat of her Los Alamitos score two runs back should put her somewhere in the hunt.
RACE 7: Post: 3:30 PT Grade:
Main ticket (in order of preference):
Forecast: We’re going to take a stand with Xmas Surprise in this downhill turf sprint for second level allowance fillies and mares. A prototype late-running grass sprinter, the daughter of More Than Ready is especially effective when the race shape promotes her style, and in a race in which both Phenom and Angelcents can’t help but ensure a blistering pace (and more than likely do each other in), the Leonard Powell-trained mare should get the patient rider she requires from Flavian Prat and then be along in time. Aqua Seaform Shame was overmatched in the Senator Ken Maddy Stakes when used on the pace, but at this lower level she is likely to draft into a stalking position and have every chance when the pressure is turned on. She’s competitive on speed figures and is likely to benefit from the switch to patient Joe Bravo.
RACE 8: Post: 3:30 PT Grade: B-
Main ticket (in order of preference): 2-Glorious Spring; 1-Irish Wahine
Forecast: This is a split of the sixth race and it’s a challenging affair because the three main players lack tactical speed. But with just six runners in the field (same as the sixth race), each of the contenders should have their chance. Glorious Spring, runner-up at this level in her last pair, has numbers that are considerably lower than par but is lightly raced (just four starts) and she may have more room to improve than the others. The Dan Blacker-trained filly has had two nice breezes to tick her over since her last outing in mid-December, so we’ll give her the edge on top. Irish Wahine has won her last two starts when facing low level claimers and was just claimed for $10,000 by trainer Steve Knapp, who wheels her back protected in a sign of confidence. Based strictly on speed figures, the daughter of Grazen is an absolute fit and a “must use” despite the so-called “class hike.” Vella, in the frame in her last two, has finished first or second in four of seven starts over the Santa Anita main track and seems well-spotted for another solid effort.
RACE 9: Post: 4:00 PT Grade: C+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 9-Dolly May; 10-Ice Queen
Forecast: Restricted (nw-2) $32,000 claiming older fillies and mares meet over a mile on grass in the Friday finale, with the main contention drawn towards the outside. Dolly May has races against considerably tougher foes that would beat this field, but she is winless in nine starts since being imported from Ireland and is still seeking her winning level. She’s a one-paced grinder and probably needs to be within striking range throughout to have her best chance. Ice Queen finished second in a similar affair at Del Mar in November while on the front end and if she can turn in two alike she’ll be right there, especially if they hand her the front end again. Consternation gets the worst of the draw but often gets a piece of it and has numbers that make her competitive. With nothing to trust, best advice is to spread deeply.