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
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RACE 1: Post: 11:00 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket: (in order of preference): 1-Balnikhov; 3-I’m A Gambler
Forecast: There are two main players in this year’s renewal of the Santa Anita Mathis Mile-G2. Balnikhov is a middle distance turf specialist returning from a successful excursion to the Midwest that netted a career-top victory in the Bryan Station S.-G3 in late October. The Irish-bred colt packs a powerful late kick that seems to get diluted at longer distances, but at this trip from a favorable inside draw that is likely to provide sufficient cover during the early stages of the race the Phil D’Amato-trained import should be more than capable of producing a winning late kick. A steady, healthy work tab in the interim leads to the assumption that he’ll fire his best shot. I’m A Gambler is an intriguing English invader with triple-digit Timeform ratings in his last four outings, making him a significant threat at this level on this circuit. Victorious in four of his last five starts overseas, including a listed stakes in his most recent outing in early October, the son of No Nay Never has effective tactical speed that makes him well-suited for this tight course. With Flavian Pratt taking the call, he is certain to receive plenty of support on the tote.
RACE 2: Post: 11:33 PT Grade: B
Main ticket: (in order of preference): 2-Purified
Forecast: Purified blew whatever chance he may have had when breaking poorly and losing valuable early position in a fast sprint at Del Mar last month, but to his credit he rallied with interest to be a distant second behind runaway winner Krahenbuhl. Now, with two recent sprint preps under his belt, the son of Lord Nelson appears ready to stretch out and graduate. The Bob Baffert-trained colt switches to Johnny V. and should find himself close up throughout and have every chance in a below standard field of older straight maidens. Princip may be worth including on a ticket or two as a back-up. The Violence gelding lands the rail and seems likely to employ gate-to-wire tactics after cutting out quick splits before weakening to finish a distant second in a similar affair at Del Mar at this mile trip last month. This will be just his third career start, so improvement certainly is possible.
RACE 3: Post: 2:03 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 6-Prince Abama
Forecast: In a race that promises to produce at least a decent if not fast pace, mid-pack stalker/closer Prince Abama seems well-spotted to duplicate his recent Hollywood Turf Cup-G2 score in this year’s edition of the San Gabriel S.-G2. Relatively lightly raced and improving with each start, the Irish-bred gelding turns back from a mile and one-half to nine furlongs, but even at this shorter distance the long-fused gelding should not be inconvenienced in the least. The Phil D’Amato-trained import projects to settle in behind front-running types 2-Masteroffoxhounds and 5-Bob and Jackie and then have every chance to exert his superiority from the quarter pole home. In a field of just six, let’s take a stand and use the Phil D’Amato-trained son of Tamayuz as a win play and rolling exotic single.
RACE 4: Post: 2:32 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 3-Faustin; 4-Senoran
Forecast: Here’s a hot maiden special weight sprint for 2-year-olds, with the two main players hailing from the Bob Baffert barn. Faustin, acquired through the ring for $800,000 at the OBS April Sale, is a tank of a colt that has done everything asked of him in recent drills and clearly is a highly regarded prospect. The second foal from the Diana H.-G1 winning long distance millionaire turf mare Hard Not to Like, this grey-coated son of Curlin could easily develop into a Derby-type prospect. While we believe he’ll eventually be best over a distance of ground, there is strong reason to believe he possesses the speed and quality to win sprinting at first asking. Stablemate Semoran was a $230,000 OBS June sale purchase due in no small part to an eye-catching 10 seconds flat breeze during the preview session in which the son of Ride On Curlin displayed an extremely athletic stride and loads of speed without really being asked. Other than a galloping blowout (4f, :48.2h, best of a team) just five days ago, we haven’t seen much of him during his recent series of local workouts, but his final times are impressive and should have him plenty fit and ready. The presence of the barn’s “go-to” jockey Johnny V. certainly is noteworthy, as well. We’ll sink or swim using just these two in our rolling exotics, with preference on top to Faustin.
RACE 5: Post: 1:02 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 2-Hawker
Backups/savers: 5-Dandy Man Shines; 4-Maltese Falcon
Forecast: We’re not convinced it was the strongest maiden juvenile turf miler ever seen, but, there should be little doubt that Hawker should have graduated in a similar affair at Del Mar earlier this month. The son of Justify was covered up inside waiting for room from the quarter pole home but was blocked and lost his chance, eventually winding up fifth beaten two lengths while still full of run in the closing stages. With Joel Rosario riding him back, the $675,000 yearling purchase hopefully with have better luck today. Nicely drawn inside and likely to be stalking or pressing the pace throughout, the John Sadler-trained colt is listed at 3-1 on the morning line and we’ll gladly take that if we can get it. There are three others to consider, at least in the back-up/saver category. Dandy Man Shines is a bit too one-paced for our liking but his speed figures are rising, and he did finish with interest behind the promising debut winner Mi Hermano Ramon in the stronger of the two maiden turf mile events offered at Del Mar Dec. 4 (Hawker’s race was the other division). He’ll be running on late again. Maltese Falcon finished a distant second in his only prior run at Redcar in England last fall while well clear of the rest and joins the Leonard Powell stable for his U.S. debut while picking up Flavian Prat. His Racing Post race rating of 72 is okay and should at least make him competitive with this group.
RACE 6: Post: 1:32 PT Grade: X
Main ticket (in order of preference): 6-Country Grammer
Backups/savers: 5-Heywoods Beach
Forecast: Even without dusting off your old Kelco Class Calculator (circa 1970), you probably should be able to concede that with earnings in excess of $11 million, 2022 Dubai World Cup winner Country Grammer outclasses this year’s San Antonio S.-G2 field. Runner-up in each of his three outings since returning from the Middle East (including a 19-length drubbing by Flightline in the Pacific Classic-G1), the son of Tonalist has been training like he still wants to do it, and in this six runner affair that projects to have a decent pace, the 5-year-old veteran should be able to settle behind the leaders and then go on with it when asked. Never worse than second in three outings over the Santa Anita main track and the winner of the 2021 Hollywood Gold Cup, he is listed at 7/5 on the morning line and more than likely will go lower than that. Trainer Bob Baffert has two other starters (giving him half the field) but neither Hopkins nor Hudson Ridge are in the same league as the favorite. If you feel the need for some protection, you can throw in Heywoods Beach on a backup ticket. He’s a two-time winner over the local main track and will be a late threat if Country Grammer decides to mail it in.
RACE 7: Post: 2:05 PT Grade: B
Main ticket (in order of preference): 7-Eleuthera; 8-Big Beauty
Forecast: We’ve always suspected that Eleuthera might be most effective as a late-running turf sprinter – she’s by Square Eddie from a Stormy Atlantic mare - and she gets her chance to confirm the theory in her first start since June in this downhill slalom affair for first level allowance fillies and mares. She actually broke her maiden over a mile on the local lawn last March and her recent workouts provide solid evidence that she’s better now than she was then, so at a reasonable 6-1 on the morning line the Ben Cecil-trained sophomore is enticing in the win pool and in the various rolling exotics. Big Beauty is the one to fear most, and a repeat of her excellent runner-up effort down the hill in October at this level will make her hard to beat. She earned a career top speed figure in that race behind next out winner Big Summer, has trained quite well (as usual) in recent weeks, and boasts an ideal second flight, stalking style that should keep her trouble free. Both should be included in rolling exotic play, with preference to the better-priced Eleuthera on top.
RACE 8: Post: 2:35 PT Grade: B
Main ticket (in order of preference): 8-Awake At Midnyte; 4-Midnight Memories
Backups/savers: 6-Fun to Dream
Forecast: Seven furlong races often produce soft interior splits but in this year’s renewal of the La Brea S.-G1 we can envision a hot and contested pace based on the preferred running styles of the major contenders. The Doug O’Neill-trained Awake At Midnyte projects to settle in mid pack outside and then have dead aim and every chance from the top of the lane to the wire. Clearly most effective around one turn, she’s a little shy in the speed figure department and therefore will likely leave at least as high as her morning line of 8-1, but the daughter of Nyquist has trained splendidly in the two months following her disastrous run in the Breeders’ Cup Distaff-G1 and could bounce back with a major effort under these conditions. She may not be good enough, but she’s worth the gamble. Baffert (again) will saddle half the field, the best of which probably is Midnight Memories, genuine and versatile and equally effective at any distance. A winner of four of five career outings (with excuses for her only defeat), the daughter of Mastery likely will settle in the second flight and then kick home when the pressure is applied. Fun to Dream, with four wins in five career starts, is a relentless daughter of Arrogate whose chances will increase if patiently ridden in a race that may be quick early. You should try to find room for her on your ticket, at least as a back-up or a saver.
RACE 9: Post: 3:08 PT Grade: A-
Main ticket (in order of preference): 7-Myfavoritedaughter
Backups/savers: 3-Ballet Dancing; 10-Leisurewear
Forecast: In her first start since being claimed by trainer Vladimir Cerin for $32,000 and in her 20th lifetime outing, the veteran mare Myfavoritedaughter left her previous form far behind with a visually impressive starter allowance turf mile victory at Del Mar last month in a performance that produced a career top speed figure. The daughter of Carpe Diem rallied into the teeth of slow fractions to win going away and with plenty left, so today’s extra furlong in this first level allowance affair shouldn’t be any issue at all. She prefers to be held up and produced late, and with good grass rider Joe Bravo riding her back she’s certain to get that type of trip. She is listed at 6-1 on the morning line and at that price may be the best gamble of the day. Troubled in almost every one of her six career starts (most of it self-caused), Ballet Dancing adds blinkers for the first time and definitely has enough raw ability to act with these, so we’ll toss in her on a backup ticket. In the frame in all three outings over the Santa Anita turf course (including a maiden win), she picks up Frankie, and with some help up front could make some noise close home. Leisurewear got loose on the lead and earned a big figure when breaking her maiden at Del Mar last time out. It’s unlikely she enjoys a similar trip today – Precious Baby may have similar ideas and is quicker and drawn inside – but if she manages to inherit the front end it’s possible she’ll take this field a long way.
RACE 10: Post: 3:39 PT Grade: X
Main ticket (in order of preference): 6-Taiba
Forecast: Small ticket players probably should bite the bullet and accept Taiba as a short priced single in this year’s edition of the Malibu Stakes-G1. If getting blown out by Flightline in the Breeders’ Cup Classic-G1 two months ago didn’t cause a lasting negative reaction to his psyche, the Gun Runner should toy with this group based on his overpowering advantage on speed figures and his affinity for the local main track. He won his debut sprinting here last March (his only previous one-turn race) and then took the Santa Anita Derby-G1, and while he’s never been all that willing in the a.m. he’s looked good enough in recent workouts to expect that he’s ready to roll. For those hoping for a knockout in rolling exotic play, Apprehend may pose something of a threat with a repeat of his big figure, runaway allowance win two runs back. The Peter Miller-trained colt bounced to the moon when beaten at 50 cents on the dollar in the Zia Park Derby last month, but he could easily snap back today.
RACE 11: Post: 4:11 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 1-Rhea Moon; 5-Bellstreet Bridie
Backups/savers: 2-Sparkle Blue
Forecast: As is the case with many imported fillies trained by Phil D’Amato, Rhea Moon has suddenly gotten very good after a period of acclimation following her arrival from Ireland. She’s won three of her last four starts – each outing with a better speed figure than the previous – and the manner in which she accelerated through the lane to register an impressive score in the Autumn Miss S.-G3 here in late October while mostly on her own courage tells us she’s ready for this year’s renewal of the American Oaks-G1. The 10 furlong trip should be well within her range, her inside draw guarantees a covered up, ground-saving trip, and her morning line price of 8-1 is mouth-watering, indeed. Yes, this a tough, contentious affair but this could be a very good filly. Among the others, Bellstreet Bridie was a modest handicapper in England prior to her arrival at Del Mar but looked like an entirely different sort of filly when easily handling seasoned older rivals in the mini-marathon Red Carpet S.-G3. Today, against her own age group, the Mark Glatt-trained sophomore is a serious player, for sure. Valley View S.-G3 winner Sparkle Blue arrives from Fair Hill for trainer Graham Motion appearing very similar to our top pick on paper, showing rising numbers and improving form. She retains Joel Rosario and, like ‘Moon, projects to inherit a soft trip from her two-hole draw.