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: X
Main ticket: (in order of preference): 1-Hejazi
Forecast: Hejazi returns to the maiden ranks and shortens to a sprint while seeking a confidence building score after finishing a respectable third in the American Pharoah S.-G1 in his most recent appearance during the fall meeting. Listed at 4/5 on the morning line, the $3.55 million purchase earned a triple-digit Beyer speed figure in his race before last when second to stable mate Speed Boat Beach in a track-record setting dash at Del Mar, and anything close to that effort today should be more than good enough. The “other” Baffert in the field, Worcester, found his best stride too late when a fast-finishing fourth behind the highly regarded Faustin earlier this meeting and seems certain to produce a forward move with an extra half furlong to work with. The son of Empire Maker probably is worth including somewhere on your ticket as a backup.
RACE 2: Post: 12:59 PT Grade: B-
Main ticket: (in order of preference): 1-Secret Beauty
Backups/savers: 3-A Broken Breeze
Forecast: Sacred Beauty makes her first start off the claim for trainer Reed Saldana, who hits at 31% with a. massive ROI from a 13-race sample with this angle, so the daughter of Classic Empire can be expected to produce a forward move while being wheeled back at the same $10,000 claiming level in this main track miler for fillies and mare. First or second in nine of 17 career starts, the Bay Area invader has raced primarily on grass or synthetic but shows excellent form on dirt as well, so with speed figures that alone make her a major contender she looks like the solid top pick. A Broken Breeze, listed as the 8/5 morning line favorite, is a one-paced grinder without tactical speed. The projected race flow doesn’t work in her favor, but in a weak event she’s a contender by default.
RACE 3: Post: 1:29 PT Grade: B
Main ticket (in order of preference): 3-Bold Endeavor; 2-Holden the Lute
Forecast: Bold Endeavor regained his winning form with a brave score for $50,000 on New Year’s Eve and, in what we’ll view as a sign of confidence, is bumped up to the $80,000 level while being wheeled back in two weeks after being haltered by Peter Miller. Always most comfortable when pressing or stalking a moderate pace, the veteran gelding catches a favorable projected race flow, and based on speed figures must be given a legitimate chance for a repeat score. The switch to one of the stable’s “go-to” riders, Ramon Vazquez, must be considered another positive factor. Holden the Lute is solid on numbers and has finished first or second in eight of 16 career starts over the Santa Anita main track. He should be in the fray throughout and possibly in front if his connections opt for that strategy.
RACE 4: Post: 1:59 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 1-Looks Rare
Forecast: Looks Rare displayed good sprint speed when third in his debut at Del Mar and today in a similar high priced maiden claimer he stretches out from the rail in a race that surely will allow him to be the controlling speed. With the switch to Frankie, the addition of Lasix, and a strong recent series of workouts at San Luis Rey Downs, the Doug O’Neill-trained son of Hoppertunity seems the solid top pick at 2-1 on the morning line. Russells Hustle is re-equipped with blinkers while also adding Lasix and showing the always-dangerous first time-in-a-claimer angle. His lack of tactical speed is a concern but against this group the son of Noble Mission should be heard from late.
RACE 5: Post: 2:29 PT Grade: B
Main ticket (in order of preference): 9-Sawasdee; 5-Joker Boy
Forecast: Sawasdee exits a much tougher state-bred first-level allowance race and in this restricted (nw-3) $20,000 claiming sprint the Cesar DeAlba-trained-gelding appears to have found his winning level. Drawn comfortably outside, the son of Desert Code should fold over into a nice pace-stalking/pressing early position and have every chance from there. He’s finished first or second in three of five career starts over the local main track and has speed figures that are more than good enough to beat this field. Joker Boy has been noncompetitive in recent races against infinity tougher foes, but this class drop could be what he needs to regain his winning form. Based strictly on speed figures, the Practical Joke gelding is a strong fit and as a former stakes winner now running cheap he could easily regain his confidence in the softest race he’s ever been in.
RACE 6: Post: 2:29 PT Grade: B-
Main ticket (in order of preference): 7-Traevar; 2-Hopkins
Backups/savers: 4-McLaren Vale
Forecast: Traegar was an extra game winner on the lead in his first try around two turns last month at Del Mar in a first level allowance event that presented an unusual race shape (slow early, fast late). Today, he returns to a sprint while moving up a notch on the class ladder that should be within his capabilities based on his progressive form and rising speed figures. Mike Smith stays aboard and knows him well and should have the Mark Glatt-trained ridgling in an ideal stalking position outside, ready to pounce at the proper moment. Hopkins was out of his element in the San Antonio Stakes-G2 but returns to reality while backing up in trip and is major contender based on his previous excellent sprint form. The main concern is that he’ll have to deal with plenty of heat that can run with him early and the evidence suggests that he needs to be on or near the lead to be most effective. McLaren Vale, purchased for $200,000 at auction in November at Keeneland, makes his first start for the John Sadler barn. He’s been routing on the front end most of his career, but this drop back to a sprint requires patient tactics and a change in style could prove to be quite beneficial.
RACE 7: Post: 2:59 PT Grade: B
Main ticket (in order of preference): 6-Under the Stars
Forecast: Under the Stars performs best when held up early and allowed to run late and based on the projected race flow of this year’s renewal of the La Canada S.-G3 the Bob Baffert-trained filly should be able to drop over from her outside draw and settle somewhere in mid-pack and then have dead aim from the quarter pole home. She’s never been one to trust, but we’ll be gambling that today will be one of her better days. Stable mate Ganadora is the likely pacesetter and if not pressured early could take this field a long way. Her runaway win two races back over a distance of ground was impressive, but we’ve always liked her better as a sprinter and form at Los Alamitos doesn’t always transfer to the big track. We’ll use her on a backup ticket.
RACE 8: Post: 4:00 PT Grade: B+
Main ticket (in order of preference): 8-Spirit of Makena
Backups/savers: 4-August Melody
Forecast: Spirit of Makena earned a huge figure when missing in a photo in just his second career start (and his first around two turns) at this level at Del Mar in September and if he returns as well as he left the son of Ghostzapper should be hard to beat. The works at San Luis Rey Downs give every indication that he’s fit and ready, and from his cozy outside draw the lightly raced 5-year-old seems likely to benefit from a perfect stalking trip, similar to what he enjoyed in his successful sprint debut. Also, the barn does well with layoff runners, another plus. Augusta Melodyis fast on figures, though his career record suggests he prefers to run second rather than win. The Tim Yakteen-trained gelding is worth tossing in as a saver.