A couple of strong scores in this space the past 3 weeks have netted nearly $1700, so let's keep the January roll going. Saturday's $100,000 Astra at Santa Anita is at 1-1/2 miles on turf and will be Race 8 on the card. It's also the final leg of the Coast-to-Coast Pick 5 matching races from Gulfstream and The Great Race Place. Be sure to take advantage of the $10 free bet on the Coast-to-Coast Pick 5 when you opt into the promotions at Xpressbet and 1/ST BET.
AUSTRALIA MIA is a Group 2 winner in Chile. None of the Americans have scored a graded stakes, though TIZ AN EDVENTURE is an open-company listed stakes winner. WARRENS CANDY GIRL is a state-bred stakes winner, while QUEEN OF THE TEMPLE is Grade 3-placed. There's not an obvious class edge in this group.
Expect a very methodical pace over the 12 furlongs, not because of the distance, but because of the particular entrants. None of these have a penchant to be near the front, perhaps TIZ AN EDVENTURE and BARRISTER'S RIDE most likely to assume the front among the Americans. But a deep dive into the Chilean races at Santiago last year shows AUSTRALIA MIA as one who like to attack the front or sit first-over. She should be prominent.
Here are my horse-by-horse notes.
WARRENS CANDY GIRL: Cal-bred miler is 1-for-4 beyond 8 furlongs and spots many of these 4 pounds with distance uncertainty.
LADY CLEMENTINE: Over her head in all 3 stakes attempts stateside, albeit in graded company in those. Running style might suggest she wants more distance, but damside pedigree of British export does not. Flavien Prat 5-14 the last 5 years in the Santa Anita turf races at 1-1/2 miles trip, but icy to start the current meet overall.
QUEEN OFTHE TEMPLE: Red-hot riding Juan Hernandez has taken on the infusion of name riders this meet with much success. Also note his wild 4-for-6 record at Santa Anita riding 1-1/2 miles on turf overall. This one's 9-for-10 in the superfecta, including a third in the Grade 3 Santa Barbara over this taxing trip. Player.
DUVET DAY: Took 7 tries to break her maiden and hasn't had any success in 3 stakes tries. Looks like the lesser of the uncoupled entries from trainer Michael McCarthy.
AUSTRALIA MIA: Trainer Michael McCarthy's assumed A-player here. Multiple Group 2 stakes winner in Chile makes her US debut and catches a field she should be able to handle. Liked her aggressive style in replays from South America, as well as an ability to sit first-over and pounce. Grass maestro Frankie Dettori can put her anywhere he needs. By Kentucky Derby winner Street Sense and out of Osunitas Stakes winner Andina, who was a solid turf mare in SoCal for Ben Cecil.
ALMOST A FACTOR: 8 straight losses and a 2-17 lifetime mark won't attract much fanfare. Flat late going shorter means she's unlikely to finish the deal. Underlay price like with John Velazquez riding.
TIZ AN EDVENTURE: Claimed for $25,000 last April, she's won 6 of 7 starts since then in Northern California. The victories have come on dirt (Sacramento), Tapeta (Golden Gate) and turf (Golden Gate). Mike Smith should have her in the race early, but she's never run farther than 1-1/16 miles. Appreciate the Ws, but the distance is a massive test.
BARRISTER'S RIDE: Late-running miler was third at Del Mar this summer to WARRENS CANDY GIRL and hasn't upped her game since then. Lively workout Jan. 8 could be a sign she's forwardly placed.
NEW HEAT: 1-for-last-12, this deep closer certainly has pedigree to run 1-1/2 miles, but the recent form does not inspire confidence for a barn that went 2-for-66 last year. There's a small piece of me that thinks the marathon trip might get this one to pass a fair share late.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
QUEEN OFTHE TEMPLE has consistent credentials and a hot pilot to put her in the right spot.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
NEW HEAT was 121-1 last time in graded stakes and drew tough 10-hole prior to that. Some forgiveness and distance pedigree could add up to a minor share of the gimmicks.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$60 win AUSTRALIA MIA. $20 exacta box AUSTRALIA MIA and QUEEN OFTHE TEMPLE ($40).