With the Breeders' Cup back at Santa Anita this fall, Saturday's 7-furlong Triple Bend Stakes has major Sprint division implications. The Triple Bend is part of a massive Memorial Day Weekend in Arcadia, which features the Grade 1 Hollywood Gold Cup on Monday as well as a mandatory Rainbow 6 payout on the holiday Monday program. Any player taking down the Rainbow 6 on Saturday or Sunday with a single ticket is guaranteed a payout of $1 million.
Players betting on the Xpressbet and 1/ST BET platforms can take advantage of a $5,000 late pick 4 hit-and-split on Saturday at Santa Anita.
CZ ROCKET and FORBIDDEN KINGDOM are both Grade 2 winners and Grade 1-placed. HOWBEIT also is a Grade 2 winner, while SPIRIT OF MAKENA has won at the Grade 3 level.
FORBIDDEN KINGDOM has made the lead in all 10 career starts and is dedicated to the front. SPIRIT OF MAKENA and POSITIVITY figure to be closest to him early. This looks like a fair pace for all running styles and not overwhelming up front.
Here are my horse-by-horse notes.
1-MIDNIGHT MAMMOTH: Route speed probably won't cut it vs. these elite sprinters, so this recent $50,000 claim will be up against the pressure and quality of the field from the rail. It's been a while, but trainer Craig Dollase knows his way around a good sprinter.
2-DESMOND DOSS: 7-year-old fights Father Time as 15 straight winners of the Triple Bend have been age 5 or less. This Cal-bred loves Santa Anita with a 5: 3-2-0 local mark and should be doing his best running late. But he'll need a meltdown to have his best chance.
3-POSITIVITY: Trainer Doug O'Neill won the Triple Bend in 2004 and 2017. This son of Paynter could be stuck in a no lead, no pass situation against these quality front-runners, though he exits a productive third in the Kona Gold. That race's runner-up, Anarchist, came back to win Woodbine's Grade 3 Jacques Cartier for Josie Carroll.
4-FORBIDDEN KINGDOM: Pure speedster was second-best in the San Carlos when run down by Spirit of Makena but I'm not sure that was top pilot Juan Hernandez's best work. He allowed his rival to get alongside him before straightening out in the stretch instead of trying to kick clear when cutting the corner. Forbidden Kingdom didn't give way, just sort of lost the momentum and they galloped out evenly. This colt was giving 4 pounds that day, and now gets 2 pounds from the same rival -- a 6-pound shift. Trainer Richard Mandella has 3 wins in the race, but the way back machine dates to 1982, 1983 and 1994.
5-HOWBEIT: Claimed for $100,000 last out off of Mark Glatt, this 6-year-old is trying to reclaim the form that saw him win a nose photo in last October's Santa Anita Sprint Championship. He's been gelded since that April 7 start and is one of two starters in this race for last year's winning trainer George Papaprodromou. Recent works don't give any obvious indication of improvement, so we'll see.
6-SPIRIT OF MAKENA: Newcomer to the local sprint stakes scene won the San Carlos over this track and trip in March when chasing down Forbidden Kingdom. Same jockey-trainer combo of Joe Bravo and George Papaprodromou that won last year's Triple Bend with American Theorem. Ghostzapper 5YO is a head away from perfection through 4 starts. Bravo was in the bike, as they say, pedaling hard on the farm turn last time and it took this one a while to get going after Forbidden Kingdom. Curious if he can repeat that and win with the 6-pound weight shift back toward his rival.
7-C Z ROCKET: The 2020 and 2022 Breeders' Cup Sprint runner-up needs no apologies for his 12-for-38 lifetime ledger and more than $2 million banked. But he is 1-for-his-last-13 and hasn't won a stakes race in 2 years and a month. Add in a lifetime 1-for-5 record on top at Santa Anita on dirt and it's fair to fear him but place him in the underneath slots.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
FORBIDDEN KINGDOM will be free-wheeling up top and even if he backs up, feels very secure to stick on the ticket.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
DESMOND DOSS could pass tired horses for a small share of the superfecta.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$60 exacta FORBIDDEN KINGDOM over SPIRT OF MAKENA. $40 exacta FORBIDDEN KINGDOM over C Z ROCKET.