by Santa Anita Press Release
December 26, 2017
ARCADIA, Calif. (Dec. 26, 2017) – Hold the presses. Bob Baffert’s Collected, considered by many to be the second-best horse in America and a likely starter in next month’s Grade I, $16 million Pegasus World Cup Invitational at Gulfstream Park, was nowhere to be found at the finish of Tuesday’s Grade II, $300,000 San Antonio Stakes at Santa Anita.
Run for the first time in its 81-year history on opening day, the San Antonio was taken by the longest shot in a field of five–the Peter Eurton-trained Giant Expectations, who coasted to an emphatic 3 ¼ length win while covering a mile and one sixteenth in 1:43.07.
The ageless Stevens, who has committed to riding at Oaklawn Park after Jan. 1, appeared to make an easy lead and held sway by about a length over a hard-ridden Prime Attraction and Accelerate, neither of whom could get on terms with the winner who was well beaten at 25-1 in his most recent start, the Grade I Breeders’ Cup Dirt Mile on Nov. 3.
Winless in two previous starts at the San Antonio distance, Giant Expectations paid $29.00, $8.20 and $3.20.
A 4-year-old New York-bred colt by Frost Giant, Giant Expectations is owned by Border Racing, LLC, Gatto Racing, LLC and Zubok. A winner of the seven furlong, Grade II Pat O’Brien Stakes three starts back on Aug. 26, Giant Expectations notched his fourth win from 13 overall starts and with the winner’s share of $180,000, he increased his earnings to 449,200.
Off at 8-1 under Javier Castellano, Accelerate finished a neck in front of Collected and paid $7.00 and $2.80.
Last early, Collected was never a factor for the win and finished a half length in front of Hoppertunity. Ridden by Mike Smith, Collected was off at 1-5 and paid $2.10 to show.
Fractions on the race, all set by the winner, were 24.69, 49.19, 1:12.94 and 1:36.84.
Note: The win marked Stevens’ second-ever win in the San Antonio, as he won it for the first time with Point Given in 2001.
Santa Anita opened Christmas Day, 1934. No, I wasn’t there. Thanks for asking, though. I’ve personally experienced plenty of ‘Anita premieres, but they’ve all come the day after Christmas. Personally, ‘Great Race Place’ launches always have been special occasions. I vividly recall cracking the sealed edges of a crisp, virgin Daily Racing Form. Still can feel the exhilarating anticipation of riches hidden within its pages. Forget ‘sugar plums.’ In my ‘night before Christmas’ visions of greenbacks danced in my head! Opening day at Santa Anita is about more than just cashing tickets. Technically, it belongs to the old year—six days shy of the mark. However, Santa Anita’s kickoff always feels as much a part of the New Year as does the ball drop in Times Square. Before first-race gates pop possibilities are endless. Everyone in the house is tied for leading owner, trainer and jockey. Horseplayer bankrolls are ‘flush.’ Hopes, dreams and the future. Racing’s selling points. ‘Breed the best to the best and hope for the best!’ Why, otherwise, would rational, successful businessmen and women gamble tens of millions of dollars each year on weanlings and yearlings? Think pro sports drafts are gambles? Try selecting future stars out of the third grade. Hopes, dreams and the future. As the old saw suggests, ‘No one with an un-raced 2-year-old in the barn ever committed suicide.’ We can guess, estimate, suppose and even make an educated Derby future book wager based on computer-generated data…but no one really knows what’s going to happen. That’s life. ‘Make plans and hear God laugh.’ We’re never certain what events ultimately will occupy empty calendar pages. So, we take a first step, followed by another, into the future. Yesterday was opening day at Santa Anita and it was grand. Among an assortment of opening-day angles, those that most interested this observer were achievements and foibles of some of the game’s most honored participants in the afternoon’s most important events. On paper, the Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes--first of four graded stakes on the card—seemed destined to serve as a mere sparring session for BC Classic runner-up, wire-to-wire Pacific Classic winner and odds-on race favorite Collected. Trained and ridden by Hall-of-Fame residents Bob Baffert and Mike Smith, respectively, Collected had won 8 of 12 lifetime starts and over $2.2 million. He was also 4-for-4 at Santa Anita, had trained well and figured to KO this bunch in the early rounds, or at least have them at a standing eight count. Collected broke with the rest, but instead of urging his mount forward to contest for the lead into the first turn, Smith invited Collected to…well, ‘collect’ himself. Wide around the first turn, Collected appeared to be sleepwalking. When passed on the inside by stablemate and confirmed closer Hopportunity, track commentator Michael Wrona noted the surprising development. Meanwhile, gliding along up front was Giant Expectations under Gary Stevens--another Hall of Fame jockey. Thirty-plus years ago, Stevens made his mark by doing exactly this--taking advantage of an opportunistic situation. ‘Expectations and Stevens ‘walked the dog’ through dawdling early fractions of :24 3/5, :49, 1:12 4/5, 1:36 4/5 and drew clear in the stretch without so much as an anxious moment. The best Collected could manage was third, unable to pass Accelerate through the lane. Social Media immediately erupted with cries of ‘foul!’ Sticks and stones were hurled at Baffert and Smith for effectively throwing the San Antonio by ‘giving’ Collected a Pegasus tune-up on the public’s dime…or, in this case, hundreds of thousands of dollars. Prepping horses in the afternoon, however, isn’t Baffert’s modus operandi. He lets ‘em roll mornings and never saddles a ‘short’ stakes horse. Smith had a more accurate and frank post-race explanation, “It was a bad ride,” he said. “It was my fault. I slipped leaving the gate. We should have been on the lead. Then they were going too slow and we couldn’t get there in the end.” Refreshing, these days, to hear the unadulterated truth. Painful, perhaps, to the pocketbook, but there it is. Jockey Mike Smith, pilot for many of the world’s most famous racehorses in many of their most memorable races, fell asleep at the switch. Booted a grounder. Dropped a ‘can of corn.’ Muffed the punt. Shanked the extra point. As Hall of Famers do, Smith bounced back later in the day to win the Grade 1 La Brea Stakes with Unique Bella, a filly Smith admits permitting to go too fast, too early in the BC F&M Sprint. This time he asked her to relax, angled her to the outside and saved enough juice to make the difference over runner-up Paradise Woods, trained by Richard Mandella, another ‘Hall resident. Four different ‘Hall jockeys--Stevens, Smith, Javier Castellano and Kent Desormeaux--won five of nine opening-day races. Stevens won the San Antonio aboard Collected; Smith the La Brea with Unique Bella; Castellano a 2-year-old filly downhill turf maiden race with Californiagoldrush and Desormeaux back-to-back races with allowance sprint star Red Lightning and Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile champ Bowies Hero. Jockey Victor Espinoza, also a card-carrying ‘Hall member, did not win a race Tuesday. Two Hall-of-Fame trainers saddled three of nine winners on the card: Jerry Hollendorfer sent out a pair--impressive 2-year-old maiden-breaker Kanthanka and multiple-Grade 1 star Unique Bella. Neil Drysdale, inducted to the ‘Hall in 2000, scored a rare (for him) first-out win with Californiagoldrush. The best against the best and all the rest. Then again, what else would you expect opening day at Santa Anita? See ya Friday for day two! Race On!
The Pegasus World Cup is in the rearview mirror, and that means three-year-olds are on display for the next few months. And the Triple Crown Trail kicks off in earnest at a number of tracks this Saturday, most notably Gulfstream, Aqueduct and Santa Anita. Haven’t been paying a lot of attention to this year’s crop? That’s alright. He’s a look at the horses I think you need to have on your radar in advance of this Saturday’s key races. Holy Bull Stakes (G2) Race 12 @ Gulfstream Park (5:49PM ET) Horses We’re Watching: AUDIBLE (Pletcher/Castellano) – 6/1 – You give me a Todd Pletcher/Javier Castellano horse at 6/1 on the ML at Gulfstream and tell me he’s won his last two races by a combined 11 ½-lengths and I’m going to run (not walk) to the windows. He has the look of a horse that is figuring things out and getting better each time he’s on the track. His draw is perfect (#4) and I love his chances at giving Pletcher his first Holy Bull win since Algorithms in 2012. ENTICED (McLaughlin/Rosario) – 3/1 – On paper, he’s probably the most logical choice. He’s a son of super-stallion, Medaglia d’Oro, and his dam, It’s Tricky, won 8-of-14 starts, bankrolled $1.6 million and won races like the Acorn, Ogden Phipps and CCA Oaks. Plus, he won the Kentucky Jockey Club Stakes last out, albeit in a head-bobbing finish while enjoying relatively a relaxing trip in a roughly run race. He merits respect, but should not be an overwhelming favorite. FREE DROP BILLY (Romans/Saez) – 6/1 – Keep an eye on the Dale Romans quartet of entrants (Free Drop Billy, Bandito, Hollywood Star & Tiz Mischief). Logic would assume that one or two of these opt to wait a week and run in the Sam F. Davis next weekend in Tampa. Free Drop Billy is the lone G1 winner in the field, by virtue of his win in the G1 Breeders’ Futurity, and I’m content putting a line through his Breeders’ Cup Juvenile try (9th at 7/1 odds). It was so bad that it defies logic. This race is much easier and he should give a much better showing of himself. TIZ MISCHIEF (Romans/Albarado) – 4/1 – This one flipped the switch when he went from one-turn racing to two-turn racing and I loved what he showed last out. Despite a far outside post, and covering 12 more feet than Enticed (an admittedly miniscule difference) in the Kentucky Jockey Club, he came within a head of victory that day. He’s going to need a pace, but it’s worth noting that Robby Albarado is named to ride this one instead of Free Drop Billy. Withers Stakes (G3) Race 8 @ Aqueduct (4:35PM ET) Horses We’re Watching: AVERY ISLAND (McLaughlin/Bravo) – 8/5 – It’s hard for me to envision this race not going to Avery Island. He’s arguably the quickest runner in the bunch and he should get a perfect trip from just off the expected pacesetter, California Night. As that one tires, I don’t see a scenario where Avery Island doesn’t inherit the lead and stay on. He won the G2 Nashua on November 5 and was beaten by Catholic Boy in the G2 Remsen, a race that seemed to favor horses coming from further back. This time around, I think the race shape plays to his strengths and he gets the win at a short price. FIRENZE FIRE (Servis/McCarthy) – 9/5 – Everyone seemed to get down on this horse following his win in the Jerome, but I’m not sure why. Sure, he was all out at 2/5 odds to win that day, but what do you expect of a closer when forced to run behind fractions of :25, :50 4/5 and 1:16 3/5? I think it’s indisputable that a fast early face is the reason he won the G1 Champagne, but this horse still has that win on file. Problem is, I don’t see him getting a fast pace, nor do I see him necessarily excelling around two turns. He should give a good impression of himself, however. MARCONI (Pletcher/Franco) – 3/1 – Hard to decide what exactly to make of this one. On one hand, he’s a Todd Pletcher-trained son of Tapit that cost $2 million at auction and won last out by 5 ½-lengths. On the other, he’s Beyered 70 and 74 in two starts and needed 1:54 2/5 to go 1 1/8-miles last out, a mark that surely won’t get the job done here. This is the right spot to try him in a stakes race, though, and you have to think he’ll take another step forward. Robert B. Lewis Stakes (G3) Race 5 @ Santa Anita (5:30PM ET) Horses We’re Watching: PEACE (Mandella/Smith) – 3/1 – It’s hard to give him a confident nod over these, as 6-of-9 runners in the Robert Lewis exit maiden races (two maidens in the field). And Peace broke his maiden by just ¾-length over Regulate, who he faces again today but bombed in a subsequent race. Peace did run better in a pair of two-turn races and adds blinkers this time, but needs to take another step forward to validate his low odds. SHIVERMETIMBERS (Hollendorfer/Bejarano) – 7/2 – He’s one of just two entrants with experience in a dirt stakes race, having finished 4th last out in the G3 Sham Stakes against McKinzie. His effort that day was just mediocre, 4th of 6 beaten 7 ¾-lengths, but there’s no McKinzie this time around and he’ll move forward from that. REGULATE (Baffert/Talamo) – 8/1 – What do we make of Regulate? He debuted as a heavy favorite at Los Alamitos and didn’t run a step. Generally Baffert horses that debut at low odds run to those odds, so you have to think he’s regarded in the barn. Then, in his second start, he was 12/1 against Peace, but battled that one and was only defeated ¾-length. Then he came back in a similar race on January 19 and ran 6th, beaten 14 ¾-lengths, at 6/5 odds. But still, he’s a Juddmonte/Baffert horse and they’re confident enough to put him in a G3. It may be a reach, but I like that they’re taking the shot. Cross-Country Pick 4 The Stronach Group is excited to partner with the New York Racing Association to offer a Cross-Country Pick 4 of this Saturday’s top races. The sequence consists of the following races: 5:05PM ET - Aqueduct, Race 9 5:16PM ET – Gulfstream, Race 11 (Dania Beach Stakes) 5:30PM ET – Santa Anita, Race 5 (Robert B. Lewis Stakes) 5:49PM ET – Gulfstream, Race 12 (Holy Bull Stakes) Based on my picks above, you can get a good glimpse at who I’m playing. In the Dania Beach, I think you only need to cover to the two favorites – Untamed Domain (8/5) and Gidu (3/1). In the kickoff leg at Aqueduct, a maiden claiming race, I'm looking at Linda Rice's Daring Destiny (3/1), Greg Matties' Musicality (9/2), Charlie Baker's Barefoot Angel (5/1) and maybe, just maybe the 23rd time will be the charm for Miguel Vera's Catapult Jack (4/1) who has a remarkable aversion to winning. If you're looking for a bit of a price, check out John Toscano's Tammany Giant (6/1), who adds blinkers and gets back to (hopefully) fast-track sprinting for the first time since December, when he ran the best race of his life. Look for Cross-Country P4 on the Track List to play! Gulfstream 1 Million Point Split We’re upping the ante this Saturday at Gulfstream with a 1 Million Point Exacta Split! Hit Exacta Bets ($2 base minimum) on four different races and you’ll win an equal Split of the Points. Log In to register and play. Generally races with low-priced favorites are among the most popular in this sequence. I’d be keeping my eye on Strike Power (7/5) in Race 4, Dream Friend (7/2) in Race 8 and Untamed Domain (9/2) in Race 11 to get you started. My Gulfstream Late Pick 4 Ticket Here’s one way to attack today’s Late Pick 4. I think you can go short in the Dania Beach and go deeper around it. Keep an eye on the scratches in the Holy Bull. Assuming Romans doesn’t run all four of his entrants, you may be able to pare you ticket down there, too. Race 9: 1, 2, 6, 9 (13, if he draws in, should be included) Race 10: 1, 3, 4, 6, 7, 8 Race 11: 6, 7 Race 12: 1, 2, 4, 7 Ticket Cost: $96.00