June 21, 2018
They say all good things must come to an end and unfortunately for horseplayers, that’s the case this weekend at Santa Anita. The Great Race Place has carded races pretty much every week since last Christmas, so they’re in for a well deserved break. They’ve definitely earned it.
From Justify, McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro to Accelerate and City of Light, this year’s racing at Santa Anita has been nothing short of extraordinary. Their wager menu has also exceeded expectations. The Single Ticket Pick 6 has produced life-changing payouts, while the new Late Pick 5 has given handicappers more opportunities to play one of racing’s favorite bets.
But before Santa Anita shuts its doors for the summer, they’ve got an extraordinary closing weekend on the docket. Here are some of the highlights:
Justify Parades Saturday
Join Xpressbet to watch live simulcast coverage as Triple Crown hero Justify parades between races (time TBD) this Saturday. Plus, if you’re in the area, stop by the track and receive a free Justify poster and autograph from jockey Mike Smith.
Bet the San Carlos Stakes Saturday
Get ready for top sprinters to scorch across the Santa Anita dirt track in the Grade 2, $250,000 San Carlos Stakes. Bob Baffert’s American Anthem, who won the Grade 2 Woody Stephens last summer, leads the field, along with Doug O’Neill’s Stone Hands, who has won two races in a row. The San Carlos goes as Race 11 Saturday, at 8:00PM ET.
Mandatory Payouts Sunday
Everything must go Sunday, including the Pick 6 Jackpot Carryover, which is $42,663 heading into Thursday’s races. Pick 5’s, Pick 4’s and Super Hi-5’s will also have a mandatory payout on Sunday.
$500 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 Pools
Santa Anita is known for having the largest pools in North American racing, and the proof is in their guarantees. Both Friday and Saturday have $500,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 pools, offering even more incentive to jump in.
Saturday’s races have a special first post of 12:00PM ET, while Sunday gets underway at 12:30P ET. Don’t show up late – the 14% Takeout Players’ Pick 5 starts with Race 1 both days!
Huge races and great betting opportunities at Santa Anita, Keeneland and Aqueduct make this Saturday a massive day for handicappers. Here are my answers to five of the burning questions bettors are asking themselves. 1. Who has the edge in the Bolt d’Oro vs Justify Showdown? Who has the edge? Yikes! This is like a beauty contest between identical twins. They both have an edge! Bolt d’Oro has the experience, but he’s also such a gritty, determined horse. You just watch this horse race and it’s clear nothing fazes him. If he needs to close, he can close. If he needs to run near the front, he’ll do that too. Lock him in a battle and he’ll fight you. Remember that he broke from the rail in the San Felipe and ran behind horses until Javier Castellano tipped him outside of McKinzie. Not every horse wants to take dirt, but clearly Bolt d’Oro can do it. Justify, on the other hand, has so much raw talent. His way of moving is just so impressive and he makes racing look completely effortless. The fractions from his two-turn allowance debut on March 11 were quick (:22 2/5, :45, 1:09 3/5) and he still drew off like a pro when it mattered. Obviously, he’s far behind Bolt d’Oro in terms of experience (two career starts to Bolt d’Oro’s five), but based on talent, he may get the nod. I think Justify ‘won’ the draw in that he’s outside of Bolt d’Oro in an otherwise paceless race (although I expect Core Beliefs to get involved from the outside). That puts Javier Castellano in the unenviable position of deciding whether to gun Bolt d’Oro to the front, knowing Mike Smith will likely move to sit just off his flank – or – Castellano takes Bolt d’Oro back and risks Justify getting cozy up front and just running them off their feet. So what happens? If I had to pick, I think Justify wins the Santa Anita Derby. My guess is that Castellano uses Bolt d’Oro’s speed to put him on or near the lead and Justify sits the dream trip outside of him. And when the real running starts, I’ll give the slight nod to Justify with the ‘right’ trip. And remember, Derby Points are more at a premium for Justify, who HAS to finish 1st or 2nd here to make a trip to Louisville. Bolt d’Oro, by virtue of his San Felipe win, is already ‘in’ the Derby. He’s got 64 Points. Not saying he won’t be cranked, but his connections have had the benefit of circling May 5 on their calendar and working backward with a safety net. And remember, Saturday’s Santa Anita Derby is part of our Money-Back Guarantee promotion! Place a Win bet up to $20 on a horse in the Santa Anita Derby and we’ll refund your bet if they finish 2nd or 3rd. 2. Will Good Magic win the Blue Grass Stakes? Good Magic should win the Blue Grass Stakes with ease. But he won’t win the Blue Grass Stakes with ease. If he does win it, I’ll be surprised if it’s a blowout. Why? Personally, at this point, I don’t see how Good Magic isn’t overrated. Look, I get it. He won the G1 Breeders’ Cup Juvenile. But isn’t the Breeders’ Cup the anomaly right now? How excited am I supposed to get for a horse that’s 1-for-4 lifetime and has lost to Promises Fulfilled, Strike Power, Firenze Fire and Hazit? My top pick in the Blue Grass is Kanthaka. He ran into McKinzie and Bolt d’Oro last out and couldn’t run them down, but I’m not sure any 3YO in this crop could’ve that day. And I’d argue that race – beaten 6 ½-lengths by McKinzie – was better than Good Magic’s seasonal debut – also a 3rd, but beaten 4 ½-lengths by Promises Fulfilled. Kanthaka should get some pace to shoot at (Sporting Chance, Flameaway, Quip, Machismo) and with great Keeneland rider, Julien Leparoux, in the irons, I think he’s going to run a very big race. The Blue Grass Stakes is also part of our Money-Back Guarantee promotion! Place a Win bet up to $10 on a horse in the Blue Grass and we’ll refund your bet if they finish 2nd or 3rd. 3. How am I playing Santa Anita’s $1 Million Guaranteed Late Pick 4 Saturday? Santa Anita’s $1 Million Guaranteed Late Pick 4 kicks off with the G1 Santa Anita Derby and also includes the G2 Royal Heroine on the lawn and the G1 Santa Anita Oaks. Here’s my ticket: Race 9: #3 Bolt d’Oro, #6 JustifyRace 10: #3 Beau Recall, #5 Thundering Sky, #6 Enola Gray, #7 Madame StripesRace 11: #3 Midnight Bisou, #7 SpectatorRace 12: #1 Laseen, #2 Pantsonfire, #8 Hachi, #10 Queen Blossom Ticket Cost: $32 for 50-cents And remember, Saturday’s Santa Anita Late Pick 4 is part of our 0% Takeout promotion! Place a winning wager and we’ll deposit the amount you paid on takeout back into your account next week. 4. Who gets the Kentucky Derby Points in the Wood Memorial? Kentucky Derby Points are at a premium this time of the year, and 170 of them (100 for 1st, 40 for 2nd, 20 for 3rd and 10 for 4th) are on the line in Aqueduct’s G2 Wood Memorial. In the past, around 30-35 Points was needed to get into the ‘Run for the Roses.’ But remember, Europe’s Gronkowski has already won an automatic berth into the race by way of the European Road to the Kentucky Derby, which takes a spot away from a local runner. Enticed (63 Points), by virtue of his win in the G3 Gotham, is already in the Derby field. Firenze Fire (29 Points) is on the cusp, along with Old Time Revival (20 Points). But horses like Vino Rosso (7 Points), Restoring Hope (none), King Zachary (none) and Evaluator (none), all of whom could be good enough to run in the ‘Derby, need plenty of help. I think Enticed is simply the best horse in the Wood Memorial, and I think he’ll walk away with Points. Restoring Hope has done enough to entice Flavien Prat to leave Santa Anita on arguably its biggest Saturday of the meet to come to New York and ride, and I think that’s plenty of reason to put this progressive son of Giant’s Causeway on a plane to Louisville next. King Zachary is probably ‘too little too late,’ but I think he can get Points here, while Firenze Fire may do just enough to earn his trip. So, that’s my guess – Enticed and Restoring Hope get the ‘free passes’ from the Wood by virtue of finishing in the Top 2 and Firenze Fire squeaks into the equation, assuming his connections want to go. I’m not sold on his chances in route races. The Wood Memorial is also part of our Money-Back Guarantee promotion! Place a Win bet up to $10 on a horse in the Wood Memorial and we’ll refund your bet if they finish 2nd or 3rd. 5. Who else am I watching this weekend? Here are five other horses I think are poised to run well in stakes races this weekend: Bound for Nowhere in the G2 Shakertown at Keeneland (Race 7, 4:35PM ET). Disco Partner is the best turf sprinter in the field, but 5.5 furlongs is probably too short for him. Bound for Nowhere goes out for Wesley Ward, who always seems to win at Keeneland, and got a good sharpener last month at Turfway. Monomoy Girl in the G1 Ashland at Keeneland (Race 9, 5:45PM ET). I think she’s among the best three-year-old fillies in the country and nobody else in this field is near her level. Paved in the G3 Providencia at Santa Anita (Race 5, 4:30P ET). She won the El Camino Real Derby last time out and broke her maiden by 5 1/2-lengths on the Santa Anita turf in January. Take the One O One in the Echo Eddie at Santa Anita (Race 6, 5:00PM ET). He finished 3rd in the FrontRunner behind Bolt d'Oro and won his seasonal debut here after a layoff. He seems to be a CA-bred with strong upside. Control Group in the G3 Excelsior at Aqueduct (Race 7, 4:11PM ET). He’s won three straight and six of seven, including the G3 Discovery and Empire Classic. Loves this distance (5-for-6) and makes the most sense.
Santa Anita’s Opening Day card is in the books and, from a wagering perspective, it couldn’t have gone any smoother. Handle was up a remarkable 18.5% over last year, with huge fields and exciting finishes. It was great to see McKinzie strut his stuff in the Malibu and I can’t wait to see what he’s able to accomplish in 2019. Pegasus? Dubai? Breeders’ Cup? Have to assume all options are on the table.But enough about Opening Day. Let’s take a look at Saturday, where a pair of graded stakes races headline the card. Three-year-old fillies are on display in the Grade 1 American Oaks and older fillies and mares look for Grade 3 glory in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes. From a betting perspective, there is a $1,000,000 Single Winner Guarantee on the 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 and the Early and Late Pick 4 will surely be popular bets for horseplayers. Plus, the Early Pick 5 has an industry low 14% takeout that can’t be ignored.First post at Santa Anita is 3:00PM ET. Here are my picks. Race 1 – Maiden Special WeightTough little turf MSW to start off the card and the problem I see is none of these have really ever run a race that screams ‘bet me next time!’ Horses like MY SWEET BABOO, MERCY MERCY, STYLIN OCEAN and HELLO BUBBLES have all been relatively flat down the lane…and they’re the favorites. What if we take a bit of a shot with TRUFFALINO? She broke slowly in her debut at Del Mar on November 10 and pretty much raced with the field throughout. She wasn’t bet much that day but perhaps she’ll run better this time around. The price should be right.1. Truffalino (12/1)2. Hello Bubbles (4/1)3. My Sweet Baboo (5/2)Race 2 – Claiming Tyler Baze is a phenomenal gate jockey and he just seems to have the ability to comfortably put his horses in front. If he can do that here with CAIIFORNIA CLONE, they might be tough to catch. He sent her to the front in a similar race at Los Alamitos last out, but she got tired that day and couldn’t quite hold on. This is her second start off the layoff and let’s see what she has in the tank this time around. Joel Rosario picks up the mount on FACTS MATTER and that’s the one I’d use in the Exacta with CAIIFORNIA CLONE. 1. Caiifornia Clone (7/2)2. Facts Matter (2/1)3. Rolls Royce Deal (12/1)Race 3 – Maiden ClaimingCalifornia-breds take center stage and I’m putting my money on NAOMI FRALEY, who goes out for Bill Morey after a solid debut at Los Alamitos. She only missed by a length and a half that day and earned a decent Beyer (55) in the process. That’s the highest dirt figure of anyone in the field. COMEGOWITHME adds Lasix and should be on the front from the outside, so I’m intrigued by that one, along with A DIME FOR ME, who ran well in her debut on November 30 at Del Mar.1. Naomi Fraley (3/1)2. A Dime for Me (5/1)3. Comegowithme (8/1)Race 4 – Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes ($150,000)Interesting race as the two fillies that have dominated this division of late, Vasilika and Cambodia, aren’t signed on. FAHAN MURA probably has the most raw talent of these, but she’s practically a runoff speedster and this distance is pushing her limit. She does love Santa Anita (5-for-6 here in her career) but she’s just impossible to trust. EXCELLENT SUNSET is probably a safer bet. She finished ahead of several of these in the Kathryn Crosby at Del Mar in November and just got swallowed up in a massive field last out in the Grade 1 Matriarch as she attempted to close from last. She’ll have a better go of it this time around. 1. Excellent Sunset (7/2)2. Escape Clause (7/2)3. Fahan Mura (5/2)Race 5 – ClaimingAs a bettor, Bill Spawr is a trainer I’ve come to appreciate. His horses always just seem to be well placed and they always seem to run how they should. He doesn’t have the deepest or most talented barn on the Santa Anita backside, but his horses do well. His entrant here, MATRICULATE, is 4-for-16 at Santa Anita and he got a good sharpener last out at Del Mar after breaking from the rail. He moves to a better post this time (#5) and is the likeliest of these in my book. PAPA TURF is the only other horse I’m looking at. I loved his win two back here, but it’s interesting that he made the lead so easily that day and has never really done that in the last year. I think he needs to make the front in order to win and MONTEREY SHALE, BOY HOWDY or WHISKEY GINGER could beat him to the punch. 1. Matriculate (7/2)2. Will Tell (8/1)3. Whiskey Ginger (5/1)Race 6 – Claiming Let’s go all or nothing with Isidro Tamayo’s J T’S A.T.M., who bring a precarious ‘need the lead’ style to this race. He’s been running up at Golden Gate in tougher races and this is actually the first time they’ve entered him for a tag. He has enough speed to go to the front early and if he’s able to shake clear, I don’t know if I see anyone in here besides MADARNAS that can catch him late. And that one is far out of form and may not be ready to run anything close to a winning race.1. J T’s A.T.M. (5/1)2. Treasure Hunter (4/1)3. Madarnas (5/1)Race 7 – Maiden Claiming GLEYBER hasn’t had much luck in his career as he’s now made the front three times before plummeting back through the field. Granted, those races came against open MSW competition and now he drops in for a $30,000 claiming tag, so he’ll do better here. VIOLENT BEHAVIOR gets a little extra ground after coming up just short in two straight races and I think she’s a logical top pick. Impossible to pick a first-time starter in a race like this without seeing the horse but have to think BACHCHAN may have a say here. He’s a homebred for Kaleem Shah and before we worry too much about starting his career in for a tag, he’s a modestly bred son of Concord Point and Shah might just be trying to get some good numbers into the stallion. 1. Violent Behavior (7/2)2. Bachchan (10/1)3. Gleyber (6/1)Race 8 – Grade 1 American Oaks ($300,000)Really nice edition of this race with PAVED getting back in against three-year-olds after making her last two starts against Grade 1 older fillies and mares. She ran great to split Vasilika and Cambodia in the Rodeo Drive Stakes here but was no match for the world’s best in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on November 3. That’s OK, though. Nobody in here is that good and she’s the filly to beat on paper. The only concern is a lack of speed, which could benefit CALIFORNIAGOLDRUSH. She made an early move to win the Grade 2 Sands Point at Saratoga in September and the only concern is whether she’ll be ready off the layoff. My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, sees this race a little differently. Here is his analysis and $100 betting strategy as part of his Xpressbet Race of the Week article. 1. Paved (3/1)2. Californiagoldrush (5/2)3. Colonia (6/1)Race 9 – Starter Allowance Have to expect this field will be scorching the track early, so my approach is to either bet the ‘speed of the speed’ or focus on a closer that can pass horses. Not sold on many of the speed horses, so I’ll look for the latter. KID CANTINA will take some money due to a ‘troubled’ chart comment in his last but I think you could argue that he balked at going through a hole up the inside and he didn’t really explode when they found racing room. MAYAN WARRIOR nearly won a much tougher turf race at Del Mar, but what does that mean for today? He doesn’t have to have the lead, but his inside draw (Post 2) could force their hand. ORACLE OF OMAHA drew best and should get a good tracking trip from behind the speed. 1. Oracle of Omaha (5/2)2. Mayan Warrior (5/1)3. Kid Cantina (6/1)Race 10 – Maiden Claiming This is a nice little turf dash down the hill and I think STORMING LADY has a huge chance to take this field gate-to-wire. I hate betting maidens who continue to fail as the favorite (just as this filly has) but she should get a great setup here. Plus, I love the jockey switch to Joel Rosario. STRENGTHINNUMBERS could complete a very formful Exacta. She’s run well here before but she’s pace dependent and I just have a hard time betting closers on this course. Of the more ‘under the radar’ horses, how about BREEZY BEE? She ran great off a year-long layoff at Del Mar and will move forward here. 1. Storming Lady (3/1)2. Breezy Bee (6/1)3. Strengthinnumbers (7/2)