by Jeremy Plonk
December 21, 2021
The traditional Dec. 26 opening day at Santa Anita is one of those few racing dates on the annual calendar that feels like a true season kickoff. Graded stakes a fresh feelings abound for a new year that's just days away. The Grade 1 American Oaks used to be a summer staple at the former Hollywood Park, but times have changed, and so has the depth of the opening day card at Santa Anita. As Race 11, the American Oaks anchors a stuffed holiday lineup that includes the Grade 1 Malibu, Grade 1 La Brea, Grade 2 Mathis Brothers Mile, Grade 2 San Gabriel and Grade 2 San Antonio.
Horseplayers on the Xpressbet and 1/ST BET platforms can take part in Saturday's Santa Anita Park late pick 4 and late pick 5 hit-and-split promotions that end in the American Oaks. Win your late pick 4 bet and split $5,000 in additional cash with other horseplayers on the platform who found success; there's $3,000 extra up for grabs in the late pick 5.
GOING GLOBAL is the field of 11's lone Grade 1 winner to date. FLUFFY SOCKS is a Grade 2 winner and Grade 1-placed. BURGOO ALLEY has scored at the Grade 3 level. Both CLOSING REMARKS and NICEST are Grade 1-placed.
A modest pace is expected with perhaps BURGOO ALLEY setting the tone. Outside-drawn EDDIE'S NEW DREAM and SINGLE SOUL could also show some early interest, but none of these are confirmed pacemakers. A deep closer could be compromised.
GOING GLOBAL has had a remarkable 7: 6-1-0 year that came up a diminishing, half-length short of perfect when runner-up in the 1-mile San Clemente. She's been best at 1-1/8 miles and will extend beyond that trip for the first time. She's 4-4 over 3 different distances at Santa Anita and there's no major smudge on her record. While surprisingly not bet to favoritism vs. Princess Grace on the Breeders' Cup undercard, there's little doubt she'll be solidly favored here.
The 2-3 finishers behind GOING GLOBAL in the Grade 1 Del Mar Oaks return for another shot. CLOSING REMARKS and FLUFFY SOCKS had mixed results going east after that one. CLOSING REMARKS regressed in the Grade 1 Queen Elizabeth II Challenge Cup at Keeneland over a yielding turf course; she'll likely bounce back over the firmness at Santa Anita. FLUFFY SOCKS moved forward to win the Grade 2 Sands Point at Belmont for Chad Brown and earned a career-best 101 BRIS late pace figure. FLUFFY SOCKS strikes me as the one best equipped on style and pedigree for the additional distance.
NICEST just missed vs. elders in the Grade 3 Red Carpet at Del Mar in her second US start. She had been third to superstar Snowfall in the Group 1 Irish Oaks before being sent across the Atlantic. She stalked a very slow pace at Del Mar over 1-3/8 miles and should be tough on the cut-back in trip and with some other targets to pursue. Give her a big chance back in with her age group.
BURGOO ALLEY has won 3 of her last 5 but has followed up the previous wins with setbacks. She's yet to win beyond a mile and will be taking a class rise off the Grade 3 Autumn Miss. The distance and class extensions are a lot to ask in one swoop. But you could do worse than Umberto Rispoli and Phil D'Amato in SoCal turf tests.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
GOING GLOBAL's impeccable domestic record makes her a near certainty for the superfecta.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
SINGLE SOUL comes out of the same long-distance stakes vs. elders as does NICEST and was just behind that one. The rider change to Jose Ortiz helps in addition to the return to fellow 3-year-olds. She could be forwardly placed and stick around a long way for a share.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$60 win NICEST. $20 exacta box NICEST and GOING GLOBAL ($40).