by Dustin Fabian
May 24, 2018
Preakness hangover? Only if you were at InfieldFest! For those who sat out the rain-drenched festivities (and even for those of us – including yours truly – who dipped their toe into the mud that day), we’re on to another phenomenal weekend of racing.
Saturday’s bi-coastal features come to us from Santa Anita and Monmouth. Santa Anita has a loaded docket that includes a sensational edition of the Grade 1 Gold Cup, featuring Accelerate, Dr. Dorr and City of Light. Talk about star power! And not to be outdone, Monmouth has four stakes races Saturday, headlined by the Grade 2 Monmouth Stakes, which stars Divisidero, Force the Pass, Money Multiplier and Frostmourne.
Need some help to kick start your handicapping? That’s where I come in. Here are the races – and bets – I’m most looking forward to on Saturday.
GOLD CUP AT SANTA ANITA (Race 5, 5:30PM ET) - Grade 1, $500,000
This year’s Gold Cup is not light on talent, as three budding stars – ACCELERATE, DR. DORR and CITY OF LIGHT square off. Let’s take a look at the contenders.
The logical starting spot is ACCELERATE, who won the Grade 1 Santa Anita Handicap here in March. He was bet to 5/2 that day, and was absolutely hammered in his next start – the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap – where he started as the overwhelming 6/5 favorite. He finished second that day. He’s back to his home track and will be ridden by Victor Espinoza, with whom he’s 3-for-6 with in his career. He’s not the flashiest horse in the world, but you can almost always count on him to run a strong race.
Next up is CITY OF LIGHT. And wow, you REALLY have to respect this animal. Burdened by an outside post in the Grade 2 Oaklawn Handicap, he swept to the front despite a wide trip and held off Accelerate down the stretch. I really liked his performance, especially since that was his first two-turn race. He won the Triple Bend and Malibu while sprinting, so this whole ‘routing’ thing is new to him. But the way he looked in the Oaklawn race, the sky is the limit.
Finally, there’s DR. DORR. You may not have heard of him yet, especially with all of his famous Bob Baffert-trained stablemates (Justify, West Coast, McKinzie, Solomini, Abel Tasman, Collected, Mubtaahij, Hoppertunity) stealing the spotlight. But DR. DORR might be as good as any of them. He’s a son of another Baffert-trainee, Lookin At Lucky, and he won the G2 Californian last out by 7 ¼-lengths. For a horse that took a long time to get going – and had plenty of stops-and-starts on his resume, it’s nice to see him still going strong.
GAMELY STAKES (Race 8, 7:00PM ET) – Grade 1, $300,000
Fillies and mares take to the turf in the Grade 1 Gamely and this field is as deep as it gets. I wouldn’t even feel comfortable hitting the ALL button! HAWKSMOOR ships west for Arnaud Delacour and this is a serious mare. She’s won or placed in four graded races since last May, including a victory in the Grade 2 New York Stakes at Belmont. The last time she came to California, she ran second in the Grade 1 Matriarch. Another shipper is Chad Brown’s UNI. She’s 2-for-5 since coming to the US from France and won the Grade 2 Sands Point Stakes last September at Belmont. No reason to think she doesn’t give her best. BEAU RECALL took advantage of a sizzling pace to win the Grade 2 Royal Heroine here last out and that makes her dangerous, while MADAM DANCEALOT gets back to California after a failed attempt on the wet course at Churchill Downs on Derby Day in the G2 Distaff Turf Mile.
$500,000 GUARANTEED LATE PICK 4 (Races 6 – 9)
The best bet of the day at Santa Anita just may be the $500,000 Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (with the 14% Takeout Players’ Pick 5 – Races 1 – 5 – part of the coupled entry of ‘best bets’). The Late Pick 4 includes both the Gamely (Race 8) and the Charles Whittingham (Race 6), as well as a pair of tricky maiden races that will test your handicapping acumen. The sequence starts at 6:00PM ET.
SALVATOR MILE (Race 11, 5:58PM ET) – Grade 3, $100,000
There are four stakes races Saturday at Monmouth, but two grabbed my attention the most. Jorge Navarro sends out SHAFT OF LIGHT in the Salvator Mile, and Navarro couldn’t be off to a better start at Monmouth, winning with 11-of-23 starters in the first few weeks of the meet. SHAFT OF LIGHT is generally considered a sprinter, so this two-turn, one-mile race will test him. SUNNY RIDE, who loves Monmouth (2-for-3 lifetime) will also put forth a test. His trainer, Jason Servis, knows how to get a horse ready to run in graded stakes races and he’s won with 26% of starters this year. Eight-year-old veteran, PAGE MCKENNEY, would love a fast pace. He’ll be closing from far back, but this veteran of 55 starts will need help. He’s 0-for-5 at this distance and his races are usually longer than this.
MONMOUTH STAKES (Race 12, 6:29PM ET) – Grade 2, $200,000
The Monmouth Stakes is one of the day’s best races, with a number of top turf horses squaring off. I’ve always been enamored with FROSTMOURNE, so my handicapping starts there. He’s a five-time winner (in just nine starts) and he won the Grade 2 Penn Mile last summer. He’s twice on from a far outside post, as well. Chad Brown sends out a 1-2 combo of PROJECTED and MONEY MULTIPLER, and either could win. Chad Brown turf horses run well pretty much everywhere, and note that Jose Ortiz makes the trip to Monmouth to ride PROJECTED. That’s high praise. DIVISDERO makes his six-year-old debut Saturday. And hasn’t he been around forever? I remember watching him break his maiden at huge odds at Gulfstream. This is his first start with new trainer, Kelly Rubley, but you may want to give him a start or two to find his best stride.
$150,000 SINGLE TICKET GUARANTEE PICK 5 (Races 9 – 13)
Monmouth has upped the ante on its Late Pick 5 (Races 9 – 13), which includes all four stakes races. If there is just a single winning ticket in the Pick 5 – unlikely, but not impossible, that person will receive a guaranteed $150K, regardless of field size. Not too bad! In addition to the four stakes races, the ‘get out’ leg of the Pick 5 is an 8-horse claiming race that is sure to be a bad dash to the wire.
Good luck Saturday!