by Jeff Siegel
October 9, 2018
XBTV Senior Racing Analyst Jeff Siegel recaps last weekend's action from Santa Anita Park and identifies horses to watch going forward. Follow Jeff on Twitter, @jsiegelracing.
RECAP – MONDAY, OCTOBER 8, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Two horses that had been voided claims in their previous starts – Allaboutaction and Junior Gilliam - finished one-two in the fourth race, but not in the order the punters expected. Allaboutaction left at the ridiculously low price of 30 cents on the dollar but couldn’t quite hang on. However, this time he passed the state’s post-race examinations and went to trainer Javier Sierra for $32,000. Good claim. No, not really. Junior Gilliam has his issues, too, but on the same day that the Dodgers advanced to the National League Championship Series the team’s former second baseman’s namesake could have been played on that factor alone.
Something more than an allegiance to a local home team might have been required to back Lakerball in the Surfer Girl Stakes. A maiden claiming winner with Beyers in the 50’s and making her first start around two turns and her first on grass, Lakerball was quickly sent to establish the running and somehow managed to keep going, holding on by a desperate head at 33-1 over Lady Prancealot, who had her chance, kept to her task, but was simply held at bay. As for the unbeaten odds-on favorite Summering, she was buried on the rail (or in some form of traffic) throughout most of the race yet was beaten less than two lengths. That said, there’s some doubt as to how much run she would have produced if she had ever gotten clear. Her connections certain can justify tossing out the race, but our eyes tell us that, trouble or not, she was far below the form she had displayed at Del Mar and in our mind now clearly ranks well below her New York counterpart, Newspaperofrecord, among North American-based two-year-old fillies on grass.
The boys’ turn in the 2-year-old turf division came in the eighth race, the Zuma Beach Stakes, which was clocked in 1:34.35, a time .88 seconds faster than the Surfer Girl. King of Speed, winner of the Del Mar Juvenile Turf in his last outing, duplicated that performance by producing the final run inside, just as he had done last time out. He’s a big colt and not terrible handy, but Gary Stevens knows him well and fits him perfectly, and the son of Jimmy Creed was able to wear down the pace-pressing favorite Much Better in the final sixteenth to win by more than a length. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf in Kentucky is next, but we don’t suppose that Aidan O’Brien is too concerned. As for Baffert’s colt, we were expecting a bit more fight from Much Better when he was challenged late. The distance shouldn’t have been an issue; the son of Pioneerof the Nile, who is bred for dirt on both sides, probably will go back to the main track and stay there.
RECAP – SUNDAY, OCTOBER 7, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
The Sunday opener – a nine-furlong optional claimer on turf for fillies and mares – projected to be slowly run early, and if you identified Jazaalah as the controlling speed you probably cashed a ticket at $9.80. Exiting a series of quick, shorter races, she certainly looked capable of making the running but even those who backed her probably didn’t expect to see her completely loose on the lead through an opening half in 50 4/5 seconds. Still, favored Siberian Iris had every chance from the top of the lane to the wire but was never going to get by; she’s now been favored in five of her 11 career starts and has failed every time. Meanwhile, Lynn’s Legacy, wrangled back after the break by Rafael Bejarano, was given an impossible task considering the race shape and ran the best race of all when closing against the grain to wind up fourth, beaten just over a length. On our watch, the Doug O’Neill-trained mare came the final quarter in 22 3/5 seconds and deserved better.
It was great to see Skye Diamonds regain her winning form in the L. A. Woman; she had spun her wheels over the deep, tiring Del Mar surface and failed to launch a rally in the Rancho Bernardo when essentially facing the same group. Today she got her traction and had little difficultly wearing down heavily-favored Anonymity in the final sixteenth. The Bill Spawr-trained daughter of First Dude is scheduled to be sold in Kentucky next month but could make her next and perhaps final start in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Sprint just a couple of days before that. Anonymity certainly has talent, but this is the third time in six career starts that she’s been beaten at odds-on. Looks like it’s time to accept that she’s not as good as we thought she was going to be.
Just Grazed Me had an excuse when she finishing a well-beaten second in the Torrey Pines Stakes, a graded-stakes for 3-year-old fillies at Del Mar in her first try around two turns. The daughter of Grazen lost a considerable amount of ground in that race and then flattened out late when beaten more than three lengths by True Royalty while seeing her Beyer speed figure drop 10 points off her previous stakes winning sprint score. But after finishing second again – this time in a first-level allowance main track miler while beaten more than 11 lengths by the highly impressive (and arguably vastly improved) Secret Spice with no visual excuse, it’s time to concede that she is much, much better around one turn and should return to sprinting for good. Grazen could stay a middle-distance and has sired good middle-distance winners, but Just Graze Me is out of a Cuvee mare. You’re not going to run too far with that bottom line.
RECAP – SATURDAY, OCTOBER 6, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Emtech had worked well enough to win at first asking if properly spotted, and the son of Concord Point certainly was in the proper race in the third, a maiden $75,000 claimer for juveniles. The Kaleem Shah homebred dug down deep and found more when bravely holding off Haydens Havoc, who had the length of the lane to get by but never could. Somebody though Emtech was worth the money but the claim was voided when Emtech failed to pass the state vet’s post-race inspection.
It’s Gonna Hurt just won a high-priced maiden claimer with a moderate speed number over the Del Mar main track, but The Speakeasy Stakes was a five-furlong grass test, so with City Zip on the bottom side of the pedigree trainer Brian Koriner figured why not give the son of Violence a chance? After all, a 2-year-old who breaks his maiden this time of the year on this circuit doesn’t have many choices. An $80,000 2-year-old in training buy in Ocala in April, It’s Gonna Hurt showed good gate speed from the rail to establish the running and then fought off Los Alamitos maiden winner Whooping Jay, who rallied inside, and the Wesley Ward filly Mae Never No (who had every chance outside) to hold sway gamely. The Breeders’ Cup Juvenile Turf Sprint mostly likely is next. Well-backed Hartel, who had a couple of hard races at Del Mar, was flat and uninterested, winding up a dull fifth in the six-runner field.
It was Roy H’s turn this time in the Santa Anita Sprint Championship, with the veteran gelding wearing down stable mate and pacesetter Distinctive B, while main rival Ransom the Moon was making no impression in the final furlong to settle for a non-threatening third. All three reportedly are headed to Kentucky for the Breeders’ Cup Sprint, and while the defending BC champion Roy H has a history of rising to the occasion, none of these are going to worry Imperial Hint if that Eastern-based horse shows up with his “A” game. Last year, Roy H earned a 115 Beyer figure when winning the BC Sprint; by way of comparison he was assigned 100 for today’s victory. What’s 15 points at six furlongs on the Beyer scale? Six lengths.
It’s a good thing the photo finish camera was invented 80 years ago, otherwise, the stewards might have declared Fly to Mars the winner of the City of Hope Mile, a valuable win-and-you’re in Breeders’ Cup race, rather than Sharp Samurai, whose rider (Gary Stevens) dropped his whip inside the furlong pole. No matter to Sharp Samurai, who kept on bravely and got the money nonetheless thanks to a well-timed head bob. Both could meet again in the Breeders’ Cup Mile at Churchill Downs but despite each being thoroughly genuine, consistent, admirable, we’ll doubt they’ll be any match for whatever six horses the Europeans choose to send over for the race.
RECAP – FRIDAY, OCTOBER 5, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
We rarely see Australian horses migrate to North America – the form is sometimes difficult to classify, purse money is very strong, and you can’t buy them cheap – but good ones can come from anywhere and Oleksandra, who’d had a couple of runs down under, certainly caught the eye in her U.S. debut in the second race. The daughter of Animal Kingdom from the good race mare Alexandra Rose was foaled on Southern Hemisphere time - she’s an October foal so she’s actually just turning four – and still has plenty of upside. Knocked back hard at the start and all but eliminated in this downhill turf sprint, the Neil Drysdale-trained filly under Mike Smith bided her time until inside the furlong pole and then produced an impressive turn of foot to be up in time by a neck. There probably wasn’t much behind her but she did gallop out far in front as if to indicate that with added distance she can be highly competitive on the raise.
In the featured seventh race, a first-level nine-furlong turf allowance restricted to 3-year-olds, Andesh was a very pleasing winner while leaving his previous form far behind, just as trainer Phil D’Amato expected him to. Second to Mendelssohn in his debut at The Curragh last August and never off the board in five starts in Ireland as a 2-year-old, the son of Medicean failed to make any real impression in a pair of Del Mar races (most recently in the Del Mar Derby when he was buried inside and couldn’t mount a rally) but got a confidence building score here against a reasonable group while flying home the final furlong in 11 2/5 seconds. One would assume the Twilight Derby-G2 Nov. 4 will be next.
POSTMORTEMS – THURSDAY, OCTOBER 4, 2018 – SANTA ANITA
Jockey Tyler Baze was riding Subic Bay for the first time in the Thursday opener, a $20,000 claiming miler on grass for fillies and mares. He probably was expecting a bit more turn of foot from the veteran mare when a small hole appeared to open a furlong from home. But Subic Bay, a prototype grinder, couldn’t quicken when asked and instead got locked in behind the traffic before being forced to steady sharply when the hole closed completely. The Jeff Mullins-trained mare wound up fourth, beaten just over two lengths, after which Baze claimed foul against the second and third place finishers, but the stewards ruled that Subic Bay was trying to find room when none really existed and made no change. If Baze rides her back, he’ll most likely change tactics and ask the mare to commence her rally earlier while taking the overland route to produce a longer, steady move. It might work.
Pitino, a Union Rags colt that brought $950,000 at the OBS March sale last year, was making just his third career start in the second race, a main track miler for older maidens. He’d shown a bit of promise in his first two outings, a troubled sixth last November at Del Mar and then, in his comeback, a runner-up effort (though subsequently disqualified for drifting out) in a five-furlong turf sprint in late August. Much better was expected when stretching out for the first and returning to dirt while facing what appeared to a modest field. But after establishing a very easy lead through crawling splits, the Doug O’Neill-trained colt waved the white flag at the head of the lane and faded readily, winding up third, beaten almost six lengths. At this stage of his career, he’s heading nowhere. The winner turned out to be Pleasant d’Oro, who appreciated stalking tactics before kicking clear with authority while earning a career top 84 Beyer speed figure. This was just his fifth career start for the $350,000 yearling purchase by Medaglia d’Oro, so it appears trainer Simon Callaghan has something to work with.
After finished an excellent second in the Generous Portion Stakes in her racing debut at Del Mar in late August, Mucho Unusual dropped into a maiden state-bred sprint for easy pickings in the third and demolished her out-classed foes by more than eight lengths. The margin could have been considerably more had Flavien Prat not eased up the daughter of Mucho Macho Man inside the sixteenth pole. She’s certainly bred to run long and, being out of an Unusual Heat mare, handle turf, so trainer Tim Yakteen has a few options. There’s a whole lot money to be made when sticking with state-bred competition with this type of filly.