by Dustin Fabian
December 24, 2019
You’ve probably heard by now but Santa Anita isn’t opening December 26.
There’s rain in the forecast for South California – quite a bit of rain it seems – and I applaud the early decision to postpone Opening Day to Saturday. While it flies in the face of tradition (Santa Anita Opening December 26 is as popular in circles as the chubby guy in the red suit visiting houses on December 25), it’s the right call to hit ‘pause’ for two days.
From a handicapping perspective, postponing Opening Day should allow the turf races to stay on the grass and for the dirt races to be contested over a fast track. Plus, it combines those races with an already loaded Saturday card to offer a day of racing that includes seven stakes races, six of which are graded. Here’s that list, along with key contenders in each:
Race 2 (2:30PM ET): Lady of Shamrock S. – Brill, Sold It, Keeper Ofthe Stars
Race 5 (4:00PM ET): San Antonio S. (G2) – Gift Box, Midcourt, Gray Magician
Race 6 (4:30PM ET): American Oaks (G1) – Lady Prancealot, Apache Princess
Race 7 (5:00PM ET): La Brea S. (G1) – Bellafina, Mother Mother, First Star
Race 8 (5:30PM ET): Robert J. Frankel S. (G3) – Mirth, Excellent Sunset
Race 9 (6:00PM ET): Malibu S. (G1) – Omaha Beach, Compexity, Roadster
Race 10 (6:30PM ET): Mathis Brothers Mile (G2) – Mo Forza, Kingly, Neptune’s Storm
At Xpressbet, we’re giving away 2 Million XB Rewards Points on Opening Day. Hit the Early Pick 5 (Races 1 – 5) to Split 1 Million Points and the Late Pick 4 (Races 8 – 11) to Split a ‘Mil.
Plus, we’re offering the Santa Anita Opening Day Challenge handicapping tournament online. Put up the $1,500 Buy-In and you could win NHC Seats, PWCBC Seats and big cash prizes.
I took a look at the Late Pick 4. Here’s my ticket:
Race 8 – Robert J. Frankel Stakes (G3)
I was a big backer of MIRTH (D’Amato/Smith) two starts ago in the G1 Rodeo Drive as she was lone-speed against a mediocre field. They attempted to parlay that victory into a G1 Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf score and she finished a respectable 6th that day behind the likes of Iridessa, Sistercharlie, Vasilika and others. Not too shabby, but she’s going to be overbet here. HARMLESS (Hess/Cedillo) should keep her comfortable up front. Problem is, who else is there? EXCELLENT SUNSET (Baltas/Rosario) makes her first start off the trainer change and has been knocking on the door lately. TINY TINA (D’Amato/Prat) could be worth a longshot look. She reunites with Flavien Prat and is a winner going this distance on this course.
Race 9 – Runhappy Malibu Stakes (G1)
A nice field is assembled for the G1 Malibu Stakes but with just five horses and a powerhouse performer like OMAHA BEACH (Mandella/Smith) in the fray, bettors are challenged to decide whether or not he’s worth trying to beat. His rivals include three Bob Baffert trainees – ROADSTER (Rosario), MANNY WAH (Hill) and MUCH BETTER (Prat) and a Chad Brown shipper, COMPLEXITY (Castellano). Of the Baffert’s, the only worry to Omaha Beach seems to be Roadster while Complexity is 3-for-4 sprinting in New York. All of that said, Omaha Beach is a single on my ticket because if he brings his A-game, they’ll all be chasing him to the wire.
Race 10 – Mathis Brothers Mile (G2)
As recently as September, MO FORZA (Miller/Rosario) was an 0-for-5 maiden with no apparent interest in winning races. Since then, he’s won three races in a row – including a G1 and a G2 – and is arguably the top three-year-old turf horse in California. He’s nearly beat all of his rivals in here already, but the presence of a few outside-drawn ‘new shooters’ (Loafers Boy and Bob and Jackie) could heat up the front end. In the event that the pace comes back to the field, I’m going to use ORIGINAIRE (Mullins/Rispoli) and OCEAN FURY (O’Neill/Prat), along with Mo Forza.
Race 11 – Maiden Claiming
The ‘get out’ leg is a difficult state-bred maiden claiming event and I’m going to use a few of these to get through. Here are my horses with some quick rationale. INCLUDE THE TAX (McCarthy/Rosario) gets Joel Rosario and this is the first time he’ll run two races in a row without a layoff line. CHAMPS SUCCESS (Bonde/Cedillo) was well-backed in his debut but failed to fire. A similar comment is true for TIGER THE MAN (Koriner/Blanc). PAPA TONY (Papaprodromou/Pereira) could be the fastest of these early while JUNGLE BOY (Miyadi/Velaz) is a firster for a solid barn and TOTALLY TIGER (Lerner/Figueroa) drops in from facing MSW horses and stakes horses in each of five previous starts.
Race 8: #1 Tiny Tina, #2 Excellent Sunset, #7 Mirth
Race 9: #5 Omaha Beach
Race 10: #2 Originaire, #3 Ocean Fury, #5 Mo Forza
Race 11: #2 Include the Tax, #3 Champs Success, #5 Tiger the Man, #8 Papa Tony, #9 Jungle Boy, #11 Totally Tiger
Ticket Cost: $27 for 50-cents