by Dustin Fabian
January 9, 2020
Stakes races at the sport’s marquee tracks, Santa Anita and Gulfstream, are the name of the game this time of the year. And why wouldn’t they be? During the winter months, many of North America’s top horses are stabled in Los Angeles and Miami, making those two historic venues the logical landing spot for top horses to make their next starts.
Santa Anita’s Saturday slate features a pair of graded races, the G3 La Canada for older fillies and mares on the dirt and the G3 Las Cienegas for the ladies sprinting on the lawn. The card is also bolstered by a 14% Takeout Early Pick 5 and a 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 with a $300K+ carryover. You can find my picks for the Santa Anita Late Pick 4 later in this article.
Across the country at Gulfstream, turf stars will strut their stuff in the G3 Tropical Turf Stakes and G3 Marshua’s River Stakes. The field for the Tropical Turf is particularly enticing as it showcases three-time stakes winner A Thread of Blue and stakes winners Maraud, Empire of War, Gunnison, Gemonteer, Exulting, Sand Dancer and Gidu. Plus going into Thursday’s races, the Rainbow 6 carryover at Gulfstream was $1.8M.
I didn’t handicap those races in this week’s blog, but my colleagues Jeremy Plonk and Jerry Shottenkirk are all over them. Here are their picks:
And on the commercial front, we’ve got a lot of cool stuff going on this weekend at Xpressbet. Check it out:
But enough about that – here are my thoughts on the weekend’s Santa Anita Races
Race 3 (4:30PM ET) – G3 Las Cienegas Stakes
Not in the Late Pick 4 (likely due to field size), the G3 Las Cienegas only attracted five runners but it’s hard to deny this is a quality group. JOLIE OLIMPICA was a private purchase by Fox Hill Farm from Brazil and is a perfect 3-for-3 in her career. She won a G1 in her most recent start and while this race may be nothing more than a prep for bigger and better, she seems to fit nicely here. STORM THE HILL is a heralded runner for Phil D’Amato but this will be her shortest race in years. She won on the downhill course going 6 1/2 furlongs in November 2018, but will she find the same success going 5 1/2 furlongs?
1. #3 Jolie Olimpica (6/5)
2. #4 An Eddie Surprise (8/1)
3. #1 Storm the Hill (9/5)
And now for the Late Pick 4:
Race 6 (6:00PM ET) – Starter Allowance
This is a strong field of nine and it’d be hard to build a strong case for (or against) any single horse in here. All nine entrants have a record that boasts just one win and all have started between five and 13 times. So these aren’t horses that have made a career of winning races. Despite my initial instinct to just push the ALL button and move on, I’m going to note that if #7 GATE SPEED runs back to his maiden breaking score, he should handle this field. Let’s also use #5 BABY GRONK and #4 POLICY.
Race 7 (6:30PM ET) – Maiden Special Weight
First note has to be that #10 RAKASSAH, making her first start for Phil D’Amato, picks up Flavien Prat who scores at nearly 30% for this barn. She ran OK in Great Britain but should jump ahead more here. Prat gives up a likely chance to ride #11 SHE’S SO SPECIAL for Peter Miller but since they got Joel Rosario, I’ll put her on the ticket. Let’s also use #4 NU PI LAMBDA and her superior early speed and #5 MUNN SHE’S PRETTY, going out for a barn I don’t usually bet with firsters (Jonathan Wong), but note that he and Velez have teamed to win at nearly 30% over the last year.
Race 8 (7:00PM ET) – G3 La Canada Stakes
The last time #7 SPICED PERFECTION went around two turns she was beaten in a state-bred stakes races around this oval in June 2018. Granted, her form wasn’t as great back then and she really came into her own later that season. But hey, it’s a reminder that, despite her 9-for-20 record, $1.2M bankroll and multiple G1 wins, two-turn racing is not what she’s known for. Can she do it? Let’s find out. But is she worth a single on your ticket? Hard to say yes to that with #3 QUEEN BEE TO YOU in the field. That one has won two straight including the G3 Bayakoa last out at Los Al. She’s just 1-for-9 at Santa Anita but she’s too sharp to ignore.
Race 9 (7:30PM ET) – Maiden Special Weight
The nightcap is a maiden race on turf and the one consistent theme among entrants is minimal turf experience. #11 MISS RYLEIGH was so impressive in her debut at Golden Gate that Gary Barber bought her privately and transferred her to Peter Miller. Problem though…this is her turf debut and she has an outside post. Even if she’s the top pick, she’s not infallible. My ticket will also include #2 SASSYSERB. She’s finished second three times (not something I love) but her inside draw is a big positive.
Race 6: #4 Policy (6/1), #5 Baby Gronk (7/2), #7 Gate Speed (3/1)
Race 7: #4 Nu Pi Lambda (4/1), #5 Munn She’s Pretty (10/1), #10 Rakassah (7/2), #11 She’s So Special (3/1)
Race 8: #3 Queen Bee to You (3/1), #7 Spiced Perfection (5/2)
Race 9: #2 Sassyserb (7/2), #11 Miss Ryleigh (3/1)
Ticket Cost: $24 for 50-cents