by Jeremy Plonk
May 26, 2022
Memorial Day weekend features no less than 11 stakes races at Santa Anita, including a trio of G1 contests on the holiday Monday card. Saturday boasts the 5-stakes Gold Rush Day for California-breds. I'll focus on the Race 9 Fran's Valentine, named for the millionaire Cal-bred filly who won the 1985 Kentucky Oaks. As the Race 9 finale, the Fran's Valentine will be part of the Golden Hour Double & Pick Four, as well as the late pick four, pick five and Rainbow 6 finale.
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ALICE MARBLE, FI FI PHAROAH and PULPIT RIDER are stakes winners. SUPER GAME is stakes-placed. ALICE MARBLE and PULPIT RIDER have consistently held the strongest company lines in the race.
Turf sprinter ALICE MARBLE figures to be part of a strong pace that also includes FLYING TO THE LINE and SUPER GAME extending their speed, as well as turf route front-runner SELF ISOLATION. This should be strong-to-fast and give a strong finisher every chance to perform her best.
ALICE MARBLE should be a deserving favorite off a G2 Monrovia runner-up for top connections, trainer Phil D'Amato and jockey Juan Hernandez. The 2-turn distance of a mile will be her longest attempt and first time around a pair of bends. It's not rare for a sprinter to stretch out and win a turf mile, but after 10 career starts, you do wonder why she hasn't been tasked with such a trip yet.
PULPIT RIDER finished third in this race last year and obviously fits. But notice the 1-16 local record and fact that her stakes successes came in consecutive renewals of the Solana Beach at Del Mar. She comes into this race off a very similar pattern when unplaced in March's Irish O'Brien for the second straight year. Her mid-pack/closing style at least will be set up nicely by the expected hot pace.
SELF ISOLATION has been rock-solid of late with 4 straight in-the-money finishes, but has yet to try stakes company. The Reddam home-bred brings the familiar team of Mario Gutierrez-Doug O'Neill back into the fray. The steady-tempo'd daughter of Square Eddie will have a different dynamic Saturday when facing so many stretch-out sprinters; it's difficult to project how she'll handle it.
SUPER GAME has been a downhill turf sprint specialist for trainer Brian Koriner, but has run well in the few attempts at a mile. She's been freshened since February and on a consistent work patter like this race has been targeting for some time.
FI FI PHAROAH has raced only once on turf, but had no chance last September at Del Mar behind pedestrian fractions against open company. Sire American Pharoah has done solidly with his turf runners, and his fillies in particular, so this could be a good turf mile fit vs. Cal-breds. FI FI PHAROAH has made 8 of her last 9 starts against open company. She did win the Melair on dirt on Gold Rush Day last year as a 3-year-old. Her work May 21 was her best in some time and signals she might be primed. Her 2-turn races are excellent with her 1-turn races soiling her form. If she takes to turf, look out.
Most Certain Exotics Contender:
ALICE MARBLE may not be a known commodity at a mile, but her class should keep her punching for the exotics even if the trip gets taxing.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
Hope here is that FI FI PHAROAH, the top pick, also provides the best value.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
$100 win FI FI PHAROAH.