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Race of the Week: Santa Maria at Santa Anita | Saturday, June 18, 2022

by Jeremy Plonk

June 16, 2022

The Lead:
Closing weekend of the 2021-'22 Santa Anita winter-spring meeting is upon us, and The Great Race Place goes out with a bang. A trio of stakes races Saturday lead into a mandatory payout in the Rainbow 6 on Sunday, a pool that could be in the $3-$4 million range. Saturday's main event in Race 7 is the Grade 2 Santa Maria Stakes, and it re-matches a quartet of runners from April's Santa Margarita.

​Field Depth:
Grade 1 winner and Grade 1-placed VARDA has high credentials. BLUE STRIPE and PRIVATE MISSION are Grade 2 winners. LADY MYSTIFY is a Grade 3 winner, but may be exiting the strongest company lines.

Speedburner PRIVATE MISSION and front-runner LADY MYSTIFY ensure a fast pace, while BYE BYE BERTIE should be close up. The other trio will bide its time. There's certainly enough pace in this 1-1/16 miles heat to think a late-runner could get the last call.

Our Eyes:
BLUE STRIPE was highly impressive in running down even-money favorite Miss Bigly in the Santa Margarita over 1-1/8 miles. She'll get even more pace to rally into in this spot given the combatants, so the shorter trip by 1/16th of a mile does not concern. If you saw her June 9 workout at XBTV.com, you'd have fallen in love with the finish and massive gallop-out. Marcelo Polanco has the Argentine import in peak fettle right now.

PRIVATE MISSION is brilliantly fast, and she's fresh from a March layoff and the new face to the Santa Margarita returnees. She's sprinted in her last 2, but note the last time she went sprint-to-route she won Del Mar's Grade 3 Torrey Pines in beast mode. Watching her workouts at XBTV, however, she pulled early on the rider and didn't finish with much flair, pulling up too easily in the gallop-out for my liking. I see her getting into a pace tussle with LADY MYSTIFY, and I much preferred the look of LADY'S MYSTIFY's morning move June 11. Also with LADY MYSTIFY, consider names like Malathaat, Bonny South, Ce Ce and Pauline's Pearl in her running lines in her last 3 starts. Any one of those would be favored in this race.

VARDA, a Sean McCarthy (ex-Bob Baffert) stablemate of PRIVATE MISSION, may have the most license to improve off her Santa Margarita third. She was kept unnecessarily wide in that one and should be a bit sharper on pedigree for this shorter trip than last time. Like PRIVATE MISSION, however, I wasn't enamored with the way she galloped-out in her workout June 5.

Most Certain Exotics Contender:
BLUE STRIPE gets the set-up and just beat many of these.

Best Longshot Exotics Contender:
VARDA was 9-1 in the Santa Margarita and will be the longer-price of the McCarthy barnmates with a shot to give some exotics price boost.

Sending it in ($100 bankroll):
Nothing fancy, let's go on the nose with $100 win BLUE STRIPE. Single her in the multi-race wagers.