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Santa Anita Saturday Full Card Picks feat. American Oaks & Frankel Stakes

by Dustin Fabian

December 27, 2018

Santa Anita’s Opening Day card is in the books and, from a wagering perspective, it couldn’t have gone any smoother.  Handle was up a remarkable 18.5% over last year, with huge fields and exciting finishes.  It was great to see McKinzie strut his stuff in the Malibu and I can’t wait to see what he’s able to accomplish in 2019.  Pegasus? Dubai? Breeders’ Cup? Have to assume all options are on the table.

But enough about Opening Day.  Let’s take a look at Saturday, where a pair of graded stakes races headline the card.  Three-year-old fillies are on display in the Grade 1 American Oaks and older fillies and mares look for Grade 3 glory in the Robert J. Frankel Stakes. 

From a betting perspective, there is a $1,000,000 Single Winner Guarantee on the 20-cent Rainbow Pick 6 and the Early and Late Pick 4 will surely be popular bets for horseplayers.  Plus, the Early Pick 5 has an industry low 14% takeout that can’t be ignored.

First post at Santa Anita is 3:00PM ET.  Here are my picks. 

Race 1 – Maiden Special Weight

Tough little turf MSW to start off the card and the problem I see is none of these have really ever run a race that screams ‘bet me next time!’ Horses like MY SWEET BABOO, MERCY MERCY, STYLIN OCEAN and HELLO BUBBLES have all been relatively flat down the lane…and they’re the favorites.  What if we take a bit of a shot with TRUFFALINO?  She broke slowly in her debut at Del Mar on November 10 and pretty much raced with the field throughout.  She wasn’t bet much that day but perhaps she’ll run better this time around.  The price should be right.

1. Truffalino (12/1)
2. Hello Bubbles (4/1)
3. My Sweet Baboo (5/2)

Race 2 – Claiming

Tyler Baze is a phenomenal gate jockey and he just seems to have the ability to comfortably put his horses in front.  If he can do that here with CAIIFORNIA CLONE, they might be tough to catch.  He sent her to the front in a similar race at Los Alamitos last out, but she got tired that day and couldn’t quite hold on.  This is her second start off the layoff and let’s see what she has in the tank this time around.  Joel Rosario picks up the mount on FACTS MATTER and that’s the one I’d use in the Exacta with CAIIFORNIA CLONE. 

1. Caiifornia Clone (7/2)
2. Facts Matter (2/1)
3. Rolls Royce Deal (12/1)

Race 3 – Maiden Claiming

California-breds take center stage and I’m putting my money on NAOMI FRALEY, who goes out for Bill Morey after a solid debut at Los Alamitos.  She only missed by a length and a half that day and earned a decent Beyer (55) in the process.  That’s the highest dirt figure of anyone in the field.  COMEGOWITHME adds Lasix and should be on the front from the outside, so I’m intrigued by that one, along with A DIME FOR ME, who ran well in her debut on November 30 at Del Mar.

1. Naomi Fraley (3/1)
2. A Dime for Me (5/1)
3. Comegowithme (8/1)

Race 4 – Grade 3 Robert J. Frankel Stakes ($150,000)

Interesting race as the two fillies that have dominated this division of late, Vasilika and Cambodia, aren’t signed on.  FAHAN MURA probably has the most raw talent of these, but she’s practically a runoff speedster and this distance is pushing her limit. She does love Santa Anita (5-for-6 here in her career) but she’s just impossible to trust. EXCELLENT SUNSET is probably a safer bet.  She finished ahead of several of these in the Kathryn Crosby at Del Mar in November and just got swallowed up in a massive field last out in the Grade 1 Matriarch as she attempted to close from last.  She’ll have a better go of it this time around. 

1. Excellent Sunset (7/2)
2. Escape Clause (7/2)
3. Fahan Mura (5/2)

Race 5 – Claiming

As a bettor, Bill Spawr is a trainer I’ve come to appreciate.  His horses always just seem to be well placed and they always seem to run how they should.  He doesn’t have the deepest or most talented barn on the Santa Anita backside, but his horses do well.  His entrant here, MATRICULATE, is 4-for-16 at Santa Anita and he got a good sharpener last out at Del Mar after breaking from the rail.  He moves to a better post this time (#5) and is the likeliest of these in my book.  PAPA TURF is the only other horse I’m looking at.  I loved his win two back here, but it’s interesting that he made the lead so easily that day and has never really done that in the last year.  I think he needs to make the front in order to win and MONTEREY SHALE, BOY HOWDY or WHISKEY GINGER could beat him to the punch.   

1. Matriculate (7/2)
2. Will Tell (8/1)
3. Whiskey Ginger (5/1)

Race 6 – Claiming

Let’s go all or nothing with Isidro Tamayo’s J T’S A.T.M., who bring a precarious ‘need the lead’ style to this race.  He’s been running up at Golden Gate in tougher races and this is actually the first time they’ve entered him for a tag.  He has enough speed to go to the front early and if he’s able to shake clear, I don’t know if I see anyone in here besides MADARNAS that can catch him late.  And that one is far out of form and may not be ready to run anything close to a winning race.

1. J T’s A.T.M. (5/1)
2. Treasure Hunter (4/1)
3. Madarnas (5/1)

Race 7 – Maiden Claiming

GLEYBER hasn’t had much luck in his career as he’s now made the front three times before plummeting back through the field.  Granted, those races came against open MSW competition and now he drops in for a $30,000 claiming tag, so he’ll do better here.  VIOLENT BEHAVIOR gets a little extra ground after coming up just short in two straight races and I think she’s a logical top pick.  Impossible to pick a first-time starter in a race like this without seeing the horse but have to think BACHCHAN may have a say here.  He’s a homebred for Kaleem Shah and before we worry too much about starting his career in for a tag, he’s a modestly bred son of Concord Point and Shah might just be trying to get some good numbers into the stallion. 

1. Violent Behavior (7/2)
2. Bachchan (10/1)
3. Gleyber (6/1)

Race 8 – Grade 1 American Oaks ($300,000)

Really nice edition of this race with PAVED getting back in against three-year-olds after making her last two starts against Grade 1 older fillies and mares.  She ran great to split Vasilika and Cambodia in the Rodeo Drive Stakes here but was no match for the world’s best in the Breeders’ Cup Filly & Mare Turf on November 3.  That’s OK, though.  Nobody in here is that good and she’s the filly to beat on paper.  The only concern is a lack of speed, which could benefit CALIFORNIAGOLDRUSH.  She made an early move to win the Grade 2 Sands Point at Saratoga in September and the only concern is whether she’ll be ready off the layoff. 

My colleague, Jeremy Plonk, sees this race a little differently.  Here is his analysis and $100 betting strategy as part of his Xpressbet Race of the Week article. 

1. Paved (3/1)
2. Californiagoldrush (5/2)
3. Colonia (6/1)

Race 9 – Starter Allowance

Have to expect this field will be scorching the track early, so my approach is to either bet the ‘speed of the speed’ or focus on a closer that can pass horses.  Not sold on many of the speed horses, so I’ll look for the latter.  KID CANTINA will take some money due to a ‘troubled’ chart comment in his last but I think you could argue that he balked at going through a hole up the inside and he didn’t really explode when they found racing room.  MAYAN WARRIOR nearly won a much tougher turf race at Del Mar, but what does that mean for today?  He doesn’t have to have the lead, but his inside draw (Post 2) could force their hand.  ORACLE OF OMAHA drew best and should get a good tracking trip from behind the speed. 

1. Oracle of Omaha (5/2)
2. Mayan Warrior (5/1)
3. Kid Cantina (6/1)

Race 10 – Maiden Claiming

This is a nice little turf dash down the hill and I think STORMING LADY has a huge chance to take this field gate-to-wire.  I hate betting maidens who continue to fail as the favorite (just as this filly has) but she should get a great setup here.  Plus, I love the jockey switch to Joel Rosario.  STRENGTHINNUMBERS could complete a very formful Exacta. She’s run well here before but she’s pace dependent and I just have a hard time betting closers on this course.  Of the more ‘under the radar’ horses, how about BREEZY BEE? She ran great off a year-long layoff at Del Mar and will move forward here. 

1. Storming Lady (3/1)
2. Breezy Bee (6/1)
3. Strengthinnumbers (7/2)