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Six for the Money, Winn, Santa Anita Pick 4

by Johnny D

May 22, 2020

Jockey Flavien Prat won six races Sunday at Santa Anita Park. That trick hasn’t been performed at The Great Race Place since Rafael Bejarano piloted a sextet there in 2006.

Racing aficionados concur that Prat’s currently the best in the west. At Santa Anita, he leads all riders with 55 wins and eight stakes tallies. Last season, during the 2018-19 Santa Anita winter meet, he finished second in wins to the presently-employed-elsewhere Joel Rosario (56-52 with 23 less mounts) but topped all riders in SA stakes victories with 12 and purse earnings at nearly $3.5 million.

Still, knocking down a six-bagger on a single card is extremely difficult. An abundance of perfect synergy is required. So many factors must coalesce, from-entry-to draw-to-break-to-trip-to-finish…six times. Stars must align. Moon in the proper ‘house.’

That’s probably why, since 1934 at Santa Anita, a rider has won at least six races in a single day just 14 times. Below is a list of jockeys who have won six races during a single card at Santa Anita:

Bill Shoemaker (’62)
Laffit Pincay (’73 & ’81)
Steve Valdez (’73 Eclipse Award-Winning Apprentice)
Sandy Hawley (’76 twice)
Darrel McHargue (’78 & ’79)
Patrick Valenzuela (’88)
Martin Pedroza (’92)
Corey Nakatani (‘00)
Rafael Bejarano (’06)
Flavien Prat (’20)

No bums on that list. However, you may have noticed three Hall-of-Fame members (Shoemaker, Pincay & Hawley), one about-to-be-inducted (McHargue) and one that eventually-will-be-inducted (Nakatani has credentials and merely requires votes).

Winning six races in a single day is like pitching a no-hitter. Bagging seven’s akin to hurling a perfect game. Only the great Laffit Pincay has ever done that at Santa Anita. He scored with seven of eight mounts in 1987!

When told names of previous ‘Anita six-packers, Prat, 27, respectfully remarked, “That’s quite an amazing group of riders. It was one of those days when everything you do is right. It’s so good to be back racing here and I rode good horses all weekend.”

Prat’s accomplishment came, to say the least, at a unique point in the storied history of the famed Arcadia oval. Since March 27, until this past Friday, May 15, the track had been closed due to the pandemic. During that time jockeys, obviously, weren’t riding any races and they were not permitted to work horses in the morning, either. Therefore, during the quarantine, like other pro athletes, jocks were required to maintain fitness on their own. Prat, apparently, embraced the challenge.

“Even though we had the break, I thought I was fit and ready to come back. I’ve never worked out so hard at home. I’ve got a stationary bike and I lifted weights, not heavy, but enough to maintain flexibility.”

Prat is one of a trio of French-born and trained jockeys that have enjoyed successful careers in the US. Julien Leparoux, 36, and Florent Geroux, 33, are the others. Conventional wisdom suggests that, since the majority of European races are on turf, French-trained jockeys would have advantages over US-based competitors when riding on the green. However, Prat and Geroux, recently, have displayed notable aggressive early tactics in dirt races—opposite of the patient, one-run style usually employed on turf.

And, of course, just about everyone needs reminding that Flavien Prat has won a Kentucky Derby! He was aboard Country House, winner of the 2019 Derby following Maximum Security’s disqualification.

Last week in this space we delivered a winning suggested Saturday Santa Anita Late Pick 4 ticket. It was a $67.40 play that returned $153.70. Granted, that score’s not going to headline the evening news but, as the saying suggests, ‘you can’t go broke taking a profit.’

We’ll try again this weekend with one man’s opinion of Saturday’s Santa Anita Late Pick 4:

Santa Anita – Saturday, May 23

6th Race
#1 Midnight Garden –She broke maiden first out last time for $20k and moves directly to this $12k non-winners of two lifetime. That’s the right move and if she improves a bit off her debut, she’ll be right there. The rail’s no bargain going six furlongs and she’s a 5-year-old, but she figures to save ground and attempt to come from off the pace.

#2 Sybil’s Kitty – Not a bad try last out when just behind common foe Real Good Deal. She’s got some speed and could be closer than last out. Jockey Abel Cedillo is second in number of wins at the meeting and trainer Richard Baltas returns from a short suspension.

#3 Real Good Deal – Top jock Prat tries his hand here aboard a 4-year-old filly that was a neck short last out at this level. That was her first local start after making seven previous outs in Northern California.

#4 Way too Sweet – She broke maiden first out in a Cal-bred $50k claimer in August at Del Mar; was off four months and returned in January with a stinker against much better than she’ll face today. She did show speed in that race. She’s a bit of a guess, but trainer Mike Puype is strong in claiming races.

7th Race
#2 Rstars and Stripes – Two out of her three races are good: a first-out maiden win by nearly 10 lengths at $50k and a close third last out against foes just below this level. Between those races she tried turf at this level, bobbled at the start, raced close up and faded. A return to the main should help.

#8 Galwalksintoabar – Big win first out for this 3-year-old filly at the state-bred 50K maiden level. She’s got some speed and is drawn one from the outside.Drayden Van Dyke returns in the irons for breeder/owner Nick Alexander and trainer Steve Miyadi.

#9 Samurai Charm – Trainer Peter Miller hits at 24%, so players need to examine everything he starts. Jockey Prat wins at 25% and together they’re a sterling 23% with 43 starters. Those are some powerful stats. This filly’s no slouch either. First out, she faced $150k maidens and showed speed. Next, dropped to $50k, she romped wire-to-wire. Speed and the far outside box are dangerous. Some might even consider singling this filly.

8th Race
#5 United –At the end of last season, he followed up a close lose at huge odds in the Breeders’ Cup Turf with another narrow defeat in the Hollywood Turf Cup at Del Mar. United began 2020 with a victory at Santa Anita in the Grade 2 San Marcos going the same distance as today’s race. He was a close second in this race last year and since has been first, second or third in every race. He should stalk the early pace under leading rider Flavien Prat for trainer Richard Mandella.

#6 Originaire – This 4-year-old colt has steadily improved over time and fired his best shot last out when he romped in a Santa Anita allowance/claimer at a mile and one-eighth. This is a step up from that performance, but he was Grade 2 placed behind a red-hot Mo Forza, so it’s not like he can’t make the climb. His greatest challenge could be the fact that he comes from well off the pace and there is little speed in here.

#7 Rockemporer – When Chad Brown and Irad Ortiz combine, horseplayers must pay attention. Unfortunately, this 4-year-old will have a similar issue as #6 Originaire—there’s no speed in this race to set up his closing kick. That late charge was sufficient to earn him Grade 1 placing when third in the Belmont Derby behind Henley’s Joy and Social Paranoia. Last out he was third, beaten nearly four, when rallying wide at Fair Grounds in the Grade 2 Mervin Muniz.

9th Race
#2 Vodka Twist – This gelding takes a huge class drop from maiden allowance to the bottom at $20k and is being switched from turf to dirt. Blinkers go on. While runners dropping from straight maiden to the bottom must be examined, this one will need to do much, much better.
#8 Posty –This 4-year-old gelding didn’t run too badly when dropped to this level from Cal-bred $50k last out. He’s stretching out from sprints to this mile and one-sixteenth route. He’s got some speed in a race that doesn’t have much. Perhaps he can make the lead and keep going? It’s his best chance.

#9 Dr. Hoffman – Trainer Mark Glatt has been on fire and jockey Flavien Frat has been even hotter. Can’t ignore any runner starting for these guys. This 3-year-old drops from maiden $75k to $20k, moves from turf to dirt, adds Prat and has two bullet works for this. Should be noted that he had trouble in his last race when squeezed and steadied at the start.

#11 Beaumont Beaux – 4-year-old first time starter has some decent works for this. It’s difficult winning with a first timer going two turns, especially at this lower level and trainer Keith Desormeaux isn’t known for cranking them up first out. The plus factor is that Beaumont Beaux hasn’t shown he can’t run. At least not yet.

#12 Salah –Tough outside assignment for an 0-12 maiden. Only reason gelding gets a second look is that he’s got some strong Beyer Speed Figures for this field. So, he runs fast but a few always run faster. He drops to his lowest class level ever and that should help. In fact, all he needs to do is to run as fast as he has many times before and he will be right there against these foes.

Suggested $.50 Pick 4 Ticket ($54):
2, 3, 4
2, 8, 9
5, 6, 7
8, 9, 11, 12

Take care of each other. Race On!

Bonus Coverage

Johnny D’s Matt Winn Analysis & Selections

Saturday, May 23 – Churchill Downs

10th Race—Grade 3 Matt Winn
1. Mystic Guide Stidham/Hernandez 15-1
Ran a big one to break maiden last out by five at Fair Grounds. Would need another forward step in here to contend. Not impossible, but not likely to win.

2. Pneumatic Asmussen/Santana 4-1
Has done nothing wrong in two starts at Oaklawn—both wins. He’s got enough early speed to be close to whatever pace develops and he has a bullet, best of 133 others at the distance. Nice post position should find him saving ground and stalking the leaders around the first turn. He’s got a big look in here.

3. Informative St. Lewis/Bisono 20-1
Has one win in nine starts and that came in a maiden race over a ‘good’ track at Aquedect. Needs to do better. Positive is that he’s consistent, but a bit too slow.

4. Celtic Striker Handal/Franco 20-1
Has a touch of speed but hasn’t run fast enough to contend at this level. Pass.

5. Flap Jack Sisterson/Bejarano 20-1
He’s got one race that might be good enough to contend in here. That came when he raced wide in the Grade 3 Gotham. His only win came over a synthetic track at Arlington in the Arlington Washington Futurity in September. Pass.

6. Ny Traffic Joseph/Lopez 10-1
He’s got speed and that should help his cause. He was third in the Risen Star and second, last out, in the Louisiana Derby. Those races were at a mile and one-eighth and a mile and three-sixteenths, respectively. This shorter mile and one-sixteenth trip should be in his favor. He’s run the fastest races of anyone in here and has had plenty of time to recover since his Fair Grounds effort. Count him as a serious win candidate.

7. Necker Island Hough/Gafflione 15-1
After winning a pair of races at two he didn’t step forward at three when tried in the Grade 3 Swale and Gotham and the ungraded Unbridled. He’ll have to do more this season to act with this group. Pass.

8. Crypto Cash McPeek/Lanerie 20-1
He’s got no speed in a race that lacks early pace and that’s always a negative. He is determined, closing ground in the lane in the majority of his races. He moved forward last out in the Grade 1 Arkansas Derby, but he’ll need to take another step to win this. Because of his determined closing charge, he’s worth including in exotics.

9. Shake Some Action Cox/Castellano 12-1
He has no early speed and figures to be wide. He has two Fair Grounds wins—one on turf—and has not taken a back step, according to Beyer Speed Figures & Thoro-Graph. Those are positives that give this guy some chance to make noise in here. Best considered in exotics.

10. Maxfield Walsh/J. Ortiz 5/2
He’s the morning-line favorite and a nationally well-regarded 3-year-old. He probably will take plenty of money in here. There’s no doubt that his Grade 1 Breeders’ Futurity win at Keeneland in October was outstanding—visually and according to speed figures. However, Maxfield was injured, forced to miss the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile and hasn’t raced since. Will he improve as a 3-year-old? Who knows? And that’s one reason it’s worth taking a shot against him in this race. He’s got to return from a layoff in top form and either duplicate or improve on his 3-year-old best to win in here. Plus, he’s got to do that from an unattractive post position with no early pace to set up his closing charge. Those are steep hills to climb. Can he win? Certainly. Are there concrete reasons to take a stand against at short odds? Definitely.

11. Attachment Rate Romans/Velazquez 4-1
Here’s another starter with limited early speed. However, he doesn’t drop as far back as some others in here. Expect to find him mid-pack and that will aid his quest. He’s got two races that fit well in here on figures, so he deserves attention. He’s also got some fight and hasn’t been worse than third since his first start in June of last year. Contender and exotic must use.

12. Major Fed Foley/Rosario 5-1
No early speed and the far outside 12-hole spell difficulties for this son of Ghostzapper but he might be good enough to overcome them. He’s moved forward nicely, according to BSF and TG figures--great signs for a developing 3-year-old colt. It’s reasonable to expect another forward-moving performance from this guy. He finished a neck in front of Ny Traffic in the Risen Star, and about three lengths behind that foe in the Risen Star when Major Fed broke slow and had to rally from 14th and last early. Despite the negatives, he’s a win contender and a certain exotics inclusion.

Bottom Line:
Expect #6 Ny Traffic to use his speed to establish a favorable forward position, either leading or stalking the pace. He’s good enough to take the field the whole way. Expect #2 Pneumatic to be close to the early pace and if he improves a bit, he should have a say in the finish. #12 Major Fed needs to work out a trip under Rosario and he cannot be ignored. Favorite #10 Maxfield has enough question marks to wager against at a short price.

$.50 Trifecta ($30)
#2, #6, #12
#2, #6, #10, #11, #12
#2, #6, #8, #9, #10, #11, #12

Race On!