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Your Santa Anita Opening Weekend Survival Guide

by Dustin Fabian

September 28, 2017

If you’re looking for even more great racing to bet this weekend, look no further than Santa Anita, which opens Friday and offers the biggest Saturday card in the country. Saturday’s races are so big that five winners from the card receive the Breeders’ Cup ‘Win and You’re In’ golden ticket – a free trip to the ‘Cup! And with horses like Cupid, Mubtaahij, Dortmund, Avenge and Paradise Woods in action, you can’t miss out.

Here’s our Survival Guide for Opening Weekend at the Great Race Place, with an eye on which horses could go on to do big things in the Breeders’ Cup.

Friday, September 29

First Post: 4:00PM ET
Guaranteed Pools: $300K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (R6 – 9)
Major Race: Eddie D. S. (G3)
Horses to Watch:

  • Om (R9, Eddie D. Stakes) – He was the runner-up in last year’s Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint, beaten just a nose. This year’s Breeders’ Cup is a different animal, however, being that it’s run at a flat 5-furlongs and not a downhill 6 ½. Drayden Van Dyke gets aboard him for the first time and blinkers go on, but he should give a good account of himself. He always does. Will he go on to the Breeders’ Cup Mile or Turf Sprint from here?
  • Tribalist (R9, Eddie D. Stakes) – This is definitely a horse to keep an eye on for the Breeders’ Cup Turf Sprint. He loves sprinting on the lawn at Del Mar…he’s a perfect 3-for-3 doing it! He overcame a 13-month layoff to win the Green Flash Handicap last out, but you may want to just view this race as a prep. After all, he is 0-for-1 on the Santa Anita downhill course.

Saturday, September 30

First Post: 3:30PM ET
Guaranteed Pools: $750K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (R8 – 11), $100K Guaranteed Pick 6 (R6 – 11)
Major Races: Awesome Again S. (G1), Zenyatta S. (G1), FrontRunner S. (G1), Chandelier S. (G1), Rodeo Drive S. (G1), Unzip Me S.
1 Million Point Split: Hit 4 Exactas
Xpressbet Race of the Week Picks: Chandelier Stakes
Horses to Watch:

  • Paradise Woods (R5, Zenyatta Stakes) – She won the Santa Anita Oaks by 11 ¾-lengths over Abel Tasman and It Tiz Well, but was awfully disappointing in both the Kentucky Oaks (11th, beaten 20 ½) and Torrey Pines (6th, beaten 7). Which version of her shows up Saturday will indicate whether Richard Mandella targets the Breeders’ Cup or settles for a far simpler race.
  • Bolt d’Oro (R8, FrontRunner Stakes) – If he wins here, he probably goes to the Breeders’ Cup Juvenile as the favorite, having previously won the Del Mar Futurity on September 4. He’s bred to stretch out, being by Medaglia d’Oro and out of an A.P. Indy mare. Plus, it’s great to watch the revitalization of Corey Nakatani, who has ridden this one to victory in both of his wins.
  • Zatter (R8, FrontRunner Stakes) – Bob Baffert has won this race seven (7!) times, including in 2014 with American Pharoah. Zatter is his best chance for #8. He was beaten just ¾-length by Bolt d’Oro in the Del Mar Futurity and drew inside after starting from the far outside post in two prior starts.
  • Mubtaahij (R10, Awesome Again Stakes) – The globetrotting earner of $4.3M makes his first California start for new trainer, Bob Baffert. Rumors have it that he’s been working too well in the mornings not to start here, but this is a deep field and this horse hasn’t won since March 2015.
  • Cupid (R10, Awesome Again Stakes) – Another Baffert charge. He looked unbeatable when he won the Gold Cup here in May by 3 ¼-lengths, but very shaky in taking the ungraded Harry Brubaker last out at Del Mar by ¾-length. If he runs back to the Gold Cup, Bob Baffert will have a heck of a time deciding between the Classic and Dirt Mile with him. But if he doesn’t bring his A+ game, he’s nearly a lock to skip the Classic.
  • Dortmund (R10, Awesome Again Stakes) – A trio of ‘watch horses’ in one race? Absolutely! It’s been a tumultuous year for Dortmund – he was transferred to Art Sherman at the start of the year, then had a failed turf experiment in March before running off the board on the dirt in April, which led to his retirement. But now he’s back and the question is…what does he have left in the tank. Horseplayers will be skeptical at best.

Sunday, October 1

First Post: 3:30PM ET
Guaranteed Pools: $500K Guaranteed Late Pick 4 (R6 – 9), $100K Guaranteed Pick 6 (R4 – 9)
Major Race: John Henry Turf Championship (G2)
Horses to Watch:

  • Hunt (R7, John Henry Turf Championship) – I was wrong about Hunt in the Del Mar Handicap going 1 3/8-miles on the lawn last out. I didn’t think he could run that far and boy did he prove me wrong. I won’t make that mistake again. Depending on how this race goes, Hunt could be a legitimate threat to run in the Breeders’ Cup Turf, assuming Phil D’Amato is up for taking on an anticipated strong group of Europeans.
  • Anonymity (R8, Allowance OC) – This Richard Mandella trainee took a Del Mar field gate-to-wire in her debut, scoring by 3 ¾-lengths and earning a 94 Beyer in the process. Her credentials are light for a Breeders’ Cup try, and since she’s a three-year-old her options are the Distaff and Filly & Mare Sprint. The Distaff will come up too deep, but if she runs well here she could be a sneaky entrant in the sprint race.

Summer Meet at a Glance (4/14/2017 – 7/4/2017)

Top 10 Jockeys

  • 1. Flavien Prat – 41 wins (23% win percentage)
  • 1. Evin Roman – 41 (21%)
  • 3. Joe Talamo – 37 (17%)
  • 4. Rafael Bejarano – 33 (22%)
  • 5. Tyler Baze – 24 (12%)
  • 6. Tiago Pereira – 19 (11%)
  • 7. Gary Stevens – 17 (21%)
  • 8. Edwin Maldonado – 16 (15%)
  • 9. Kent Desormeaux – 14 (21%)
  • 9. Kyle Frey – 14 (15%)

Top 10 Trainers

  • 1. Peter Miller – 36 wins (27% win percentage)
  • 2. Richard Baltas – 25 (21%)
  • 2. Phil D’Amato – 25 (18%)
  • 4. Bob Baffert – 18 (33%)
  • 5. Steve Miyadi – 15 (23%)
  • 6. Doug O’Neill – 13 (13%)
  • 7. Peter Eurton – 12 (25%)
  • 7. Jerry Hollendorfer – 12 (14%)
  • 9. Jack Carava – 11 (24%)
  • 9. John Sadler – 11 (15%)