Saturday, March 17, 2018
By Jeremy Plonk, Horse Player NOW
The fans' loss sometimes can be the horseplayers' gain. And while no one wants to see superstar Unique Bella miss Saturday's G1 Santa Margarita Stakes due to a cough, there's no doubt the race becomes much more intriguing from a gambling standpoint. Under equal weights at 120 pounds apiece, a field of 10 blossomed from what could have been much, much shorter.
A trio of G2 winners offer the highlights, led by La Canada winner MOPOTISM, Bayakoa heroine MAJESTIC HEAT and grassy Buena Vista last-out winner FAULT. But this is not a clear-cut G1 field and there's not a wide swath on class by which to handicap. The right horse based on pace, form cycle, etc. would be a much more effective handicapping angle than class with this cast.
Expect it to be very fast. MENDED is a blazer in post 3 and surrounded on each side by quick TURKISH TABBY, primarily a sprinter, and DALSAROS. Meanwhile BISHOP'S PRIDE offers more speed on the east coast ship in post 7. This will be a tough race to win on the front end.
The MOPOTISM-MENDED exacta was very good to us in this column space back on Jan. 13 in the La Canada. But each race is its own environment of sorts and loyalty to past cashed tickets doesn't translate necessarily to future success. MENDED figured to get an easier lead that day and figured to be an overlay on the tote on the class rise. Neither seems likely this time around. MOPOTISM since then has gone on to run a distant second to star Unique Bella, and you wonder if her confidence can be shaken some off that, much less if she has the same late kick at 1-1/8 miles on Saturday as she's had going shorter. Her BRIS late pace figures going farther than 1-1/16 miles have dropped off significantly in the past, albeit some of that in circumstances of tougher races.
By contrast, LA FORCE was third by a neck in that La Canada and since then dropped in class to get a confidence-boosting victory in allowance company. She now makes the re-rise and goes 9 furlongs with a pedigree to run about 12 furlongs. Here her European gene pool could really separate her from some of her California rivals. She got a 104 BRIS late pace figure in the La Canada, another sign that the extra distance could be a boon. Mike Smith won aboard her in allowance company and comes back again, replacing La Canada pilot Drayden Van Dyke. I liked her workout on XBTV.com quite a bit from March 9 when going in company with graded stakes winning turfer Evo Campo.
The newcomer to the scene is BISHOP'S POND for trainer Jason Servis. The New York-based daughter of Curlin has been poured into various situations in terms of surface and distance, so this is yet another challenge. All of her recent success has come wire-to-wire and it's difficult to imagine her shaking loose of MENDED. That makes her task a tall one given all the other variables that come with a cross-country journey.
FAULT has been on grass in 12 of 14 starts, but has pedigree for dirt by Breeders' Cup Classic winner Blame and out of a Horse Chestnut mare. She's won on an off track, so any rain won't bring tears to trainer Phil D'Amato. The fact that this Midwesterner came to Cali and scored the Buena Vista gives optimism to those backing BISHOP'S POND to conquer the west as well.
Most Certain Exotics Contender: MOPOTISM is 7-7 in the superfecta on the Santa Anita main track.
Best Longshot Exotics Contender: LA FORCE was 27-1 in the La Canada and should offer good value again, albeit less.
Sending it in ($100 bankroll): $50 win and place LA FORCE.