Not only is The Great Race Place back, it returns in a big way, with a terrific card, nine races in all, every one of them featuring a full field. First post is 5:30 pm EDT.
Santa Anita returns with live racing, and what a glorious thing it is: for not only is The Great Race Place back, it returns in a big way, with a terrific card, nine races in all, every one of them featuring a full field.
We will focus primarily today on the racing in Southern California, plays in three individual races plus a play in the late Pick 4, but we have included a few other plays as well, including the day’s lone stakes race, which is at Gulfstream Park. We expect fast dirt and firm turf everywhere, except as noted below. Let’s go.
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
This first-level allowance turf race drew a field of eleven. The pace should be legitimate to fast, as there are a number of speedy entrants, and they should be moving quickly early to avoid losing ground around the first turn. The unsustainably fast early pace has us looking for a closer, and there’s one we like very much, 5-Hollywood Girl. She’s a lightly raced 4-year-old daughter of the late superstar turf stallion Giant’s Causeway, and her race record is a very good illustration of the importance of trip handicapping: in her first career start, she got a dream trip, from both a pace and traffic standpoint, and won; she was forced to run very wide in each of her next two races, and got less favorable pace setups, and she finished off the board in both. She’s a come-from-behinder, and we think she’s going to get a pace to run at today; we also think that jockey Mike Smith should be able to negotiate a good, ground-saving trip from her from her inside post. We think she’s going to run a very big race this afternoon, and we will consequently bet her to win at 6-1. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 5, $50 to win on 5-Hollywood Girl.
$75,000 Hollywood Wildcat Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies
The Hollywood Wildcat drew a field of eight sophomore fillies. The headliner, and 8/5 morning line favorite, is 3-Tonalist’s Shape, who looked like a budding superstar earlier this spring, winning the first five races of her career, before she finished a disappointing seventh as the favorite in the Gulfstream Park Oaks. If she reverts to her prior form, she will be plenty tough in here.
When it comes to wagering, however, we think Tonalist’s Shape is an awful proposition, as she looks to us to be a speedy filly with distance limitations, and betting that she will be able to win around two turns, when she’s never done so before, and stopped badly in her one try, is not a smart play. At a very short price, she looks like a mammoth underlay to us.
The forecast for South Florida is wet, and we’re not sure what the track condition will be at post time. On a dry track, we like 2-Pleasant Orb. She starts for Barclay Tagg, who is a very patient trainer, and Tagg, as is his wont, has brought her along slowly but surely. She has improved in every one of her three career starts, broke her maiden impressively in her last, and looks like a filly who will thrive as the distances get longer. There’s a goodly bit of speed in this field, and we think Pleasant Orb can get a good stalking trip just behind the first flight of horses, and take over when the pacesetters begin to tire at the top of the stretch. At 10-1, we like her chances, and will bet her to win. The bet (fast dirt only): Gulstream Park, Race 10, $30 to win on 2-Pleasant Orb.
On a sloppy track, we like 8-Cheermeister, who has high early speed, impeccable wet-track breeding,and has already won a race over a wet track. Look for her to go right to the front, and lead all the way around, if the race goes in the slop. The bet (wet track only): Gulstream Park, Race 10, $30 to win on 2-Cheermeister.
Starter Allowance 1 1/16 miles, Turf, 3 & Up
This starter allowance in Northern California drew a field of eight. 6-Electoral is a strong play: he’s in excellent form, having run well in a bunch of races going back to last fall. He’s never run on turf before, having competed primarily on synthetic surfaces, but both his breeding and his running style suggest that he should take to grass like a duck takes to water. He’s also trained by Jonathan Wong, who has a very high overall winning percentage (30% at the current Golden Gate meeting), and who hits at similarly high rates with horses making their first start on grass, and with horses switching from synth to turf. We will bet him to win at 3-1. The bet: Golden Gate, Race 8, $30 to win on 6-Electoral.
Allowance/Optional Claiming, 1 mile, Turf, Fillies & Mares 3 & Up
The conditions of this race are identical to the 5th, and we’re assuming that it was originally listed in the Santa Anita condition book as one race, and was split into two because it drew so many entrants. Unlike Race 5, however, which has quite a few speed types, few of the eleven in here have a lot of early zip, and we are consequently expecting a much more moderate early pace, which will compromise the deep closers, and favor more forwardly-placed runners.
That makes the pick 9-Muchly, who starts for trainer Simon Callaghan. She made her North American debut in her last, on March 7 at this distance and at Santa Anita, and she ran OK -- she bobbled coming out of the gate, ran her way into contention, and proceeded gamely down the lane, finishing a bit over three lengths behind the winner. She was a highly regarded runner in England last year, and with that race under her belt, we are expecting an improvement today. We also think she should get a dream trip, stalking a moderate pace, and taking control with a move at the top of the stretch. We will bet her to win at 4-1. The bet: Santa Anita Park, Race 8, $40 to win on 9-Muchly.
Maiden Special Weight, 6 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up
The nightcap at Santa Anita is a maiden race, and it’s a cracking good one, with eleven going to the starting gate.
We are smitten with a colt on the outside, 11-Lane Way, who starts for Hall of Fame trainer Richard Mandella. He was an expensive purchase, selling for $550,000 as a 2-year-old, and considering that backdrop, the fact that he has failed to break his maiden in three attempts may make him seem like a bit of a disappointment. But in terms of the horses he’s run against in his three maiden races, he’s had the worst luck of any horse we can remember: he lost to Nadal in his first start, and Charlatan in his second; both Nadal and Charlatan are trained by Bob Baffert, both are undefeated, both won their division of the Arkansas Derby; and they’d probably be the top two betting choices if the Kentucky Derby were run in a week.
Lane Way was unfortunate to run into Nadal and Charlatan in his first two career starts, but that was not the end of this bad luck: in his last start, when he stretched out to a mile, he ran third to a horse named Shooters Shoot, who has already come back to win an allowance race in very fast time, and who looks like a stakes horse, perhaps a quite good one.
We think that today Lane Way is finally going to get a chance to show his true ability. He cuts back from a mile to 6 furlongs, which we like; and jockey Flavien Prat replaces Umberto Rispoli, which we think is another positive change. He gets the tactical advantage of an outside post -- add it all up, and Lane Way is going to get his picture taken today. Look for him to stalk the pace from his outside post and blow the field away with a big move coming off the far turn. We will bet him to win at 4-1, and we will do so enthusiastically. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 9, $60 to win on 11-Lane Way.
In the Santa Anita Late Pick 4, which comprises Races 6 through 9, we’re going with singles in the first and last legs and spreading wider in the middle two races. We will include the following horses:
Race 6: 9
Race 7: 1,4,5,9
Race 8: 1,3,4,5,7,9,10,11
Race 9: 11
That’s 32 total combinations, for a total cost of $16 at the 50-cent minimum. Those wishing to play more aggressively can increase the base wager proportionately.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, when Churchill Downs returns -- hurrah! -- enjoy the races, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.