Garrity's Sunday 12.26 Santa Anita Picks: Three opening day stakes races, the San Antonio, La Brea and Malibu

Hot Rod Charlie is Garrity's pick in the San Antonio Stakes.

Garrity's Sunday 12.26 Santa Anita Picks: Three opening day stakes races, the San Antonio, La Brea and Malibu

First pos 4:40 pm EST.

Though we will not turn the page on the calendar for another six days, we’ve always considered the traditional Boxing Day opener at Santa Anita Park the start of a new racing year. And while our little horsey corner, like the larger world, has plenty of problems, especially in California, we will eagerly set them all aside today, for a few hours, at least, as some pretty good races offer a welcome respite from reality.

Unfortunately, the weather has not cooperated out West, as on Sunday morning, Santa Anita management announced that rain has washed all races originally scheduled for turf onto dirt. What originally looked like a sensational card now looks merely good; but if the past 21 months of the pandemic has taught us anything, it is to be thankful for what we have, rather than to obsess over what we have not. So we’ll take the revised race lineup as a whole lot better than nothing.

We have three plays today, in the main-track stakes races at Santa Anita, and we expect fast dirt in all three. Let’s go.

Santa Anita Park, Race 6, 4:40 pm ET

Grade 2 San Antonio Stakes, 1 1/16 miles, Dirt, 3 & Up

A field of seven lines up for the San Antonio. We see no reason to look past morning line favorite 4-Hot Rod Charlie, who comes off a fourth-place finish in the Breeders Cup Classic. He’s a horse who has run some very fast races despite not winning all that much; he won this year’s Louisiana and Pennsylvania Derbies, but is probably better known for finishing second in the Belmont Stakes in June, in one of the more valiant non-winning efforts in recent memory. We might normally try to find a way to beat him here, as he’s coming off a layoff and will be a short price, but he simply looks too good here, overwhelmingly superior to the rest of the field, and therefore meriting a play. We will bet him to win at 6/5. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 6, $50 to win on 4-Hot Rod Charlie.

Santa Anita Park, Race 8, 5:44 pm ET

Grade 1 La Brea Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3-Year-Old Fillies

A field of seven lines up for the La Brea. 4-Private Mission is favored, as she cuts back to sprinting after a disastrous run in the Breeders Cup Distaff, when she set the pace running suicidally fast early fractions, and unsurprisingly faded late, finishing a well-beaten eleventh. She could win, but we are going to try to beat her with the lightly raced 5-Missy P., a daughter of top stallion Into Mischief, who has only three career starts, winning only one of them, but who looks like a filly on the come. She has ability, and her sensationally fast morning workouts the past few weeks indicate that she is sitting on a big race, especially since her trainer, Hall of Famer Richard Mandella, is not known for working horses especially quickly. Look for her to press the pace early, and to draw away late. We will bet her to win at 5/2. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 8, $40 to win on 5-Missy P.

Santa Anita Park, Race 10, 6:49 pm ET

Grade 1 Runhappy Malibu Stakes, 7 furlongs, Dirt, 3 & Up

The Malibu, which drew a field of seven 3-year-olds colts, is the day’s best race. Many bettors will be supporting morning line favorite 5-Flightline, who is 4/5 after running off the screen in both his career starts; others will back 4-Dr. Schivel, who finished second in his last start, just a nose behind the winner, in the Breeders Cup Sprint; and some will play 1-Baby Yoda, who faltered in his last two starts after earning one of the fastest speed figures of the year winning an allowance race at Saratoga in September. We are going against all three, and we are doing so with 7-Triple Tap. His race record might seem to suggest that he’s a cut below the favorites in terms of overall ability, but he has only raced twice, and we think that he has yet to show just how good he is. Even better is that we think the shape of the race will favor him, as he’s a stretch-runner in a field that is just loaded with speed. We see the first half-mile of the Malibu being very, very fast, and we see Triple Tap closing late to get the prize. At 5-1, that makes him an excellent play; we will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 10, $40 to win on 7-Triple Tap.

That’s all for today. Until the next time, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.

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