Garrity's Saturday Stakes picks three at Santa Anita: The Leigh Ann Howard, Sunshine Millions and Unusual Heat
The pickings are slim once again on the national stakes calendar: the combination of too many races and too few horses, which has been a problem of long standing in the sport, seems to be getting worse, and the problem is exacerbated on this mid-Janaury Saturday by bad weather in much of the country. That leaves the earnest plunger with a lineup of unappealing races, far too many of which have short fields that make them unplayable. It’s a real problem for the sport.
We’ve managed to find three races worthy of our attention and our wagering dollars. They are at Santa Anita Park in Southern California, where it’s California Cup day, a special program with enhanced purses for state-breds that has historically attracted very large fields. The day is not what it used to be – a common refrain in racing circles these days – but we’ll put aside our thoughts of doom and gloom for the sport of kings, and focus on the best thing about this game, which is the horses themselves.
All three of our selected races are on turf, which we expect to be firm. Let’s go.
Santa Anita Park, Race 5, 5:30 pm ET
$200,000 Leigh Ann Howard California Cup Oaks, 1 mile, Turf, California-bred 3-Year-Old Fillies
Nine sophomore fillies line up for this mile turf affair. We think one of them looks clearly the best: 5-Sushi Rocks, who has a nice pedigree (she is by Karakontie, who won the Breeders Cup Mile), and who broke her maiden at this mile turf distance, in her first career start, which was back in August. She has not won since, but we are willing to overlook that, as her two most recent starts were in a Grade 3 stakes, where she was overmatched; and on the synthetic surface at Golden Gate, which she did not like. Back on her preferred surface, and at her preferred distance, we think her results will be much better, and will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 5, $40 to win on 5-Sushi Rocks.
Santa Anita Park, Race 7, 6:30 pm ET
$150,000 Sunshine Millions Filly & Mare Turf Sprint, 6 ½ furlongs, Turf, California-bred Fillies & Mares 4 & Up
Older state-bred female turf sprinters, eight of them, go here. 2-Rose Maddox is a strong play, as she has been very good at the distance, comes off a brief freshening that should have her sharp, and, most importantly, is a closer in a race whose shape should favor that running style. There’s a lot of speed in the field; look for Flavien Prat, who rides Rose Maddox, to sit patiently toward the rear early, and to prevail with a big move when the field turns for home. We will bet her to win at 3-1. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 7, $40 to win on 2-Rose Maddox.
Santa Anita Park, Race 9, 7:30 pm ET
$200,000 Unusual Heat Turf Classic, 1 ⅛ miles, Turf, California-breds 4 & Up
A surprisingly deep field of ten lines up for the Turf Classic. The favorite, and a deserving one, is 5-Kings River Knight, who has won five straight races, and shown uncommon versatility doing so: He’s run on dirt, on turf, in sprints, and in longer races, and has ended up in the winner’s circle every time.
Kings River Knight’s credentials are solid, but his odds will be miserly, so we are going to try to beat him, and will be doing so with 7-Aligato. This 7-year-old gelding is in good form, with his last start a win in an allowance race on December 3, and we like that he’s been running against open company, meaning horses bred in other states. The last time he ran against California-breds was in this race a year ago, when he just missed, finishing second, a neck behind the winner; we think he’ll take the prize today, and will do so at the very attractive price of 6-1. We will bet him to win. The bet: Santa Anita, Race 9, $40 to win on 7-Aligato.
That’s all for today. Until tomorrow, enjoy the racing, be safe, and, as always, good luck at the windows.