The Great Race Place has always held a special place in my heart, a romance that went astray for a few years because of the fumbled dalliance with fake dirt and the number of race days lost to wash outs. I don't have a complete bias against fake dirt: I play it at Hollywood, Woodbine,Keeneland, Presque Island and Arlington, but Santa Anita and Del Mar felt wrong and the material doesn't seem right for the ambient conditions at either location. I exercised my right as a horse player to take my handle elsewhere and I found myself shying away from Santa Anita before the expensive gamble was ended and dirt reinstalled, and my boycott of Del Mar continues, sans the Turf track. The Santa Anita main track is hard and fast and you have to take into account that they play with it often and the track plays differently over time. With that knowledge, I find the best way to have success at Santa Anita is to play Santa Anita, which brings me to today, the last Grade 1 of the year, the La Brea.
Opening Day at Santa Anita was a huge success; Turf Blogger Teresa Genaro writing in Forbes highlighted the renewal in attendance for the opening day card, the biggest crowd since 1994, but correctly identified the importance of Santa Anita on the overall American racing scene.
I'm an oddity: I'm an East Coast horse guy who loves California racing. I don't get hung up on West versus East, I just prefer Santa Anita to inner track racing at Aqueduct (my New York credentials are about to be revoked)and I don't pay much attention to Gulfstream until the Donn Handicap, so Santa Anita gets the drop on everyone for me.
Let's get after it!
Santa Anita Race 7-8-9 Late Pick Three
Race 7 may be the only two year old race I've written about all year, and it may be only the third or fourth I've handicapped. Yes, I have age bias. I'm just not that into the youngsters and the biggest reason is I like to see lots of information on the past performances. I'm not a pedigree expert, nor do I spend much time studying the physical animal, I like numbers and 2 YO's lack numbers. That said, those 2 YOs are 3 YOs tomorrow, ready or not, and I'll be paying attention to them now. I know from keeping my own statistics on my handicapping/betting that I struggle with three year old racing before June. I'm not tragic, just not as sharp as I'd like to be. Last year's screwy "different 3 YO every prep race" winners didn't do much to help my stats. My bread and butter is the handicap division, especially turf horses. Know thyself.
I always come off as a kill joy when I make this point but you don't have to bet every race you handicap. I handicap often just to stay abreast of the talent as well as to see how the tracks playing. I'll pick winners with no money on the table and I use the exercise to give myself a feeling for where I'm at. The idea of action betting that has been in many horse racing betting books is something I rejected and I hope some of my readers will push away from the betting window when they aren't fully prepared to make a strong stab at winning.
The Eddie Logan is a special race, as I've already said it takes alot for me to bet the 2 YOs. Eddie was a Santa Anita institution, and I had the honor of interacting with him just a few years ago. I hope he rests in peace and i have no doubt that if there is a thing such as ghosts, that Eddie's would be a friendly one wandering the hallways near his old shoeshine location.
The son of Scat Daddy, Daddy Nose Best is my chalk in this spot. The Assmussen trainee comes off the pace nicely and is 4 of 5 in the money over the grass already, with the biggest turf Tomlinson of the field.
Stoney Fleece makes the switch from Dirt/Tur, something Trainer Sadler pulls off 25% of the time. A nice Grade 3 1 mile turf effort two back, setting his best Beyer at 83, confirms his ability to compete.
Chips All In is 4 of 4 in the money but goes over the turf for the first time, something Trainer Mullins pulls off 19% of the time, but he's also only 11% going from Fake Dirt to Grass.
The Black is my superfecta wildcard.
In the La Brea I'll be singling Turbulent Descent with a quartet of horses that I think could upset her. She's giving 5 pounds to everyone but I don't place much stock in that. Training sharply and the girl to beat.
My quartet is May Day Rose, Sarah's Secret, Home Sweet Aspen and Great Hot (Brz). Baffert's May Day Rose is a two time Grade 3 winner who came up just short in her last out, a Grade 2 during Breeders' Cup undercard racing. Sarah's Secret has no dirt, no distance, no Santa Anita efforts. She is a Grade 2 winner and a daughter of Leroidesanimaux (Brz). Home Sweet Aspen is perfect in the money over dirt and at Santa Anita. Toss the last effort and hope for a return to form. Great Hot (Brz), with Sutherland up, is a Santa Anita winner and very game.
Race 9 is a pretty good Optional Claimer/N2X; Baffert's Capital Account is off a long layoff, something Baffert does well 35% of the time, and has been training quite well. I also like Carla Gaines's Shrug: Blinkers off (17% angle) and training very sharply at Santa Anita.
Lunada Bay is a Baffert/Mike Smith joint, 30% winners at Santa Anita. Another long layoff horse.
Ron Ellis's 5 YO gelding Believe in Hope is winless in 2011 but had a very good last race out at 6F at Santa Anita. The son of Thunder Gulch has one win in last 8, way back in April 2010.
Carl O'Callaghan is a trainer I think is going places. His Leaving New York has been on the shelf since April and breaks from the 1 spot but has an awful lot of talent.
I'll build a very reasonable Pick 3 that echos my base handicap, with Turbulent Descent singled and a bit of value if I can find it. If i can't string a Pick Three together that has enough value I'll save the betting capital and invest in the superfectas I'm preparing.
Have fun with this nice card. We'll be playing Santa Anita All weekend and before next week I'll put up my track stats that I'm keeping.