Ack Ack Handicap
I'm focused on three horses in this race. Istan the favorite certainly deserves to be the favorite and he does not have many holes. His figures suggest that he is not much above these but his results suggest that he has them over a barrel. He has only lost two races at a Mile and they were to Chatain and Lawyer Ron. Both vastly superior horses. He is not nearly as good on the grass so his last race in G-1 company was no shock. He fits here and his sharp recent suggests that he back in fine form. You have to use him but perhaps if his price is too short you look for alternatives because he did have a poor race over the surface and this is racing, anything can happen. Throng catches the eye a bit as his best career race according to the BRISnet figures came at these exact conditions. Not only that he figures to get the exact same kind of pace setup he got that day. He is best suited to closely tracking a solid pace. When he gets that garden spot right off the flank of the early speed, who will be Spotsgone, he should get first run and if any back luck should befall Istan coming through the pack he may build an insurmountable lead. Throng is not typically a quick horse in the mornings but he's been working very quickly of late. Pletcher is also very good with horses off the bench and you don't often get 12/1 on them. An up and coming horse who may turn into the wise guy selection is Casino Evil. He was an average 3yo who flashed talent on occasion and so far as a 4yo injury has prevented us from seeing how he's really come along. However from what we've seen he looks to be a far better horse than he was and this could be the last chance to get him at a good price against this kind. I loved his win last time over Simon Pure and I see him repeating that feat again. An absolute must use in exacta's and trifecta's. He's been given enough time to recover from his big race first off the shelf so I would not worry too much about regression. My theory with this horse is that he's just much better as a 4yo. Price determines the play in this race but since this is the day beforehand I'll just hedge and use all three.
I'm a fan of playing back class in spots where no one is a real standout. Windy might be a tepid favorite or maybe the public will like Rolling Sea. In either case they won't be strongly fancied because their claims aren't very strong. I'm hoping that the speedy Lady Belsara burns up Rolling Sea and sets the tempo for a closer. Change Up was a good 2yo last year and matched up decently with Lady Joanne. Lady Joanne has become a premier 3yo filly. Change Up has had a bad year and has never really been on track. She changed barns and didn't make her debut until July in a 5 1/2f race against La Traviata. That went as well as you could expect it to. They tried to keep her in touch but she was run off her feet. Next out they shipped to Laurel for a 6f event where the top two led all the way around. She closed to be third but really had no chance against real sprinters. The stretch out to the mile will be a godsend and Churchill has been a particularly kind strip to her. Going a mile I expect her to be maybe 3-4 lengths off the early pace and hopefully she is able to get her season back on track here. Everything is in her favor she just needs to go out and run like she used to.
California Cup Classic Handicap
Lava Man has no right to lose this race but I did not like his Oak Tree Mile at all. He never showed anything at any point of the race. At least when he got slapped at Del Mar he showed a willingness to be a part of things. Despite his massive class advantage I'll play against him. The horse I like is Celtic Dreamin. His star is really on the rise, it's still a class jump for him but 3yo's often can ride a wave of improving form late in the year. Tiznow rode his all the way to the BC Classic. This horse is no Tiznow but I think he has some real talent. So far he's acted on every surface he's met so Santa Anita's Cushion Track is no worry at all. He's got excellent tactical speed and he's getting better with every step. Gomez is even in to ride him, I think he's live to take another step forward and shock a few people.