Clement L. Hirsch Memorial Turf Championship Stakes
It's a three horse race and most likely only of them will go to the Breeders' Cup Turf. Spring House has been meant for the Turf all year long and I've been trumpeting his chances since his first start of the year. He may not be Duke of Marmalade class but he loves Santa Anita and the Duke likely isn't coming. That said this race will be tough for him because he's facing a pair of genuine contenders at a distance that is likely the lowest point of his effective range. Spring House clearly wants 11 or 12f and at 9f or less he's much less horse. 10f is a new distance for him, he did try it once but that was back when he was a shadow of the horse he is now. Red Giant and Out of Control are both very good horses at 10f but are untested beyond. For Red Giant you also have to throw in the uncertainty of shipping to sunny California. All of his races have been in the east and he's shown an affinity for ease in the ground. Pletcher clearly wants to see if he is BC Turf material but he likely has to win or run a close second to be considered. As last year drew to a close I was convinced that Red Giant would be a major player but he only managed his first start of the campaign at Saratoga. Now I'm struggling to get a line on how good he really is and if he will like the firm turf. Certainly he has not disliked any turf he has ever run on but it seems as though each time he gets good ground or worse he runs a new career high. A minuscule point like that may be all that separates him from the other two who look equal on paper. Out of Control is the last of the trio but is as capable as any of them. He might have a tactical speed advantage on the other two but his recent form is not as good. I can forgive the Woodward but truthfully he had never run that poorly on dirt before and he is probably too good a horse to be riding a 5 race losing streak. He will present the most value at the window of the trio but he's got questions to match it. If you want to look beyond the obvious you have to settle on You Got Me Rocking. There have been some famous thefts in Californian route racing by lower class horses who get the lead to themselves and simply fail to stop. The Tin Man early in his career, Star Over The Bay, Leprechaun Kid and more recently Boule D'or. Mike Mitchell has a good feel for this kind of larceny and you can be sure that's what he's thinking here. I may just hedge myself against that as well as using the most obvious contender.
You Got Me Rocking
Lady's Secret Stakes
This race may start a string of winning heavy favorites. This race and the next 4 stakes will have heavy favorites who do not look very vulnerable. It might make multi-race exotic payouts very low. One thing you can count on though. If Zenyatta loses a lot of tickets are going to get ripped because no one has ever beaten her and the horse who came the closest to doing it just retired. She was also incidentally the defending champ in this race. The biggest storyline is the first head to head meeting between Hystericalady and Zenyatta. Zenyatta of course has already beaten Ginger Punch and Tough Tiz's Sis so Hystericalady is the last major rival she has to deal with. If Zenyatta wins again the Ladies Classic could be a bit anti-climatic since she will have already beaten every single one of her major competitors. Hystericalady is no pushover and I truly hope she handles the surface so we'll be treated to a genuine tussle. Hystericalady has historically had problems with synthetic tracks. Not that she runs poorly but she's never won in 4 tries. If this synthetic is received like other synthetics it will be hard to see her beating Zenyatta. I think what I'd do is take Zenyatta for a business as usual performance or play a totally contrary result. Santa Teresita is essentially a poor man's Hystericalady. It's hard to envision her as the up setter. The last time the Breeders' Cup was held at Santa Anita the mighty Sightseek ran 4th to Adoration. In this years Lady's Secret we have a horse who recently won the Adoration stakes. Wake Up Maggie may be an aptly named individual for she did seem to wake up suddenly and dramatically in the Adoration stakes. She had campaigned only on the grass during her time in America and had achieved mixed results. But Canani decided to switch to the polytrack last time and she was phenomenal. If you've seen Zenyatta's last race you must have noted Model, who made a huge move only to be run down by the Amazon. Model's next race was against Wake Up Maggie in the Adoration and it was no contest. Maggie was the best by a mile. She had a similar trip to the favorite, Model, but she easily out kicked her once they began running. She earned a 100 Beyer figure for the effort and that puts her right in the mix here. Maybe she is a top class synthetic horse who just hasn't had the chance to show it. I highly doubt Canani is running in here to try and get some easy third place money. He can make more than $27k in an abundance of places. I think he wants to know where his filly really belongs. No better place to test that out than here. It's true it would appear as if the world is ending if Zenyatta loses to Wake Up Maggie. I'm sure farmers would rush out to make sure the pigs had not flown from their cage but racing is sometimes unpredictable and no matter how many times I look at it I still can't see how Adoration won that Distaff.
Wake Up Maggie
Ancient Title Stakes
Sprints are usually the races where you can find wacky results but this one looks straightforward to me. Esperamos, Sailors Sunset and Idiot Proof are the main pace factors. I don't think Esperamos is good enough to win unless he gets in front all by himself. I suspect he wont have the speed to accomplish that. Idiot Proof ought to be the pace survivor the second assault to his lead will come from In Summation. Known by all as a synthetic track sprinting specialist. He shuts off well and has a nice quick turn of foot. The question with him is how worried are you that he failed to really pass anyone of note in the O'Brien. I know 7f is not his cup of tea but he tried to come with his run and could get past Barbecue Eddie at any point. He actually lost ground steadily from the second call all the way home. He looked tired and I'm not a fan of the fact that he's being put right back in here. I suspect that Idiot Proof will be able to rebuff his challenge but the horse who is the real danger is Street Boss. 5 wins in a row and reminding us more of Kona Gold with each day. Kona was a late running sprinter in his early days but he gradually added speed and in turn more consistency. This guy has found consistency without adding any speed at all. He tempts fate each time he plummets to the back and rallies 8 wide but so far it's working for him. He should be nice and fresh for this race having not run since July but will Headley have him fully cranked? I actually think that Idiot Proof will be good enough to hold him off and claim his first win in an unlucky season. Idiot Proof is a real 6f specialist and he's got a tactical speed advantage as well as a nice recent tightener on the Turf. Sailors Sunset is probably the only good price alternative if you feel like using someone other than the big 3. He doesn't win often but if he gets a good trip and doesn't chase the pace too hard he is certainly capable of beating one of the big 3 and juicing up the trifecta payoff.
Oak Leaf Stakes
The question on every one's mind must be, "can anyone beat Stardom Bound?" In all likelihood this is a filly in the tradition of Sweet Catomine and Halfbridled. They looked like the best and this race confirmed that they were the best. The price will be a lot shorter than I'm comfortable with considering the surface is new and it's her first time around two turns. I would likely stay out of the win pool in this race because deep down I believe Stardom Bound will win a shade easily but discipline prevents me from taking such a poor risk:reward scenario. In a search for alternatives my eye is always drawn first to the maidens because the logical question I ask is "why are they in here?" I think Oro Blanco's trainer is simply out of touch with reality so toss that one. Magic Roberta goes for a more dangerous conditioner but she essentially ran to the same level twice and that wasn't good enough to win any maidens. Black Magic Mama on the other hand might be an interesting play. She broke a touch slow but was rushed up to sit just behind the lead. She came through on the inside and as she was passing the front runner she shifted out a bit. She was better than everyone but the winner but was DQ'ed to 6th. I think she'll like being away from the rail and she should be able to dictate or stalk the pace from out there. She might be the one Stardom Bound has to reel in once the real running starts. I think one also has to respect Montana Fields. The stretch out should suit her well and she did nearly get the beating of Stardom Bound in her debut
Yellow Ribbon Stakes
I have been waiting patiently to play Wait A While on this course for quite some time now. I kind of hoped she would not run here until the Breeders' Cup to obscure her form a bit but you have to take the opportunities as they come. I think Wait A While crushes her foes in the race and is maybe the most confident single of the weekend. Black Mamba will take some money but I think she is simply not as good as Pletchers former champion. Some feel that Wait A While is not the horse she was, I disagree I feel that circumstances and campaign choices have muddied her form a bit. I think we see her back to her absolute best. Black Mamba is the best of the rest and should hold second but I would also use Solva underneath Wait A While to hopefully get some value. Solva hasn't won since last February but she has been done no favors by running in 9f races. She clearly wants to go longer and she's had some good races at 10f. In fact if Wait A While was out I'd be very tempted to use her over Black Mamba.
Wait A While
A fitting cap to what promises to be a brilliant day at Santa Anita. A very classy field has lined up for this, a most important Classic prep. 4 of the last 12 Classic winners prepped in the Goodwood and there is a good chance that the winner is among this group as well. It's tough to really get a feel for which horses will be set to run their best race and which are truly saving themselves for the classic. Logic dictates that most of the longshots really need to win in order to take the next step but horses like Well Armed, Surf Cat, Tiago and Mast Track are the classy ones that every handicapper has to deal with. Not all of them can win or even run in the frame. So someone needs to underperform. I had really been hoping to play the quick and agile Mast Track against Well Armed but with the 11 post his chances are severely compromised. Mast Track has never run a poor race on synthetics and he has been working up a storm in the morning. I think if he could get in front of Well Armed he'd have a nice tactical advantage but with his post I'm only looking at minor placings. Well Armed is the horse to beat but he is not unbeatable, he's got class but he does not stand above the field. Anything less than 3/1 is poor value in my book. He's got a great post to attend the pace from. Tiago looks like a great play to me despite the lengthy spell on the bench. If there is one thing we know about him it's that he loves 9f. He is more effective at 9f than any other distance. I suspect he might be a better horse on dirt than synthetics but he has proven capable just not as brilliant. The pace ought to be on the quick side of steady and I think it will be fair to all runners. The track itself is a bit of a question mark but I'm assuming that form will hold. Slew's Tiznow looked excellent in his comeback at Del Mar but this is a big step up for him and I'm not sure he'll be able to handle the class level at this point in his career. I'm totally against Spirit One, I thought his last was a fluke and he's up against it here. Another longshot I might like to use underneath is Zappa. He did not run poorly in the Pacific Classic and might have done better if not for some traffic. I actually suspect that this race will look quite a bit like the Pacific Classic with Tiago playing the part of Go Between and Well Armed and the others once again settle for minor places.