02/18/2011 5:10PM

HandiGambling 221 (Santa Anita Optional Claimer)

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Today's HandiGambling 221 exercise is the seventh race at Santa Anita, a $62,500 optional claimer with a 'n2x' condition for fillies and mares at seven furlongs. 

Remember that you have a mythical $100 with which to wager on the race, and the entrant with the highest money total will receive a "Monthly Enhanced 60-Card Past Performance Plan." Anyone going over the $100 limit will be disqualified. Please post your plays and analysis to the blog.  Past performances are available at the previous blog post.  In the event of a tie, the earliest post gets first preference. One entry per person please. I reserve the right to approve or deny any entries.

I know that there is a time issue for some of you, but let's remember why we began the HandiGambling races in the first place. The goal was to share ideas on why we like these horses, and why we're betting them the way we are. I'm not asking for a novel, but if you could spare a sentence or two outlining your handicapping angles, and thought processes about wagering, it would be appreciated.

As of this writing, the track condition is FAST.

#4 CHURCH CAMP is 1 lb. overweight. 

I found it hard to separate my top contenders so I'll search for a price among them.  #7 PATRIOTIC VIVA won the Serena's Song Stakes going two turns on dirt at Monmouth last summer, and was only beaten a head when finishing ahead of next-out stakes-winner Don'tgetsuspicious at six furlongs in her last start back East. 
If you want to look for excuses for her last two races, let's mention that she raced on synthetics at Hollywood off a short layoff on November 26 before being completely overmatched in the Grade 1 La Brea last time out. 
It's heartening that high-percentage rider Rafael Bejarano accepts the mount and Patriotic Viva may work out a good trip stalking the speeds. 

Several of the main contenders exit a similar spot here on January 20.  While it wouldn't be surprising if any of the three win it, I just didn't love that race.  #4 CHURCH CAMP finished second that afternoon in her first start of the form cycle and the recent bullet workout allays fears of a bounce.  She has excellent tactical speed and shouldn't be too far away when the real running begins.

#2 CRISIS OF SPIRIT was the beaten favorite on January 20, her first start since October, and she didn't have a very good trip.  The winner of the Anoakia Stakes at six furlongs as a juvenile filly, Crisis of Spirit figures to run another bang-up race in her second start back. 

#5 SUPERMODEL rallied for fourth behind Church Camp and Supermodel, but the lightly-raced six-year-old mare has had some physical problems throughout her career, and she has a penchant for breaking poorly.  She may run late, but hasn't won a race since 2009. 

#9 LEA THE PUNISHER won her last start going two turns, but she was all-out to prevail, didn't gallop out all that well, and it could be argued that she wasn't best (third-place finisher Gumption had a horrible trip).  Although she's run some good races sprinting, she seems like a grinder, and it will be interesting to see if she has the turn of foot to stay with these going into the turn. 

#1 SARASOTA SUNSHINE finished 23rd when overmatched in a rich handicap in England on September 25.  It's probably better to rank her on her victory over good to firm turf two starts back.  Classwise, she fits at this level, and it's interesting to note that she is 3-4 in left-handed sprints (albeit over polytrack) overseas. 
Sarasota Sunshine sold for 85,000 guineas last October at Tattersalls and will add Lasix for the first-time for high-percentage trainer Mike Mitchell.  Some European runners are prone to slow starts, however, and it will be interesting to see how Sarasota Sunshine copes with the inside post coming out of the chute.

#6 STOCKINGS has won two of her last three starts, but she will take a substantial step up in class this afternoon.  Note that none of the five horses she beat on March 10 returned to crack the trifecta next-out, and she has been away for a long time. 

#3 SWEET SOPHIA  has faced good company on grass, but she has only raced once since June 23, and has never run on dirt.  While she worked a bullet five-eighths on February 6, her most recent drill matches up with Gary Mandella's three-year-old gelding Sea and Sail (15 Beyer Speed Figure in lone career start on dirt). 
Sweet Sophia has a nice pedigree as a half to Grade 3 route winner Fight for Ally and stakes-winner Colonial Glitter, but there are questions she has to answer.

Here's my HG play:

$50 WP:  PATRIOTIC VIVA (#7)

Best of luck to all.