01/12/2008 2:13PM

Saturday Sniffles


I probably shouldn't be operating heavy machinery like multirace bets today, given that I'm sniffling my way through a Benadryl haze and a sea of Kleenex, but maybe a little carryover at Aqueduct and a triple-San stakes festival at Santa Anita will prove just what the doctor ordered.

At Aqueduct, I survived the firster-filled opening leg with turnbacking Raynicks Cat at $9.20 and am leaning heavily on the same two singles as many other playerss: Stormin Normandy in the upcoming 5th and Monster Drive in the 7th. If I get that far and get those two home, I'll then be five-deep in the difficult Affectionately Handicap and three-deep in the finale. The live tickets, starting with race 5:


Meanwhile, it's a San, San, San world at Santa Anita, with three graded San stakes on the card -- the G3 Rafael (5th), G2 Pasqual (7th) and G2 Fernando (10th).

(Trivia interlude: Did you know that four of the 14 most populous cities in the United States begin with a San? Can you name and rank them? Answer below.)

The San Rafael, for 3-year-olds at a mile, drew a pretty solid field for the second Saturday in January. Stakes-winners Massive Drama (Prevue), El Gato Malo (Gold Rush) and Sierra Sunset (Bay Meadows Juvenile/Cal Cup Juvenile) meet the strong maiden winners Talk of a Cat and Overbid.

The San Pasqual, at a mile and a sixteenth for 4-and-ups, rematches the 1-2-5 finishers from last month's Native Diver in Heatseeker, Racketeer and Arson Squad, with Racketeer most likely to move forward, making his second start off a long layoff. Brad Free makes an interesting case for Well Armed to wire the paceless field. The best horse in the race is probably Molengau, but he's coming off a six-month layoff and might need one.

The San Fernando, at a mile and a sixteenth for straight 4-year-olds, has several storylines: The return of Tiago, Johnny Eves strtching out after wiring a slow Malibu, Ravel trying to atone for his Native Diver flop and Great Hunter making his second start off a layoff. Tiago has run the fastest and faced the best but likes his distances a little longer and Great Hunter is worth a long look at his 8-1 ML odds.

[Trivia answer: As of 2004, according to Demographia, it's San Diego (7th), San Antonio (8th), San Jose (10th) and San Francisco (14th). The most populous St. is Louis at #48.]