04/10/2014 9:16AM

Brad Free's Santa Anita handicapping notebook April 10


Sunday, April 6 review


Santa Anita recently lowered the claiming price from $25,000 to $20,000 in first-level allowance/optional-claiming races restricted to older California-breds.

The intent was to generate more statebred winners moving up to open races, feed the next condition up the ladder. Otherwise, allowance/optional races often are won by a claiming horse that already won at the condition. Those types do not move up; they stay where they are class-wise. The do not feed the next condition.

In lowering the claiming price, the hope was fewer claiming horses would enter statebred allowances. The races would be won by lightly raced prospects moving up through the conditions. The lowered claim price theoretically would deter entry due to increased likelihood they would be claimed.

It happened again Sunday in race 3. Twelve Folds was the only runner entered for the claim tag. She had to run for the tag, because she already had won the first statebred condition. The only way she could return at the same level was to enter for the claim tag.

Twelve Folds accomplished what the track hoped to avoid – a claiming horse winning a statebred allowance. Therefore, none of the five starters will move up to open allowance. Twelve Folds ($11.20) was claimed by Kristin Mulhall in a two-way shake. She earned an 81 Beyer.

Prior to the claim-price reduction this meet, six California-bred races attracted 10 horses that ran for a $25,000 tag. Miss Well Molded ($4.60) Jan. 23 was the only winner.

Since the claim-price reduction, four California-bred races attracted four horses that ran for the $20,000 tag. Two have already won – Noise of the Crowd ($11.80) on March 16 and Twelve Folds on Sunday.

It happens again Thursday in race 7 – Noise of the Crowd is the only runner entered for the $20,000 claim price in a field of California-bred fillies and mare racing 6 1/2 furlongs on the hill. Noise of the Crowd also happens to be the 5-2 favorite.


The only turf sprint Sunday was race 4. No surprise, it was won by the pacesetter. Big Note ($10.40) gave trainer Javier Sierra his first-ever three-win week. Big Note, a 6-for-26 pro in top form, shot to the front, cleared his pace rival and won by a nose under Brice Blanc.

How effective is speed on the downhill course? The past three weeks, the pacesetter won 11 of 21, irrespective of the rail setting. Make the lead and win the race, half the time.

The rails move from zero to 15 feet Thursday. The likely front-runner in race 7, a turf sprint, is the familiar Noise of the Crowd. Her speedy main rival is 3-1 second choice Mark of a Gem, a legitimate contender that missed by a nose last out.

As for Sunday runner-up He’s a Dance Star, the 7-year-old gelding was claimed by Jack Carava for $32,000. However, he was reported unsound in the receiving barn later, and the claim was voided. He’s a Dance Star returns to trainer Richard Baltas.


My Monet worked fast into her debut in race 5, a sprint for California-bred maidens entered for a $40,000 claim tag. But she was a 4-year-old finally making it to the races. Probably would not be claimed, right? Wrong.

National Turf clocker Andy Harrington wrote up her recent workout: “Speedy and sharp looking down the backside in 23.4, 47.2 finishing well in 59.3 out in 112.2. Strong in here; Talamo up. Grade: B+.”

My Monet ($9.80), a Decarchy filly ridden by Joe Talamo and trained by Matt Chew, dusted the field by 3 3/4 lengths. George Papaprodromou claimed her in a three-way shake. On paper, it was a good claim. My Monet earned a 69 Beyer.


Now you tell me.

Race-7 winner Congregationalist was the fourth next-out winner from race 1 on Feb. 17. Congregationalist won the non-winners-of-two $25,000 claiming sprint Sunday by 1 1/2 lengths with an 84 Beyer. He should be live next out vs. open company, even though he benefitted from an easy pace scenario Sunday.

Runner-up Pass the Pico finished more than eight lengths clear of third and is likely to be favored next time at the same level.

The 9-5 favorite Red Tesla pulled up on the turn and was removed from the track in the horse ambulance. Red Tesla, trained by Bob Baffert, was returning from a long layoff and dropping from allowance to claiming.

As for race 1 on Feb. 17, the other next-out winners were Keyboard Courage ($5.60 on March 9), Kafister ($2.40 on March 30), and Dress Code ($15.80 on March 2).

Valentine Boy ran back and finished fifth on March 28. Candy Waltz is the only starter that has not run back, but his training has been interrupted. He is not close to a start. The “key race” angle for the Feb. 17 race is done.


The Santa Anita turf is so fast that ungraded stakes winner Tom’s Tribute equaled the course record set by Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Wise Dan. Tom’s Tribute raced one mile in 1:31.78 in the $75,000 Thunder Road, winning by 2 1/4 lengths, geared down by jockey Mike Smith. It was impressive. Tom’s Tribute has turned the corner.

Trainer Jim Cassidy said Tom’s Tribute was compromised last out by a breathing issue, since corrected. Tom’s Tribute is ready to take on the big guns again soon. Along with Suggestive Boy and Winning Prize, he adds to a strong division of local turf milers.

The undervalued favorite in the Thunder Road was Peace and Justice, who started at an absurd 1.30-1 (Daily Racing Form analyst labeled him “best bet”).  But he went fast up front and faded. That is how he runs. Peace and Justice smoked the opening half in 44.09, six furlongs in 1:07.77, and cracked.

Peace and Justice is a run-off. Those types often do well turning back to a downhill sprint. The Grade 3 San Simeon Stakes at 6 1/2 on turf April 13 would hit Peace and Justice between the eyes. Will his connections shorten him up? It makes sense.

Bright Thought’s third-place comeback was super. He can be followed stretching to a longer distance. It was a tough trip in the stretch for fourth-place finisher County Lineman.

Thursday, April 10 preview


Thursday’s race 2, a seven-furlong sprint for maiden fillies and mares, includes two entrants with powerful pedigrees.

Rutile is a 3-year-old first-timer trained by John Shirreffs and owned by Jerry and Ann Moss. By Medaglia d’Oro, Rutile is out of top producer Set Them Free, whose foals include Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo, Santa Anita Derby winner Tiago, and Grade 3 winner Stanwyck, entered Friday in the Apple Blossom at Oaklawn Park.

Rutile has a good workout pattern, although first-out winners are not typical for Shirreffs. Aaron Gryder will ride Rutile, listed at 4-1 with a positive workout report.

Tiz Champ is a comebacker trained by Richard Mandella and owned by Diamond A Racing and Arturo Vargas. The 4-year-old Tiznow filly it out of Salt Champ, winner of the Grade 1 Santa Monica. Her foals include Grade 1 winner Champ Pegasus.

Tiz Champ raced twice in 2012, finishing ninth and fifth. Her comeback works are solid. Tyler Baze rides the filly, listed at 8-1. Her ability is undetermined, but she has worked as if she may want longer.

Meanwhile, the most likely winner is Courageous Call, runner-up in a recent comeback and the likely controlling speed. Courageous Call, trained by Ron Ellis and ridden by Edwin Maldonado, is the 9-5 favorite.


Seeking the West deserves attention in the feature race on Thursday, a 1 1/4-mile allowance on dirt that is race 3. But Seeking the West enters as a possibly vulnerable favorite, even though he seems to have a distinct advantage.

Seeking the West and main rival Footbridge are both in good form. Both are proven at the level. But attributes of one seem to outweigh the other.

Seeking the West has earned higher recent speed figures than Footbridge. Seeking the West has earned higher recent pace figures than Footbridge. Seeking the West is trained by Ron Ellis, 14 for 51 this meet. Footbridge is trained by Eoin Harty, 1 for 38 this meet.

Seeking the West is the morning-line favorite, Footbridge is second choice.

In a race that is likely to unfold at a slow pace, those two front-runners/pace-pressers are the fitting principals, and bettors could overdo one or both. If so, then Vladimir Cerin-trained Honduran could be the upsetter.

He adds blinkers following a “BTL” local debut. Cerin has been rolling lately.


The scratch of front-runner Stenoa from race 8, a maiden-30 route, makes things easier for stretch-out Closet E. He was claimed from a runner-up finish last out by Robertino Diodoro, and is likely to clear.

As everyone knows, speed is potent in two-turn dirt races, and Closet E could be loose. Unfortunately from a value perspective, Closet E is the 5-2 program favorite. Probably a good line, albeit too short for wagering.


Race 3

The favorites are logical. HONDURAN (No. 2, 3-1) goes second start back, stretching to 1 1/4 miles, and adding blinkers for a hot barn. Improvement is needed, and also expected. The morning line seems low, would hope for higher.

Race 5

The favorites are logical. Bettors trying to beat the chalk might take a look at ELEGANT (No. 1, 4-1). She returns from a layoff in a claiming race, entered not to be claimed per CHRB rule 1634. The maneuver has produced zero winners this meet, but ELEGANT has back figures that fit, and gets a weight break under apprentice Drayden Van Dyke. Would insist on a middle price (5-1). Otherwise, pass.