04/11/2014 9:56AM

Brad Free's Santa Anita Handicapping Notebook April 11


Thursday, April 10, review

Claiming speed – winter never arrived this year in Southern California. Neither did spring. The temperature was 87 degrees Thursday, and speed continued to dominate over a fast racing surface.

Newfound Gold, an $8,000 claiming sprinter, raced gate to wire in race 1. He won by 3 1/2 lengths in 1:09.72, earned a 79 Beyer Speed Figure, and was claimed by Ted H. West in a two-way shake. Have to respect the gelding on the raise, although he was flattered by the racetrack. The one-two-three pacesetters were first, second, and third at the wire.

MSW speed – the betting was odd in race 2, a seven-furlong sprint for maiden fillies and mares. Despite the speed-friendly profile, comeback late-runner Mum opened at even money. She closed at a surprisingly low 8-5 and finished fifth by 17 lengths. Sometimes you wonder who is betting on deep closers in Santa Anita dirt sprints. Advance warning: This handicapper picked closers Saturday in races 1 and 2.

The race 2 winner was pacesetter Courageous Call ($4.60). Her 2 3/4-length victory in 1:22.95 earned a 75 Beyer Speed Figure. The race initially had pedigree power, but Rutile (sibling to Kentucky Derby winner Giacomo) scratched when reported injured. Tiz Champ, half to Champ Pegasus, finished third. It was a weak race.

Miller tote – it is always tricky to read the tote board for clues. Sometimes, a lack of wagering support is a negative factor. But when a Peter Miller trainee does not get action, there are no worries. Miller started race 4 favorite Alice Roadtrain, who squandered an easy lead, setting slow fractions last time.

She was a toss on principle. Miller also started Wild Optimism, a shipper from Sunland getting zero betting respect despite Miller’s previous success with similar runners. She closed at 9.60-1.

In an earlier conversation with apprentice rider Gonzalo Nicolas, Miller told the jockey to put Wild Optimism on the lead. He did, and the race was over. Wild Optimism set the pace, opened up in the lane, and won by 5 1/4 lengths. Wild Optimism, 4-1 on the morning line, returned $21.20 and earned a 65 Beyer Speed Figure.

It is worth remembering when a Miller trainee is ignored in the betting, pay no mind. It has been that way for a long time.
New Nature was 4-1 in the wagering when she broke through the gate, ran off, and was scratched. Misfortune continues to follow New Nature’s jockey, Omar Berrio. Does retirement beckon?

Turf sprint speed – Mark of a Gem became the 10th gate-to-wire winner from the last 18 turf sprints when she broke like a shot in race 7 and wired the field. She also benefitted from a heady ride by Mike Smith.

Smith allowed Mark of a Gem ($6.20) to drift off the rail slightly, enough room to give the second choice, Noise of the Crowd, an opportunity to come up inside. It was a trap.

Mark of a Gem kept it tight, and Noise of the Crowd had to take back from the inside and try to re-rally. By that time, Mark of a Gem had kicked away. She won by a neck, while Noise of the Crowd retreated and finished fourth.

Noise of the Crowd, the only starter in the California-bred optional-claiming race to run for the $20,000 tag, was by Bill Spawr in an 11-way shake.


He’s a Real Keeper
Trainer: Jerry Fanning
Last race: April 10, race 8
Finish: Fourth by 11 1/4 lengths
Beyer: 53

Racing over a speed-conducive track in a race that saw the one-two-three pacesetters finish first, second, and third at the wire, this $30,000 maiden-claimer actually ran well. He closed from last to fourth. If the speed bias ever dissipates, this two-turn closer has a longshot chance.

April 11 preview

SoCal shippers – California stakes horses are on the road, after scoring big-figure front-running wins at Santa Anita. When they race over different surfaces at Oaklawn Park, Charles Town and Churchill Downs, they may not have another speed-friendly profile in their corner.

California-based shippers who will race in coming weeks include Let Faith Arise (Apple Blossom on Friday at Oaklawn), Bayern (Arkansas Derby on Saturday at Oaklawn), Game on Dude (Charles Town Classic on April 19 at Charles Town), and California Chrome (Kentucky Derby).

All are good horses. And all scored recent front-running wins over the front-runner’s paradise that is the Santa Anita main track.

The first test is in the Apple Blossom, which includes two California shippers. Stretch-runner Stanwyck ran against the grain while finishing third in the Santa Margarita. That race was won by Let Faith Arise, who had conditions made to order.

If the Santa Anita bias is real and the Oaklawn surface is fair, then late-runner Stanwyck (8-1) should finish in front of front-runner Let Faith Arise (3-1). If the Santa Anita bias is not as severe as this handicapper believes, then Let Faith Arise will finish in front of Stanwyck again.

Friday, April 11, preview

A few notes on the Friday card, which begins with five claiming races:

Race 1 outsider Our Lucky Son, 10-1 in the program, is expected to scratch. The favorite is special weight-to-maiden 50 Bad Behavior, trained by a Bob Baffert. Also, it appears first-time starter Merlion is “live” first out. He posted an unimpressive recent work but is bred to win early (Lion Heart).

Race 2: Pasadena.

Race 3 front-runner Nueva Fortuna faces winners after a solid maiden 20 win. She might be quick enough to make the front or sit second. Either way, she will be in the right spot turning for home. She is by Northern Afleet, a favorite sire of trainer Bill Spawr (Amazombie, Afleet Cowboy).

Race 4 dropper Elusive Journey is tempting in his first try for a claim tag ($25,000, non-winners of two lifetime). His connections rarely win, and Elusive Journey is 1-for-21, but at odds higher than his 4-1 line, it gets interesting.

Race-5 first-timer Marthajean is “live” for trainer Mike Puype. Jockey Tyler Baze has been aboard the 5-year-old by Tribal Rule; her works have met with positive review. Probably won’t take much to win at maiden 20, but how do you feel about 5-year-old first-time starters?

The quality picks up in the last three races on the card, in order, an allowance, stakes, and special weight maidens.

Race 6 includes the turf debut of 1-for-2 Sweet Boss, by the surprisingly successful turf stallion Street Boss. She might be a good filly. She should have been picked higher than third preference.

Street Boss was a Grade 1-winning sprinter trained by Bruce Headley in 2008. He never raced on grass, but his progeny are doing well and winning at a 22-percent clip on grass.

Sweet Boss, trained by John Shirreffs, will be ridden by Aaron Gryder. Fun one to watch.

For the record, this handicapper’s race 6 selection was Anniversary Kitty. It’s a wimpy pick, but she is arguably the best horse dropping from a good stakes. Craig Dollase trains. Martin Garcia rides.

Race 7, the Santa Paula Stakes for 3-year-old sprint fillies, offers minimal value but a reliable result. Taste Like Candy has worked super for her return/class drop. She is 9-5 and could be going down from there. Her main rival is a second-time starter giving up seasoning. That is Satirical, whose debut was good.

L T Reckless is tempting based on her big-number blowout win three weeks ago. But she has a history of regressing and/or disappearing after a big debut/comeback. Bottom line: Taste Like Candy appears to be a low-odds single.

Race 8 includes another potential single. Warren’s Jen Fizz finished third last out in a similar California-bred maiden turf sprint, pressing the pace and missing by only a length in a big improvement over her debut. She has a good trainer in her corner in Jorge Gutierrez. Rafael Bejarano does not hurt her chances.

For a crazy bomber in the verticals, one might consider Ski’s Copper Penny. She pressed an awfully hot pace and stuck in there fairly well last out at 66-1. Now listed at 20-1, she could make the lead on a downhill turf course that has produced 10 gate-to-wire winners from the last 18 turf sprints. Ski’s Copper Penny is likely to set the pace and, with minor improvement, could contend to wire.

Spot plays

Race 6 – SWEET BOSS (No. 1, 5-1) is tempting at these odds. Bred to turf, training like she wants long, it all looks “go” for the improving and lightly raced daughter of Street Boss. She must beat favorite Anniversary Kitty and front-runner Sweetest Secret.

Race 7 – TASTE LIKE CANDY (No. 9, 9-5) should come back firing for Hollendorfer and Bejarano. She is the class of the field dropping from graded stakes and already the fastest on numbers. On paper, she is a low-odds single.

Race 8 – Although WARREN’S JEN FIZZ (No. 5, 3-1) should be tough to beat, bomber possibility SKI’S COPPER PENNY (No. 9, 20-1) is worth a stab at a giant price. She has speed over a speed course and is getting better for a good stable.