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Brad Free's Santa Anita handicapping notebook April 12
Friday, April 11 review
The first five races Friday were won by the pacesetter. Short, long, dirt, turf – it does not matter. Speed wins. That is just the way it is.
It was warm again Friday - 83 degrees - the track played slightly slower than a day earlier, and no one hit the pick six. The carryover into Saturday is $54,472.
Sometimes speed wins because the pace is slow, like Grand Humor ($7.60) wiring race 1 at six furlongs after a first quarter in a dull 22.74 seconds. Bob Baffert-trained favorite Bad Behavior finished a passive second and is headed the wrong way. Baffert’s last nine starters have produced 0 wins, 4 seconds, 2 thirds.
Steve Miyadi trains race-2 bottom-level claiming filly Gray Madam ($12.80), who stretched from sprints to 1 1/16 miles, walked on the lead in 1:13.30, and won by more than five. She was chased home by slowpoke favorite Joint Attempt, who is not much stock. Miyadi, based in Northern California, is 5 for 41 at Santa Anita this meet.
The front-running winner of race 3, Fast Moka Too, benefitted when pace rival Nueva Fortuna stumbled and steadied at the break and was shuffled to last. That left Fast Moka Too ($6.40) loose on the lead, and she wired the N2L claimer. Have to give Nueva Fortuna a pass. She lost all chance at the break.
BAZE ON SPEED
When favorites Taste Like Candy and Satirical completely misfired in the $75,000 Santa Paula Stakes, the sprint for 3-year-old fillies was thrown into utter chaos.
Uzziel wired the field at $86.20 with an ambitious front-running ride from Tyler Baze, who explained his strategy to Santa Anita publicity: “I wanted her to break strong and show everyone I meant business and then see what they were going to do. When I didn’t get pressure from the outside, I just let her run. I wasn’t taking hold from then on.”
Baze won three races Friday, all on front-runners. He enters Saturday ranked third in the jockey standings with 45 wins. Rafael Bejarano has 85; Joe Talamo has 48. The upset win lifted Baze’s return on investment to a generous $2.42 for each $2 wager.
Uzziel went quick early (21.78 and 44.48), slowed late, won in 1:17.19, and earned an 80 Beyer. It was a low-rated stakes. Her win payoff was the highest by a Mike Puype winner in at least five years.
The appeal of 20-1 longshot Ski’s Copper Penny in race 8 was chronicled in this space on Friday. She had improving form, early speed, and a big price. But she finished seventh.
Bettors who backed Ski’s Copper Penny are obligated to try her again. The strategy employed Friday was curious. Whereas she showed speed in her previous start, jockey Fernando Perez rated her Friday in the turf sprint.
She dropped to seventh, and then ninth, encountering no apparent trouble at any stage. Her late rally was okay; she finished with run. It was a weird trip. Ski’s Copper Penny might be a bust. But facing similar Cal-bred maidens next time, possibly at two turns and only at double-digit odds, she is worth chasing once more.
Saturday, April 12 preview
Should you back a late-runner in a dirt sprint at Santa Anita? Recently, the answer is no.
Horseplayers paying attention to the extreme track profile will recognize that race-1 favorite Time for Angie and race-2 second choice Italian Baba are up against it.
The problem is running style. Time for Angie and Italian Baba are deep closers racing six furlongs over a main track that rewards speed. Recently at six furlongs, horses with no gas have no shot.
Since March 22, there have been 20 sprints at six furlongs – 14 won by the pacesetter, and every winner positioned within 1 ½ lengths of the lead after the first quarter-mile. It is a difficult profile for Time for Angie and Italian Baba.
Compounding the running-style dilemma facing Time for Angie is a severe class drop. She won three straight until misfiring last out at even-money. Saturday, after only one subpar race, she drops from $50,000 to $16,000 claiming. Not a sign of confidence.
Italian Baba has not raced in more than nine months. No big deal. She runs well fresh; trainer Mark Glatt does well with comebackers. But the late-runner will race over a track recently kind only to speed. She also drew the inside post in the $12,500 claimer, N2L.
Time for Angie (4-5 morning line) and Italian Baba (5-2 second choice) are the top choices by this handicapper. They might win. But until the surface changes from the front-runner’s heaven it has become, the first two races Saturday might be good ones in which to shop for a price.
Star Act, favored to win race 3, was supposed to be a good one. She was sired by Street Cry and produced by Grade 1 winner Starrer.
But after five starts, Star Act is still a maiden. She runs long on turf again Saturday, following a third and two seconds. Is she a mere tease? Could be, but the truth is Star Act should win the mile turf race for 3-year-old maiden fillies.
In her first start of the meet, she was shuffled at the three-eighths, but rallied to third. Second time, she was runner-up to Nashoba’s Key, a stakes winner two starts later. And last out, Star Act finished second behind the talented European import Margot Machance.
Star Act might not be a star. But she is the likely winner of race 3, as the 9-5 favorite.
GRADE 3 LAS CIENEGAS
The speed-friendly profile on the downhill continues. Like dirt, the hillside turf course also is a front-runner’s dream – 13 of the last 23 won by the pacesetter. The last time a turf sprint winner rallied from more than two lengths behind was way back on March 20.
If the profile continues, Biorhythm could be long gone as the 2-1 favorite in race 5, the Grade 3 Las Cienegas. She wired N2X foes last time setting a fast pace and is likely to clear the six fillies and mares chasing her in the Grade 3 Las Cienegas. But the lukewarm selection is the filly that will be chasing from second position.
Sky High Gal, 5-2 second choice, figures to sit second behind the speed and get first run. She has trained super for her first stakes since winning a minor stakes in February. Want to knock the selection? Okay, here is some oddball ammunition.
Rafael Bejarano is the top rider in Southern California, and John Sadler is among the top three trainers.
Yet the past five years, Bejarano and Sadler are just 2 for 31 together in graded stakes. Gladding won the Grade 2 San Antonio in 2011; Lady of Shamrock was placed first in the Grade 2 Santa Barbara in 2013. The Bejarano-Sadler stakes drought probably is an aberration.
GRADE 2 POTRERO GRANDE
The two favorites in race 8, the Grade 2 Potrero Grande at 6 ½ furlongs are Wild Dude (8-5) and Big Macher (5-2). Big Macher is preferred by this handicapper.
But the race is deeper than those two, and bettors shopping for a price might consider Cyclometer. He is trained by Bruce Headley, who has won the Potrero Grande six times. The problem with Cyclometer is he has become his own worst enemy, having broken slowly in three straight.
It is never a good sign when a horse develops bad gate habits, but Headley maintains it is not all Cyclometer’s fault. He said circumstances including equipment and gate handling have contributed to the poor starts.
Saturday in the Potrero Grande, Cyclometer breaks from the outside post. He will be the last horse to load, the gate will be sprung as soon as soon he is ready, and if he leaves with the field he could give Big Macher and Wild Dude an honest battle. Cyclometer is 5-1.
Race 4 entrant The Prime Mover is likely to scratch from the $20,000 maiden-claiming race on Saturday. Meanwhile, first-timer Jump the Wall posted two recent bullet works at Los Alamitos, and debuts against a soft bunch. Here’s the knock – Jump the Wall is a first-time starter at the ripe age of 7. Pass.
Second-time starter Slewissurfing worked well in blinkers following his fourth-place debut. Joe Talamo rode him first out, rode him in an April 4 work, and rides him in race 4, first leg of the pick six. He is a potential single to start the sequence.
Race 6 is a good one – a seven-furlong sprint for 3-year-old first-level allowance types. Top Fortitude, full brother to graded stakes winner Uh Oh Bango, finally returns. His debut victory in November was impressive.
The race-6 field also includes sharp maiden winner Chelios, a sibling to graded stakes winner Old Time Hockey; True Ten, sibling to graded stakes winner Notional; and Lolo El Canonero, a Street Cry colt out of a sibling to Breeders’ Cup Mile winner Val Royal.
STAR ACT (#9, 9-5) produced three sharp efforts this meet long on turf, and while the price is short, she should outrun these maidens as a single in the pick five.
COWTOWNMARY (#6, 9-2) goes route to sprint, and special-weight to maiden-75 in this turf sprint. He could be the controlling speed under Geovanni Franco, whose win rate this winter at Turf Paradise was 27 percent.