04/03/2014 7:59AM

Brad Free's Santa Anita handicapping notebook April 3


Sunday, March 30 review

A big speed figure and three-race win streak propelled Fury Kapcori onto the short list of contenders for the spring-summer handicap series that culminates with the Gold Cup at Santa Anita on June 28 (former Hollywood Gold Cup). Is Fury Kapcori really that good?

Fury Kapcori earned a 107 Beyer Figure winning the Santana Mile by three-quarters of a length Sunday, clocking the same 1:34.50 he did winning a N3X on Feb. 7. Only three Santa Anita runners this winter earned higher figures – Game on Dude, 117; Will Take Charge, 114; and California Chrome, 108. Those figures were all earned March 8.

As for Fury Kapcori, his third straight win makes him the early favorite for the Grade 3, Precisionist Stakes (former Mervyn Leroy) on May 3. That 1 1/16-mile race leads to the Grade 2 Californian at 1 1/8 miles on May 31, followed by the Gold Cup at 1 1/4 miles.

It remains to be seen if Fury Kapcori is graded-stakes-caliber. But one thing is certain – he certainly benefits from the reconfigured California racing calendar.

The Precisionist (Mervyn Leroy) and Californian previously were run at Hollywood Park, a synthetic-surface track that was fair to all running styles. Hollywood’s burial means Santa Anita stays open through June 29, and allows pace-presser Fury Kapcori to exploit a track profile that strongly favors his up-front style.

Nine of the last 11 dirt races at one mile were won by a horse within one length of the lead after the opening half-mile. Since opening day, 32 of 52 mile dirt races were won inside the same parameter.

Fury Kapcori will stretch to 1 1/16 miles next time, and take advantage of a similar profile – 32 of the 49 dirt races at 1 1/16 miles have been won by a horse within one length of the lead after the first half-mile. At Santa Anita, speed rules.

When he runs back on May 3, Fury Kapcori will avoid the top handicap-division locals. Game On Dude, Clubhouse Ride and Imperative are among those headed to Charles Town for the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic on April 19.

But when the 1 1/8-mile Californian is run at Santa Anita in late May, those shippers will have returned. The division will be deeper, and Fury Kapcori will have tougher foes than the good miler Appealing Tale whom he wore down on Sunday.


Race-1 favorite Kafister ($2.40) won the $20,000 claiming sprint by nearly four lengths and was claimed in a 14-way shake by trainer David Bernstein. He has earned Beyer Figures in the mid-80s three straight races, and will be live when Bernstein runs him back for a $25,000 claim tag later this month.


Race-3 favorite Carbonite was has lost a step at age 8. A stakes winner earlier in his career now racing for a $10,000 tag, he finished second and was claimed by Robertino Diodoro. Carbonite will stay local for the time being, but Diodoro said the veteran could end up at Canterbury Downs in Minnesota later this year. Canterbury opens May 16. Diodoro also claimed fourth-place finisher Change of Plan.
The race-3 claim of fifth-place finisher She Digs Me by George Lopez was voided due to post-race unsoundness. He was returned to trainer Peter Miller.

Race 4 was the first leg of the pick six, which began with a one-day carryover of $92,562. New money wagered Sunday into the pick six was a massive $791,186. The race-4 upset by $15.60 Life’s Journey was the highest-paying winner in the sequence, followed by $5.60, $9.20, $3.80, $12.40 and $7.20.

The sequence was not impossible, and 16 winning tickets paid $32,202.40.

The takeout rate for the California pick six is a ghastly 23.68 percent. But after factoring into consideration the carryover, the effective takeout rate in the pick six Sunday was less than 12 percent ($791,186 wagered, $696,395 returned = $94,791 taken out).


Race-5 winner Tribal Dress ($5.60) was claimed for $12,500 by trainer Mike Mitchell for owner-breeder Nick Alexander. Tribal Dress could race again, but Alexander planned to ship her midweek to his ranch in Solvang. Although Tribal Rules might be freshened for another start, Mitchell suggested that it is more likely she will be retired and bred.

Tribal Dress, a Tribal Rule filly bred by Alexander, is a full sister to 2-for-2 Sunday Rules, Alexander’s promising 3-year-old filly whose two starts last summer at Del Mar were blowouts. That includes an 8 1/2-length dazzler in the $150,000 Generous Portion Stakes.

Sunday Rules was given fall and winter off, but has returned to Santa Anita. Mitchell said Sunday Rules is not ready to breeze anytime soon. It is a long year. Stay tuned.


Race-8 winner Spring Up ($12.40) continued a blazing streak by trainer John Sadler. Over the past five racing days, Sadler was 8 for 11. He starts Scooter Bird in race 7 on Thursday.


Trainer: David Bernstein
Last race: March 30, 1st
Finish: 1st by 3 3/4
Beyer: 85
Claimed in a 14-way shake by Bernstein from Jerry Hollendorfer, this honest gelding cruised by daylight in a manner that suggests he can win right back moving up one level.

Trainer: Craig Lewis
Last race: March 30, 7th
Finish: 3rd by 3 1/2
Beyer: 100
A millionaire plagued by foot problems, he turned the corner with this even-paced effort in a stakes dominated by speed. Next is the $1.5 million Charles Town Classic. Last year he finished second at Charles Town, a half-length behind Game On Dude. Upset in 2014?

Trainer: Richard Baltas
Last race: March 30, 8th
Finish: 4th by 2
Beyer: 85
A fast pace in this mile turf race did him no favors (45.25 and 1:09.15). After carving the splits, he stuck in there to deep stretch. He can be followed on turf or synthetic.

Thursday, April 3 preview

California Horse Racing Board rule 1634 (“Claiming Option Entry”) went into effect in 2008. It allows owners to enter a horse in a claiming race with no risk of being claimed.

It signals optimism when a claiming horse returns with the not-to-be-claimed waiver, and handicappers generally interpret the move in a positive style. Two examples return Thursday at Santa Anita – Sweetrayofsunshine in race 2, and Mahalo Princess in race 6.

The rule:
“(a) At the time of entry into a claiming race, the owner may opt to declare a horse ineligible to be claimed provided: (1) The horse has been laid off and has not started for a minimum of 180 days since its last race, and (2) The horse is entered for a claiming price equal to or greater than the price at which it last started.”

The entered-not-to-be-claimed provision is an incentive to give a horse time off, and bring the horse back at the same claim level with one “free race” to recoup expenses incurred during the time off. Second start back, the horse is fair game to be claimed.

Race-2 entrant Sweetrayofsunshine, trained by Bill Spawr, has won 6 of 10 including a $20,000 claiming race her most recent start April 25. She returns in a $25,000 claiming race, with leading rider Rafael Bejarano and a series of sharp works. She is 2-1 on the morning line. Win or lose, that is a very low price.

Race-6 entrant Mahalo Princess, trained by Joshua Litt, has won 4 of 16 and was claimed for $12,500 her most recent start May 24. She returns in a $12,500 claiming race with Victor Espinoza. The past three years, Litt and Espinoza are 13 for 37. Mahalo Princess is 3-1, another underlay. Bettors can monitor her odds that are likely to drift up.

By coincidence, Sweetrayofsunshine and Mahalo Princess are the top selection by this handicapper. However, they face an unexpected short-term trend that will give pause to bettors that blindly wager on angles.

Ten horses this meet have returned in claiming races under not-to-be-claimed CHRB rule 1634. Their combined record is 0 for 10.

CHRB rule 1634
Santa Anita winter entrants
(Dec. 26 through March 30)

Date                 Horse                           Class                Odds            Finish
Dec. 28            Three Vases                 12.5K               5.40-1             10
Jan. 2               Corinthian Melody         M40                 3.50-1             2
Jan. 5               O Happy Gray               25K                  8.80-1            5
Jan. 19             Evasive Charmer           10K                  7.90-1             5
Jan. 19             Four Better                  25K                  9.40-1             10
Jan. 20            Valentine Boy               25K                  45.90-1             4
Feb. 1              My Brite Caroline           25K                  37.80-1            6
Feb. 17            Shame on Alex              32K                  10.00-1            5
March 1            It’s Aine                     12.5K               9.10-1                4
March2             I Run for Fun              25K                  11.70-1              2

Even good jockeys occasionally endure bad streaks. Joe Talamo begins the week on longshot Fanny Brice in race 2, followed by logical contender Tiz Molly in race 3. Talamo will try to bust out from an uncharacteristic streak of losses.

Second in the Santa Anita standings and undeniably a premier rider in Southern California, Talamo enters Thursday on a 31-race drought dating to the race-1 win by Arkenstone on March 22, Since then, Talamo has seven seconds and seven thirds.

Want to bet against Talamo? It might not be a good idea. Tiz Molly has a prep race under her belt and could be the horse to beat in race 3.

A short rainstorm rolled through Arcadia early this week, which is news. It has been an unusually dry winter, and the turf course has been quite firm. A little bit of rain might do it some good by creating more give. That remains to be seen.

The turf rails move to 24 feet on Thursday (out from 8 feet on Sunday). Data this winter has shown that when the rails are at 15, 24 or 30 feet, front-runners win more often.

But when speedster Macias contests race 5, a $12,500 claiming starter at one mile, he will race beyond his recent comfort zone. The 7-year-old has not won a route race since he was a 2-year-old. That was the Eddie Logan Stakes at Santa Anita in December 2009

Macias is the most likely winner Thursday. But his low 3-1 program odds, in a race with opposing speed, might be reason to shop elsewhere. The closers Mr. Candy Bar (12-1) and Cook Inlet (6-1) face a challenging profile with rails up, but a possibly advantageous pace scenario.

Race 7 is a one-other-than turf route for fillies and mares, and Somethingabouther could make an easy lead. Ginger Tap and Feline Forum will roll late. So will Scooter Bird, who should have been given more consideration by the Daily Racing Form analyst.

Swiss Perfection makes her career debut in race 8, a sprint for California-bred maiden fillies. Trained by Mike Harrington and ridden by Rafael Bejarano, Swiss Perfection is a surprisingly high 6-1 on the morning line.

Sired by Swiss Yodeler, she is a full sister to Tilde, a stakes-winning filly trained by Harrington who won 4 of 9 including her career debut May 20, 2012 at Hollywood Park. She was trained by Harrington and ridden by Bejarano, Tilde won by a half-length at $18.80. Swiss Perfection has trained like she can fire first time out.

Race 4
TAKE A RISK (#4, 5-2) is sitting on a win. Fanned six wide last time, he finished on his wrong lead and fell short by only a half-length. A similar effort would probably be good enough.

Race 7
SOMETHINGABOUTHER (#8, 7-2) can post a mild front-running upset in a turf route that is void of speed. The turf rails are at 24 feet, they’ll have to catch her beat her.

Race 8
First-time starter SWISS PERFECTION (#9, 6-1) is a Swiss Yodeler full sister to three-time stakes winner Tilde, a debut winner for Harrington and jockey Rafael Bejarano. ’Perfection debuts for the same combination, with sharp works. All systems go.