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Brad Free's Santa Anita handicapping notebook April 5
Friday, April 4 review
It was only a five-horse field of maidens in race 1 on Friday, but it revealed a clue to the Santa Anita Oaks on Saturday. Unfortunately for bettors that like Oaks contender Honey Ride, the Friday race did little to reinforce that opinion.
Kool Kat was a contender in race 1, based on her runner-up finish last out behind Oaks contender Honey Ride. If the maiden win by Honey Ride was legitimate, then Kool Kat should validate the effort running back against maidens. She ran poorly. Kool Kat, 5-2 in the program, was cold on the board, closed at 7-2, and sputtered to finish a dull fourth.
Perhaps the effort by Kool Kat was due to a slow pace and being shuffled back early. Or maybe the maiden race in which Honey Ride and Kool Kat finished one-two was bogus. The bottom line? – after watching Kool Kat misfire, the enthusiasm this handicapper had for Honey Ride definitely has tempered.
Trainer Craig Lewis won a six-way shake for First Strike, third-place finisher in race 2, a $25,000 claiming sprint. In the receiving barn afterward, First Strike was “off” in the left front. The claim was voided. First Strike goes back to trainer Adam Kitchingman.
The runaway winner of race 2 was Chicsdigtheshark, with a clever ride from Agapito Delgadillo. He popped the gate from the inside post, drifted well off the rail early in the seven-furlong race, lured favorite Dress Code up inside, pressed the favorite, shook away, and drew off with an 86 Beyer. Dress Code “bounced” off a big recent win, finishing fourth. He was claimed by Mike Puype.
W. Giles was 2-1 second favorite when the gates opened for race 3, while Bart the Barrister was 3-2 favorite. When the gates opened, W. Giles shot to the front. Before the field raced a quarter-mile, the odds flip-flopped. The pacesetter W. Giles dropped to 3-2 odds (closed 8-5 favorite), while Bart the Barrister drifted up.
W. Giles led gate to wire; Bart the Barrister finished a hanging third. Danny Velazquez claimed Bart the Barrister, who apparently is not much horse. Late odds changes never look good, particularly when the recipient of the action happens to be the pacesetter.
In race 4, the maiden Lakota Road was hammered to a ridiculous 3-5 while facing winners in the maiden-40 starter allowance at a mile and one-eighth on turf. She was compromised by the slow pace, but also hung in the lane.
The winner was the best-looking filly in the post parade. Water Issues, second start for trainer Jeff Mullins, made the lead and set slow fractions. She had enough left for the drive, and returned $15.80. Water Issues, by McCann’s Mojave, was produced by the popular claiming mare Revillew Slew. She won 13 of 46, mostly in Southern California, from 1998 through 2003.
A filly making her first start in California and another making her first start since last June returned with impressive allowance wins – Theatre Star in race 6, and My Sweet Addiction in race 7.
Theatre Star was purchased privately this spring by Glen Hill Farm, after reeling off three wins vs. lesser company in the East. The 4-year-old War Front filly, trained by Tom Proctor, never looked like a loser in race 6, a two-other-than at a mile and one-eighth. The filly rated kindly in second under Gary Stevens, cruised easily to the lead into the lane, and won by a deceptive three-quarters of a length.
Theatre Star had plenty left at the wire, and will be dangerous going up the ladder. Theatre Star earned an 87 Beyer.
In race 7, My Sweet Addiction returned from a nine-month layoff with a decisive one-other-than victory in 1:09.28. She earned an 84 Beyer. Bred to run long (by Tiznow, out of Grade 1 winner Healthy Addiction), My Sweet Addiction should have a big year for trainer Marty Jones.
HORSES TO WATCH
Trainer: Bill Spawr
Last race: April 4, 5th
Finish: Sixth by 10 3/4
No trainer has had more success with this 7-year-old claiming horse than Spawr, who re-claimed him for $8k. ’Wags was never a threat in this race, but the 11-for-54 gelding is 7-for-11 for Spawr and can return to form next time out.
Trainer: Jeff Mullins
Last race: April 4, 8th
Finish: Seventh by 4 1/4
A bad trip from an inside post cost this gelding any chance in a turf sprint for California-bred maidens. Shuffled back, blocked into and through the lane, his rider had no chance to set him
Saturday, April 5 preview
The runner-up finish by Yard Line on Dec. 7 at Hollywood Park came in the most productive maiden race of the track’s final meet. Yard Line returns Saturday as the favorite in race 1 (post 12 noon), with company lines that keep looking better.
Yard Line finished second behind Chitu, who is a 3-for-4 graded stakes winners. Among those that finished behind Yard Line are The Admiral, who since won a maiden and allowance and is entered Saturday in the Bay Shore; Melatonin, who won two starts later; Los Borrachos, who won four starts later and is in Saturday in the Wood; and two other subsequent maiden winners – Red N Black Attack, and Confisio.
Based on form, Yard Line can win race 1. However, his comeback works have been only okay, and a couple of second-start maidens are likely to improve at a price. Cotton Valley finished a better-than-looked fifth (not asked, finished well, big gallop-out) in his debut. J Serino finished a better-than-looked seventh (off slow, rushed, tired) in the same race.
Cotton Valley and J Serino both are listed at 12-1 on the morning line. Both have a realistic chance to upset the “key-race” favorite Yard Line.
WILL SPEED HOLD?
An early read on the racing surface will be provided in race 2, when stretch-out dropper Storm Fighter tries to wire the field in the one-mile dirt race. It will be his second start following a layoff; he set a fast pace and tired to fifth in his sprint comeback against open allowance company.
Storm Fighter drops into a California-bred allowance Saturday, stretches to a mile, breaks from post 1, and is sure to be put on the lead by Edwin Maldonado. The front is often the best place to be in dirt routes at Santa Anita, and if Storm Fighter wires the field, it would be comforting for those who prefer likely Santa Anita Oaks pacesetter Fashion Plate, and the possible Santa Anita Derby pacesetter Dublin Up.
REASON FOR CHANGE
Was it the 'G' or was it the 'T?'
That is the key question facing Gangnam Guy, among the favorites to win race 3, the Echo Eddie Stakes for California-bred 3-year-olds. It is a dirt sprint. Trouble is, the career-best races by Gangnam Guy happen to be his two recent races on turf. Superficial review would suggest Gangnam Guy improved due to changing surfaces, to “T.”
However, there might be another reason. Gangnam Guy was gelded prior to his Jan. 16 comeback. So his two best races also happen to be his two races since he became a “G.”
A respected Southern California clocker is raving about recent workouts by Santa Anita Derby longshot Schoolofhardrocks. A son of turf-synthetic sire Rock Hard Ten, the colt finished fourth in his comeback, 15 lengths behind California Chrome. If he needed the race, he should improve Saturday.
Works by Schoolofhardrocks suggest he will improve. The clocker wrote that the David Hofmans trainee was a “gorgeous strider . . . appears to be any kind” after a six-furlong workout March 28 that earned an “A-” work rating from the clocker. Prior to the colt’s recent comeback, the clocker wrote that “ ’Rocks “may be the best 3-year-old on the West Coast.”
It remains to be seen if a son of Rock Hard Ten can reproduce his good synthetic-surface win from last summer to a dirt track this spring. Generally speaking, progeny of Rock Hard Ten are most effective on turf and synthetic.
But according to the powerful dirt workouts by Schoolofhardrocks, he is “live” on Saturday. And he would not be the first surprise winner tabbed by National Turf’s top clocker, Andy Harrington.
The scratch of Vegas Rules from race 11 will soften the pace scenario in the turf sprint for $25,000 claiming fillies and mares. A race with only two apparent front-runners now has just one – I’m Tops.
I’m Tops makes her second start following a nine-month layoff, while switching to an aggressive rider in Agapito Delgadillo. I’m Tops could clear the field, and if allowed an easy enough lead can be long gone at 4-1. Her main rival is the 7-2 program favorite, Joeandbetty’sbaby.
An improving maiden in the Santa Anita Derby, Dublin Up (No. 8, 30-1) has a key factor in his favor. That is, speed. Pending strategy by California Chrome, Dublin Up could make the lead. He is the only apparent pace rival for ’Chrome. If the favorite takes back, Dublin Up could shake loose. On paper, he is not good enough. But his last race was his best yet, and if he is left alone the front-runner has a crazy chance to spring an upset.
How often do you see the horse in the lead suddenly go down in odds as opposed to their odds drifting up? It's the perception that something is just not right that grabs at me. All pools should be closed two minutes before post time. Everything possible should be done by the powers that be to eliminate any cheating. Isn't it about time that the average player/bettor is protected from cheating?