06/24/2016 11:42AM

Free: How I'd play Santa Anita on Saturday, June 25


ARCADIA, Calif. – Sticking around for the last two races Saturday at Santa Anita? The answer should be yes because both Grade 1 races include attractive betting opportunities.

Race 8 is the seven-furlong Triple Bend, in which program favorite Kobe’s Back will try to overcome another slow start and win by rallying from last. A more likely scenario is that the race will be won by a front-runner at higher odds.

Race 9 is the 1 1/4-mile Gold Cup at Santa Anita, in which program favorite Hoppertunity will try to overcome a three-month break and a tepid pace scenario to win by rallying from behind. Or maybe the race will be won by a pace-presser at higher odds.

Speed is still the name of the game, yet both Grade 1 races Saturday include program favorites with no speed. That is good for skeptical handicappers who consider Kobe’s Back and Hoppertunity to be vulnerable.

On the flip side, both Grade 1s include top contenders who do it out front. The likely pacesetter in the Triple Bend is listed at 3-1; the Gold Cup includes a sharp pace-presser at 7-2. A bettor could keep it simple and bet both horses to win.

Or, one could swing for the fences. While small fields prevent a grand slam in either Grade 1 (only eight in each), the combination of an overlay top choice with a potential longshot runner-up opens the door for exacta plays in both races.

Let’s take a look.

Race 8

Subtle Indian is the aforementioned front-runner in the Triple Bend. Speed has been good at this meet at seven furlongs; eight of the last 12 were won by the early pacesetter.

Subtle Indian finished second last out in a 6 1/2-furlong, Grade 2 race after setting a hot pace. It was a super effort by Subtle Indian, albeit a losing one. On Saturday, he can be long gone if he can stay seven furlongs. The gamble is he will.

Home Run Kitten is the longshot closer who can complete the exacta. Three of his last four starts were dull efforts over a turf course that he does not handle. Sandwiched between those turf races is a 14-1 main-track upset.

Home Run Kitten is a graded stakes winner on dirt and turf. He will be nowhere close to the lead, but if he reproduces his off-the-pace upset two back, he might get up for second.

The plays are a $20 exacta with Subtle Indian over Home Run Kitten and a $5 saver win bet on Home Run Kitten just in case the pace collapses altogether.

Race 9

Melatonin is the aforementioned Gold Cup pace-presser. It is surprising that he is not favored. Melatonin is 3 for 3 at Santa Anita, won the Santa Anita Handicap in March at 1 1/4 miles, and validated that win by finishing second in a Grade 2 at Oaklawn next out.

Melatonin is drawn outside the field’s only other front-runner. Melatonin has the option of pressing the pace while racing in the clear or kicking on if the splits get slow. Either way, Melatonin will get first run into the stretch.

Hard Aces is the longshot closer who can complete the exacta. He won the Gold Cup last year, closed ground behind a slow pace to finish second in his last start, and wants every bit of this distance.

The play is a $25 exacta with Melatonin over Hard Aces. No savers.

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